Choosing Curriculum Practical TipsI always get itchy feet in January and start thinking about the next year’s curriculum. I evaluate what is working and what is not, and then start compiling a list.

Choosing curriculum has been one of the most challenging things for me as a homeschool mom. There are so many choices and they all look excellent (or at least, most do). I dream of a boxed curriculum with a pretty schedule to follow, but unfortunately for us, our children cannot be squeezed into these boxes. I’ve finally found a sweet spot and found curriculum that works for my kids. It took three years of hopping around, though, to find that utopia. (And finding curriculum utopia does not mean that I have found peace in homeschooling. My children still balk at doing school some days.)

There are some things that I’ve come to realize really help in finding what will work.

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How to start choosing curriculum:

1) Get to know your child(ren).

This is who you will be teaching after all. And perhaps you’ve pulled them out of school because your children’s needs weren’t being met by the school system. If you have just pulled out of public or private school, give yourself a few weeks to play with your children and do informal learning activities to figure out how they best learn.

If your children have never been to school and you are looking for preschool curriculum, save your money. Just do informal learning activities through play. Talk to your preschooler a lot! Do letter crafts and all that, but feel completely at ease not purchasing a formal curriculum. When your friend raves about the curriculum she bought for her three year old, plug your ears! Your child will not be behind (why do we let ourselves get terrified of that, anyway?)

While you play with your children figure out if they are hands-on learners, auditory learners, etc. This is a bit challenging, but if you can glean any information at all, it will help you choose curriculum later. Before my daughter was 3 I realized how quickly she could memorize things. I realized she would start to write in spite of me and that those invented spellings kids do would get ingrained in her mind. I purchased All About Spelling and started it with her fairly young. My son, on the other hand, is just now at 5 interested in writing and still has no interest in sitting down and spewing out stories. He is a hands-on learner and while he likes worksheets because they are clear cut and require very little writing, he prefers math curriculum like Rightstart, which is heavy on games. My daughter, meanwhile, gets extremely bored with math. For her, variety in math curriculum is important.

2) Get to know yourself.

You’ll be doing the teaching and a curriculum that gets done is better than a superior curriculum that just sits on the shelf. (I didn’t come up with that – that is wisdom gained from “Hunter” while perusing my favorite forum mentioned in point #4.) It doesn’t matter if all your homeschooling friends use Curriculum X for math. If you can’t stand how the manual is laid out and feel like throwing it against the wall every time you pick it up, it isn’t worth continuing. You have to like the curriculum, too.

Some questions that help in choosing the right curriculum for you:

Do you need lots of hand holding or do you tend to tweak everything anyway?
Do you like a scripted teacher’s manual or does that make you want to scream in frustration?
Do you have lots of children and can’t commit to time intensive curriculum like Rightstart, All About Reading, and All About Spelling?
Do you need accountability like having the subjects planned for you already, a coop, or a group like Classical Conversations?

3) Get to know your teaching methodology and your goals for your family.

Read up about the following methodologies and decide which best fits your family. The book pictured above is a great one for explaining all the different methodologies and is also a fantastic resource to help in choosing curriculum, as well as figuring out your goals for your family. Knowing what you want your children to achieve in the year is a necessary factor in deciding which items you will need. For example, this year, my main goal was to focus on character, so I chose curriculum like Christian Light Education Reading, even though it didn’t fit the academic goals of the kids. The emphasis wasn’t necessarily on improving their reading skills through the curriculum, but rather on filling their heads with stories of children who chose to do the right thing (or did the wrong thing, but then did the right thing about it).

Classical Education and Charlotte Mason – While these are often viewed as being different from each other, they are so intertwined. My new favorite book, a well-written concise one that explains why the Charlotte Mason method should be considered a classical instruction method, is Consider This by Karen Glass. It will beautifully assist you in wrapping your head around Charlotte Mason without having to struggle through her 6 tomes.

The Well Trained Mind version of Classical Education – the book is indispensable when starting to homeschool even if you end up not following it to the letter (as is my case). For someone who needs hand holding, this book lays out what one “needs” to teach for each grade, and even shows some sample schedules.

Montessori – we chose Montessori (mostly at home) for preschool. I then found the transition to Elementary Montessori (too many albums to juggle, not enough hand-holding) too difficult while dealing with a toddler and decided to pursue Classical Education instead. However, every time I read What Did We Do All Day I am in awe at all the beautiful Montessori materials.

Eclectic – a combination of all teaching methodologies. You kind of just adopt what will fit your family best.

Unit approach – choose a theme and tie all your learning around that theme. Some examples of curriculum like this would be Five in A Row. You can use Memoria Press’ Kindergarten Enrichment or First Grade Enrichment Guides to accomplish this too, or use the Moving Beyond the Page curriculum. Check out Delightful Learning for

This article describes the above ideologies and a few more. The ones above are the ones I have dabbled in with my children.

4) Get to know your forums.

I frequent The Well-Trained Mind Forums and have gleaned so much information from seasoned homeschoolers there. Whenever I have curriculum questions, such as a recent one about suggestions for a writing curriculum for Bear, I post there first. When I hear about a new-to-me curriculum, I head there to see if there is anyone using it that can vouch for it and share how it works for their family.

5) Get to know your local homeschool convention.

There is nothing like holding curriculum in your hand and physically browsing through books. You can speak to the vendors and learn so much more than just by browsing the company’s website. We have had much success bringing our kids to large homeschool conventions and go yearly to the smaller (but still considerably big) convention near our home. I also try to attend the Catholic convention as well.

If you can’t get to a homeschool convention, another tactic is to ask your homeschooling friends if you can come over and peruse what they use.

I also like the back-to-school blog posts from my favorite bloggers to see what they are using and then will privately email them specific questions about that curriculum.

6) Pray

I know not all my readers are Christian, but I do pray over my homeschool choices. I find that the times that I have forgotten to pray about it, I am more likely to have chosen something that wasn’t the best fit.

See our past homeschooling choices.

Stay tuned for my list of favorites from these choices.

This post is the first of a Homeschool Logistics series.