What to Look for in a Homeschool Curriculum

When looking for a homeschool curriculum, consider price, content, teaching style, and prep work to find one that works.

After a decade of homeschooling, we’ve been through our fair share of homeschool curriculum. There have been some good choices and those that have made me question my decision-making abilities. Ha! Not quite, but there have been some bad choices along the way. I think that’s normal for anyone choosing homeschool curriculum because you never quite know how it’s going to work in your family until you actually try it.

That being said, there are some basic guidelines for selecting curriculum. The Ultimate Curriculum Directory is a good place to start to browse through curriculum choices, but you really need to look at the pieces you’re considering to determine a few things first. If you’re choosing a homeschooling curriculum, here are four things to think about when you’re reviewing material.

Pro-Tip: Download this handy curriculum comparison checklist to help you keep track of what you’ve reviewed and the pros and cons of each.

Things to Look for in a Homeschool Curriculum

Material Covered

The first thing you want to look at when reviewing a book or program is whether or not it covers the material that you’ll be teaching. It sounds basic, but there have been times when I’ve gotten something that looks ah-mazing - only to learn later that it doesn't cover some of the key concepts that I wanted to touch on.

It’s not a huge deal, but it means that you need to then supplement that with another book or program - and that can get expensive. So, learn from my mistake and make sure that the program you’re looking at has everything you want or need it to have...before buying it!

Teaching Style

Just like yours, my kids are all very different from one another. My oldest has dyslexia, so for his elementary and middle school years, we really had to find programs and materials that allowed him to be more hands-on and listen to things vs. reading heavy material. He just learns better when he can actually do something vs. being lectured to. As a junior in high school now, he’s still the same way - hands-on, participation is so much better for him than just lecturing.

My middle son is my conscientious worker. He’s very detail oriented and is insatiably curious. For him, lessons that are multi-step and interesting are better than simple, one-step programs. Drawing programs were also a big hit with him as he definitely has a creative side that he doesn’t always like to admit to in typical teenage fashion.

My daughter is my digital native and loved online curriculum. Teaching Textbooks was great for her because it combined online teaching with a fun, math curriculum. Oddly enough, she also loved completing workbooks and being very systematic in her approach to learning.

All of that to say, you have to look at the way the material is presented and how it might or might not fit with your child’s learning style. If they’re hands-on learners, workbooks probably aren’t going to be their thing. If they’re more systematic, a more freeform style is going to frustrate them for sure.

Even if a program has everything you want, if it doesn’t have the right instruction style for your child, it’s definitely not a good fit. You’ll be struggling with it and your child all year long - and that’s not worth it.

Prep Work

Since I worked from home almost the entire time we were homeschooling, looking for a curriculum that was low in prep work was important. I didn’t have time to make thousands of copies or plan out intricate lessons. I needed a program that had it all done for me.

*Confession - I often felt really guilty about wanting a program that was all done and had little prep work. I looked at all of the other homeschool moms who seemed to do all of these amazing projects and intricate lessons and I was over here thinking, “I just need to get us through the day and have them learn something.” The reality is that no homeschool mom has it all down. She may take pictures of the one creative lesson she did that month and post it to social media, but she’s probably just as overwhelmed as you are. Friend, you do what you need to do to teach your kids and keep your sanity. Whatever works for you is right.

Cost

The cost of programs and curriculums is also a huge factor when looking at homeschool programs. There are some great free teaching resources (check out The Ultimate Curriculum Directory), but free resources usually mean that you need to do a lot of prep work. If that works for you, go for it!

For me and my need for little prep work, I knew that I’d have to pay a bit more to get a curriculum that had everything I needed. If possible, start looking for curriculum early in the year and set a budget for what you want to spend. You can then space out purchases and budget accordingly.

Finding a Homeschool Curriculum

Deciding what curriculum to use boils down to what works best for your family. Take a look at the material it covers, the way that material is presented and needs to be taught, the amount of prep work needed, and how much it costs to buy the complete program. With some careful consideration, you’ll be able to find a program that works well for you and your children. As I mentioned, the Ultimate Curriculum Directory is a good place to start.

Don’t forget to grab your free copy of the Curriculum Comparisons Checklist to help you keep track of the programs you look at and the pros and cons of each!

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