Choosing homeschool curriculum for a new year can be a challenge. With all of the fantastic publishers and resources, it doesn’t take long to get overwhelmed by the tried and true options and the shiny, new latest and greatest selections.
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Being overwhelmed by curriculum choices is never good; the same goes for the procrastination and second-guessing that usually follows. Thankfully I’ve learned learned that choosing homeschool curriculum doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve learned that asking the right questions makes all the difference when making curriculum decisions.
Asking questions doesn’t just make curriculum shopping go smoother, it also keeps the homeschool budget on track and helps to maintain sanity in the homeschool planning process. Here are five questions to ask when choosing homeschool curriculum for a new year.
Questions to Ask When Choosing
1. Is it comprehensive?
Most homeschool publishers consider their curriculum offerings to be comprehensive and, to be fair, most probably are when followed meticulously. In the real world of homeschooling, there will be times when you just can’t follow the lesson plans or teacher’s guides perfectly.
When you’re reading the curriculum reviews, pay attention to how the curriculum served different families and whether or not those families felt it was comprehensive. That will give you a heads up for any supplementing you may need to do if you choose that option.
2. How much will it really cost?
Speaking of supplementing, if it turns out that lots of extras are needed to in order to utilize the program fully, your homeschool budget will likely take a hit. When choosing homeschool curriculum, pay attention to product descriptions and reviews to see if additional items are needed frequently and how accessible they are.
For example, math is generally easier on the budget in the long run than science because math-related purchases are usually done once or twice a year. On the other hand, an expensive science curriculum may seem like a once-a-year expense, but science often involves frequent purchases all year long for experiments and hands-on activities. Look for a curriculum that uses household items for activities when possible. Otherwise you’ll completely bust your homeschool budget — over and over and over again — just trying to make it work.
3. Is it too much?
Some homeschool curriculum choices are designed to be challenging and rigorous. Challenge can be a great thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the best choice for your kids. They may thrive using a rigorous curriculum for favorite subjects, but you may find a battle brewing if you attempt the same challenge for the rest.
There are also times where a curriculum choice may be great for your child, but too much for you to manage in your season of homeschool. It’s okay to take a less is more approach in those seasons (or all seasons, for that matter!) Regardless of how much you and your kids can handle, the best way to get an idea of how difficult a curriculum option will be is to borrow it from a friend. Having the opportunity to flip through and get a feel for how it works will show if it’s too much, too little, or just right for your homeschool needs.
Having the opportunity to flip through is ideal, but if you don’t have access to the curriculum you’re considering, look for product previews from Christian Book Distributors, Rainbow Resource Center, and Amazon. Curriculum previews are a great way to gauge whether or not a curriculum is too much. These previews usually show the table of contents, parent notes, and sample pages from chapters and assignments and give insight on how demanding it will be for students and parents.
4. Is it flexible?
We all know that change is constant in life; homeschool life is certainly no exception. Flexibility in homeschool curriculum matters because it may be the very element that helps keep your head above water during a busy season or when there’s difficulty learning the material. If a curriculum choice isn’t flexible, it may spend more time on the shelf that being used in your homeschool.
Reviews from bloggers and customers are the best sources for this kind of information. Product descriptions are helpful when shopping different retailers, but people who have spent time using the curriculum are particularly helpful in regards to flexibility because they’ve actually used it. These reviews not only give an idea of how a curriculum meets the needs of different families, but also how it fares when adjustments are needed. For sure, checking into flexibility before purchasing makes a huge difference!
5. What’s my real motivation in
choosing homeschool curriculum?
I can think of a couple of times when I made curriculum decisions because of all the wrong reasons: it was a popular choice, it was inexpensive and the price was right, or all the other homeschoolers were using it, to name a few. It’s just so shameful… tell me I’m not the only one!
It’s important to question our motivation in choosing a specific curriculum so that we keep the focus on the needs of our kids and our family. After all, a popular curriculum choice doesn’t guarantee a good match for every family, inexpensive curriculum options sometimes need supplementing and can end up requiring more from the homeschool budget than initially expected, and, just like we tell our kids, we shouldn’t make our decisions solely based on what other people are doing.
When we keep our eyes in our lane and focus on the needs of our kids and our family, we can be sure the curriculum choices we make are rooted with the best of intentions and driven by the right motivation.
What questions do you ask when you’re choosing homeschool curriculum?