Really rich. I used to bristle at the question, but, as we’ve evolved in our homeschooling journey (and I’ve grown more comfortable in my role), I realize that the question stems from them just not understanding how homeschooling works. And that’s okay, because unless you’re entrenched in it, it can seem a bit confusing.
For those who are just beginning their journey into the world of homeschooling though, the question can create all manner of self-doubt and anxiety. So, here is my curriculum advice for new homeschoolers based on what’s worked for us – and what hasn’t.
KNOW WHO YOU’RE TEACHING
Obviously, if you’re reading this you probably think you know who you’re teaching. Your mind probably shouted out, “my kids” or “my grandchildren” when you read the section title. And, for the most part, you’re right. But, there’s a lot more to it than just that. Who are your kids really?
Are they the kind who love to sit quietly and delve into books for hours on end? Are they the kind who can’t sit still for very long and would rather be building? Do they like workbooks and paper or are they more tech oriented? Do they like to listen to lessons or read them? What are they curious about? What subjects do they struggle with and which ones light them up with excitement? Who are you teaching?
I can guarantee that if you have more than one child, the answers will vary for each one. So, before rushing out to purchase curriculum or downloading unit studies, make a list of the strengths, weaknesses, interests, and learning style of each child. That list will come in handy when you’re choosing curriculum.
MATCH THEIR LEARNING STYLE TO YOUR TEACHING STYLE
Don’t worry, you can do this. Now that you know how your child learns, start looking for curriculum that’s a good fit. Match their learning style with your teaching style so that you both enjoy the homeschooling journey. If you try to force only workbooks and worksheets on a child who would rather build a 3D model, you’ll both end up frustrated and having doubts about whether homeschool is for you. That’s not to say that there will be times when a child only gets to do the things he or she wants to do – because that would just be crazy – but the majority of your instruction and curriculum should be geared toward your child’s learning style.
My middle son is very methodical. He likes a clear schedule, an overview of the week, and consistency. He prefers structured assignments over creative, free form ones. So, you can imagine the struggles when we tried a curriculum that was very unstructured. No matter how much I might want to give him a lot of artsy projects and free form assignments, I know that that’s not how he will thrive and learn best. And, in the end, it’s not about which curriculum I’d have the most fun teaching, it’s about which curriculum he’ll learn the most from during the year. Here’s what we used this past year.
EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS
There are hundreds of different types of curriculum that you can use for homeschooling. There are the traditional options – textbook and accompanying workbook – that you’d associate most closely with public schools. Then there are online options for everything from individual classes to semester long sessions. For your tech savvy students, there’s curriculums based around popular games like Minecraft and unit studies that challenge them to use technology in their lessons and reports. If you want to focus on nature, check out Simply Charlotte Mason and if you want a free online curriculum, try Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool (which refers more to how easy it is for mom to implement vs. the level of rigor). A great place to start your exploration is with Cathy Duffy’s Homeschool Curriculum Reviews. There are tons of reviews on different curriculums that might work for your family.
DON’T GO OVERBOARD AND BE WILLING TO CHANGE COURSE
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a veteran homeschooling mom who said, “Don’t go overboard buying expensive curriculum when you’re first starting out, because odds are that you’ll be changing course mid-year for a couple of years anyway.” She was so right. When we first started, I chose a lot of things that I would enjoy teaching – not what was necessarily best for how my kids learn. So, we’d switch things up mid-year and try to find the right balance between what I felt was good for them, and what they would excel at that year. You can always add resources and buy more, but start small and work your way up. It’s a lot easier to change course after a small investment vs. a thousand dollar investment in a huge curriculum that none of you are enjoying.
Above all, be flexible and just keep trying until you find what works for your family. There’s no universal homeschool curriculum that “everyone uses” or that’s perfect for every child. Be willing to research options, read reviews, really study what others have to say, and ask questions if you have them. There’s a wonderful, supportive homeschooling world out there just waiting to help you succeed.