Selecting a curriculum can be a truly overwhelming task each year for homeschooling mothers. So many times I have said to myself, “if I could see that book, I’d know if I want it!” Right? Then you hop online look through blogs of perfect homes, with perfect mom teachers, that have the perfect school rooms, and then there is Pinterest…then you are headed to Confession because jealousy is a lousy sin.
Is it not just frustrating? How do these women just *KNOW* that’s the right Math book? Why did it not work for *MY* child? Well, here’s why: There IS NOT one set curriculum that is perfect for everyone. There I said it. So here’s another secret that lady that introduced you to homeschool forgot to mention, the beauty of homeschooling is that you are able to create a custom curriculum that is beneficial to *YOUR* family. What works for another family may not be the best fit for another, or *gasp* what works for one of your children may not work for another.
Over the years our family has tried a variety of things – ranging from being an eclectic homeschooler, to using a complete curriculum package to creating things to use, and it has morphed into a combination of pieces that we now use together as a family and components that we use individually to round out the various subject areas. How do you decide what is the right fit for your family/homeschool?
10 Steps to Selecting a Catholic Homeschool Curriculum:
Think about your educational philosophy or teaching style. There are several methods of teaching, depending on the method that both you and your children are comfortable will also determine which books you will select for your homeschool. There are several homeschooling methods to pick from, if you haven’t you might want to look back at our previous articles in this series.
Consider your children’s learning styles. Every child is different in their learning approach and may process information differently. Some pieces of curriculum are tailored to meet the needs of various learners, so this is very helpful to know. Some children will need a particular style of curriculum to help them succeed. Again, weighing in what homeschooling method you have selected would be helpful.
Write down and decide on the educational goals you have set for your children and family. This is another area that is important to look at because you want to have a long range plan in each subject so that you feel confident that you are meeting these goals.
Do you have a spending budget? This is really important and I strongly advise setting a budget and knowing your spending limits. Start off by making a list of the books you select and then finding out what their retail rate is. It is important to think long term within your budget. If the book fits your needs and you can reuse it with subsequent children, it’s a long term savings!
What subjects can your children work together in? Some families focus on specific grade levels and books while other families work on certain subject areas together as a family. Subjects like Science and History are great examples of working as a family on a particular topic with varying expectations depending on the child’s abilities. This will help you save money as well.
What works for your current life situation? There are some programs that are more labor-intensive than others. Searching for living books when you are about to give birth to baby number six and all your children are eight and under might not be a realistic goal. Do not set yourself up to fail by doing this. Also, if you cannot afford certain programs do not put so much pressure on yourself. I have seen families with financial burdens homeschool for almost nothing.
- Do you have access to a good library system? Before you start spending money, check your local library. A lot of times they carry those wonderful books and you can reserve them ahead of time and even have them delivered to your local library. Sometimes you can go to the children’s section and make suggestions on certain books. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of times they are willing to purchase these recommendations.
- Have you asked others for their opinions? Warning. This is a great thing with this day and age of technology BUT the warning comes in not becoming overwhelmed with so many suggestions. There are groups on Yahoo and Facebook that can be gem or a burden. If you ask a curriculum question in a group, take the good from what others suggest. Do not be afraid to ask questions you will find other homeschooling mothers who have become experts at certain curricula and can be very helpful. You can also visit a homeschooling conference near you to listen to speakers and also get to see the books first hand.
- Did you check your own bookshelf? Starting with what you already have saves you time and money. Sometimes we homeschooling moms might pick up a book that was on sale, or someone gave us and forgot about. (I know it never happens to you, but it does me.) You should also make a list of the books you own and keep this list handy so that you do not purchase duplicates of books you already own.
- Have you checked out SWAP groups or thought of borrowing? Once you have selected a product you like, it is much easier to buy things used or online. Yahoo Groups has a group and so does Facebook Groups where you can post WTB (Want to Buy) and ISO (In Search Of) threads looking for a used book to avoid paying retail. You help another homeschooling mom and she helps you save money. Also, if you have books you don’t use anymore, SELL THEM! They don’t need to be collecting dust on your shelves. Sometimes, you can even borrow books from other families. There is a family at my church that has a son in 11th and 9th, I have a son in 10th, I give her my books for her 9th grader, she gives me her books from her 11th grader. We both win!
With all that said, there are times that you find out part way through the year that something you thought would be perfect just isn’t. Sometimes you discover that curriculum is just not working. There is tweaking involved in the process, and while it’s frustrating – it’s okay and good. The first bit of homeschooling involves a learning curve where you are discovering your areas of comfort in teaching and your children’s learning grooves.
This article originally appeared on Catholic Sistas and is used with permission.