If you feel that homeschooling is the right choice for your family, where do you begin? This isn’t a post to convince you that a particular curriculum is right for you. I just wanted to lay out some options and without getting too specific, share with you what we do around here.
A plan for those who say, “Help! I want to homeschool, but I don’t feel comfortable teaching my kids academic subjects.”
There are so many advertisements on tv, in magazines, and even on the sidebar of internet sites I visit, for homeschooling options that do all the teaching FOR you! These are actually an extension of public schools, and everything you need is provided for you. Since you already pay for these options with your taxes, you can take advantage of these programs without paying tuition, book fees, etc. There are so many advantages with this type of schooling. Your child has a teacher assigned to him or her, just as they would in a brick and mortar school. The child’s hours and grades are recorded for you. Their standardized tests are included, and all you have to do is take them to the set location to be tested. It is basically like being enrolled in the public school system, but your child does all the work at home.
A plan for those who say, “Okay, I think I’m ready to teach my kids. Now how do I choose from the thousands of options out there?”
Pick a company that has been around for several years, and has a great track record. As you look through catalogs and curriculum samples, look for a publisher that offers all subjects you need to teach. Many companies will even give discounts when you purchase entire student or teacher kits for a particular grade level. You can see many examples of curriculum online, but there is nothing like flipping through the books in person. Try to find a convention, display meeting, or a bookstore that carries the products, so you can actually SEE what you are purchasing. You can ask lots of questions at these kinds of meetings as well. Of course the representatives will try to sell you on their product, but if you go armed with questions and lists of must-haves, you should be able to make an informed decision.
A plan for those who say, “I’m pretty confident in my own ability to teach. I know what my kids need to learn and am ready to find the best products for them.”
Once you are at this stage, you have SO MANY options! Each curriculum provider is known for certain strengths and weaknesses. This is where you really need to find an exhibit hall at a convention somewhere and spend a few hours (or days) perusing all the materials. Listen to their sales pitch, flip through their materials, ask other homeschoolers, then it is up to you to make the decision. You may choose arithmetic from a particular publisher, but prefer to get your language arts from another. This does require a little extra time and effort on your part, both in the selection process AND in preparation for teaching, until you get used to each curriculum’s methods. This option may also be more expensive since you are picking and choosing only portions of a curriculum, without those kit discounts.
I fall somewhere in between plan 2 and 3. I was homeschooled for 7 years (grades 6-12) so I have some experience there. I went to a Christian college that is home to a major textbook publisher, and I did my student teaching in their academy with their materials, so I have some experience there. And I now have about 4 years of experience teaching my own kids at home. Still I get very overwhelmed by the many choices available to homeschoolers. I attended a major homeschool convention a couple of years ago and spent more than a few hours walking through aisles of booths and displays. I scoped it all out, paid careful attention to a few curriculum choices I wanted to consider, but went away determined to stick with plan #2. I still order an entire kit from one publisher. Now that my kids are 3rd and 4th graders, I am seriously considering trying out a couple of those other options next year, but the majority of my curriculum will probably still come from one place.
Remember these are just my opinions. I’d love to hear from you–tell me how you make your curriculum choice!