Choosing the Right Curriculum for Your Family

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of homeschooling parents about choosing homeschool curriculum.  It can be stressful for a homeschool mom or dad to go through a ton of great curriculum choices and have to pick.  It’s a big decision!  Here is a comprehensive list of things to consider before making the big decision.  Here are questions to ask when choosing the right homeschool curriculum for your family.

Questions to Ask - Choosing the Right Curriculum for Your Family as seen on jennsRAQ.com

Questions to Ask – Choosing the Right Curriculum for Your Family

You may want to ask these questions about each individual subject when you sit down to research which curriculum might be the right fit for you.  These will get you going in the right direction to help you decide what might be the best fit.

-Why did I choose to homeschool in the first place?

This is an important question to ask yourself.  Whatever curriculum decisions you make, try and stay true to yourself and your goals for your children. I have shared on the blog before about why I homeschool.

This is an important question.  If you’ve been homeschooling for a while, your reasons for homeschooling now may be different than they initially were.  Whatever you decide, try to stay true to yourself and your goals for your children.

-Which learning styles describe my children?

There are more than you think!  Most people do best with a combination of more than one method of learning. Look at which curriculum choices cater to what fits your child.

Decide if your child is:

-Auditory will be drawn to audio books, readalouds.

-Logical and wants to understand the underlying principles, asks questions, experiments.

-Visual and learns best with diagrams, maps, making lists, videos and games.

-Kinesthetic and enjoys role play, drama, hands on activities and games, and crafts.

-Musical and may learn best to a beat, rhythms and repetition.

-Reading/Writing oriented.  This may be their best way to pick up new information, and might learn best with trivia and word games.

-Social and works well in a group, debating, and talks to solve problems.

-Naturalist and explores the environment, classifies, and loves making observations.

-Solitary and prefers self-paced work, likes independent work, and does best with more tailored instruction.

Check these out for more information:

Multiple Intelligences (Learning and Teaching styles)

7 Major Learning Styles

Learning Styles

Domains of Intelligence 

-What is my teaching style?

Do you want to be more of a tutor, or do you hope to lecture your students more like a college professor?  Do you like to make your own lesson plans, or would you rather just pick up and go?

-How much time do I have to devote to each subject?

Do you have time for a 2 hour class with hands-on experiments?

Is this something you would be able to do on the go, traveling, or at doctor’s appointments?

-Do I want to lesson plan and grade work, or do I need it done for me?

-How much prep work is involved?

-How much do you like the subject? (What about your child?)

Is this an area you’ll need more help teaching or won’t want to be as involved with?

Is it something your child is practically obsessed with and will want to spend a lot of time on?

-Do I want someone else to do the teaching?

If it is a subject you don’t really like or understand, you might want an enthusiastic instructor to take over.  There are so many options for this.  There are online classes, computer-based programs, co-ops, or even tutors.

Many curriculum have work-texts that are more self-teaching in nature

-What additional books, supplies, or ingredients will I need?

Is it going to really bug you if it requires you to do a lot of experiments?

Will you have to buy a bunch of things in addition to the curriculum?  

Are there a lot of little pieces?

-What do I want my child to learn?

How in depth do you want the program to go?

What topics do you want covered?  Do you want it to be hyper-focused, like The Civil War, or do you want it to be more broad like US History from its conception to its current times?

-What is my budget?

Will you need to find something free? Do you have a flexible budget?  Is this a subject you even need to spend extra money on at all?

Will you need to purchase additional books or supplies for the program?

Sometimes the price is right – until you see that you’ll need additional resource packs, required books, or supply kits.  Be sure you know everything you might need.

-Can you purchase the program used? Will it resell it later?

Many programs are quite expensive, but have a great resale value. Some programs are so common that they can be found at an inexpensive price on sites like ebay, Facebook resale groups, or homeschoolclassifieds.com.  Sites like Homeschool Buyer’s Co-Op (aff) and Educents (aff) even offer new curriculum for 20-90% off!

Are there coupons, free trials, sample lessons, or blogs available to see?  Many homeschool curriculum publishers have their own coupons available.  Sometimes you have to sign up for their mailing list.  Other times, you can find coupons from resellers like Mardel or Rainbow Resources.  If they have sample lessons, you might even be able to try before you buy.

