It is day two of our blog hop, and today’s topic is homeschool curriculum. This is a subject I can really get in to!! I love books in general, and I spend countless hours going through magazines and surfing the net looking for curriculum for my kids (I even have a notebook with ideas for curriculum for the next 3 years!!). I honestly think checking out curriculum can become an addiction, there is just so much to look at!!
I am grateful as a homeschool mom to have so many options for teaching my kids. However, sometimes the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. When I first started out, looking at curriculum and trying to decide what to use made my head spin!! How could I tell what would work with my kids (without spending a ton of money finding out the hard way what didn’t work?)
Basically, when I am looking at curriculum, I try to think about my individual kids needs, and my goals for that subject. Do I want hands-on, or just straightforward textbook learning? Do I want to teach my boys together, or have them work on their own? Do I want a LOT of parental involvement, or do I want to turn this subject over mostly to them? Asking myself these questions helps me to decide whether or not a particular curriculum is a good fit.
For some subjects, like upper-level math, I try to look for an online or DVD curriculum, because I need support in this area (think Chalkdust or Pearson’s My Math Lab). I love literature-based studies for history (a la Sonlight or My Father’s World). I really enjoy Apologia’s Young Explorer series for science as well. The key is knowing what it is YOU need for what YOU are trying to accomplish, and not getting caught up in spending a bunch of money on something that looks great but that you will never use!! (Believe me, I have made some costly curriculum mistakes in the past!!)
To sort through all of this curriculum, I like to search the web for reviews. Obviously, the TOS Crew is a great place to get those!! Hearing from people who have actually used a curriculum in their home really helps me to decide if that curriculum will work for me or not. Another thing I like to do is check out message boards where homeschoolers discuss curriculum they have used or want to use. Being able to ask questions of someone who is currently using a curriculum I want to try is a great way to get specific feedback about the program. A couple of good sites for this are Homeschool Reviews.com and The Well Trained Mind Forum. Many individual curriculums also have their own message boards where you can ask questions and even talk to the authors!!
Another great way to get more information about a curriculum is to attend a curriculum fair. Usually, your state homeschool organization will have one (sometimes in conjunction with a homeschool conference). There are two local fairs I go to, and I can tell you that being able to see a curriculum first hand makes a huge difference! Sometimes you find out that something you thought would be wonderful isn’t really going to work, and then you find something great that you never even thought of!! Homeschool fairs also feature workshops and lectures, often by authors of the curriculum, where you can get a LOT of information.
Of course, my key when choosing any curriculum or materials for my children is always prayer. I believe the Lord has called me to homeschool my children, and those He calls, He also equips! I know that He has a plan in mind for my children, and I trust Him to guide me in helping them along that path. When I start to feel nervous or overwhlemed, I remind myself that I am not doing this alone. As long as I am faithful to God’s call, He will lead me in the direction I need to go.
Of course, budgeting for all this curriculum isn’t easy. Right now, we have pushed our school start date back because we haven’t had the funds to buy all of our books yet. However, I know that (again) the Lord will provide in His perfect timing, so I am not going to worry.
Remember that the joy of homeschooling your children is the fact that you have the freedom to do what you want. Your homeschool does NOT have to look like anyone else’s. You have to choose curriculum based on what fits your family. Sometimes, that can translate into a LOT of pressure, but keep in mind that you truly know your children best.