If your budget is really tight, I urge you to check out these posts I have written:

Homeschool for Free (or really cheap)

Homeschool for Free (or really cheap) Part 2

Look for blogs that have pictures of kids actually using the curriculum.  There might be screen shots, or even photos of pages of the curriculum.  They might talk about what their family did to make it work better for them if they used it differently than the publisher recommends.

Many publishers also offer free resources, printables, handouts, or even courses on their websites.  These are a great way to see what the curriculum is like, and to check out their style.

-Will I want an all-in-one program, or will I get different subjects separately?

Does an all-in-one program fit your needs?  If not, how much tweaking would you need to do to make it work?

Does the all in one program actually include everything, or will you still need to pick out certain subjects?  If you need to tweak it a lot, is it still worth it to buy the whole package?  

What drew you to the curriculum in the first place?  Can you purchase individual elements if something in particular won’t work for you?

-What homeschool method(s) are we using or do we want to use?

I have written about Homeschool Methods.  Here are just a few examples:

-Classical

-School-at-home  

-Charlotte Mason  

-Montessori  

-Unit Study

-Eclectic

-Computer-based   

-Nature studies  

-Unschooling  

-Lapbooking

Do you want to use materials that follow your homeschool method of choice?

Does the publisher of your curriculum state that it follows a particular method?

How do your children learn best based on the different methods?

-What grade level or program level will I need for my child?

-Does this program have an assessment or placement test?

Is the program based on age? grades? ability level? a range of grades?

Are there prerequisites?

How will you be able to tell where to start your child?

Does the program span several levels? (If you love it, will you be able to continue to the next level or get your younger kids started on the earlier levels of the program?)

-Can more than one child be combined to complete the program?

Which children and for what grade levels?  Will you be able to save time or gain more interest by combining students?

-How long will the program take to complete?

-Is it for one semester, a full school year, or a specific number of weeks?

-How long will it take each day to complete?

-Will it need your full attention?  (Will you be able to help other children, do housework, or make phone calls while this student is working on it, or will you need to be with them?)

Will you be able to reasonably get this done as frequently as you need to?

Will your child be able to pay attention long enough to complete the daily assignments?

-How flexible is the program?

Is this something that is very rigid and structured? If you are participating in co-ops, live classes, or tutoring sessions where you HAVE to be there and turn work in at specific times, that isn’t really flexible.

Do you need the structure, or do you prefer the flexibility?

Will you be able to take time off as needed?

Will you be able to work at a slower or faster pace if it benefits you and your child?

Can entire portions of the curriculum be changed, removed, or moved around?

Can lessons be scheduled on different days or times?

-Is the program secular or Christian?

-What is their statement of faith and does it align with mine?

Is the curriculum heavily Bible-based?  Do their religious views line up to yours?  If it is Secular, does it conflict with your faith?

-Can I get my hands on a physical copy before deciding?

-Do friends have one I can look at? -Is it at the library?

-Can I view it on Amazon?

-Do bookstores locally have it?

-Do you have friends that currently use it that could let you see it?  They might even be able to show you how their children complete it and how it all works.

-Reach out to people on social media, mailing lists, or Facebook groups.

-Check you local bookstores to see if they sell homeschool curriculum.

See if you could do an InterLibrary Loan through your public library.  I found that they even have workbooks!  You obviously wouldn’t be filling in the workbooks, but it is a free way to check it out.

-How long do I need to try it before I know it’s working?

-If it isn’t working, when should you bail?   What would you use instead?

It is okay to admit that what you’re using is impractical and to move on!  Situations change, needs change, and sometimes things just do not go as planned.

The beauty of homeschooling is flexibility!

The fact that you are seeking something new that WORKS better shows that you are comitted and NOT a quitter!

Give Yourself Permission to Change Curriculum

Print a Copy!

Do you like this list of questions?  I hope it helps you more critically critique all of the curricula out there!

Print a copy of Questions to Ask – Choosing the Right Curriculum for Your Family.

What helped YOU choose the right homeschool curriculum for your family?

About Jenn L

Jenn lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and 5 children. The family likes to eat healthy and try new recipes. Jenn homeschools all of the kids. She is heavily involved with local bloggers and is slightly addicted to social media.