Thursday, July 19, 2012

I Want to Homeschool; Now What? Curriculum

"Multiplication is vexation,
Division is as bad;
The Rule of Three doth puzzle me,
And Fractions drive me mad." 
                                                ~ Mother Goose

Choose Your Curriculum

Believe it or not, school does not have to be forced drudgery.  We have choices now, baby!  Once you know what method of homeschooling you prefer, start researching all the available curricula for that method.  Ask friends, troll conventions, browse catalogs, google it (example: "Charlotte Mason, homeschool curriculum").  There are usually several choices for each method.  Your trouble will likely be narrowing them down and then not fretting that you chose the wrong one.

These are some of the factors you want to consider and check on when choosing curriculum:

1. Do they provide all books and supplies?  Do they offer choices for only core subjects and leave other subjects such as Math or Art to your choosing?  Does it all come to you "in a box" or do they provide the schedule and guide and let you purchase your own necessities? 
2. How does the total cost fit into your budget? 
3. Do they have a discussion forum, Yahoo group, co-op or some other like-minded support of any kind for when you have questions or want to share joys? 
4. Is there a faith element that matches yours? 
5. How accessible is it?  If it's internet based and you are on dial-up, you may have a little trouble getting school done every day. 
6. How well do they carry out the method you chose?  Do they seem to have a firm grasp of its principles? 
7. Is there a trial period where you can return a product if it doesn't work for you?  Can you borrow from a friend to try it out? 
8. Are the books consumable, or can you resale them or use them for your other children? 
9. Is it scheduled and planned out for you already? 
10. Does your child have special needs that are addressed? Does it work with your child's learning style? 
11. Does it cover all grades or just a certain age group such as preschool or elementary?
You will usually need to find a main curriculum that covers most subjects and then also find a math program, reading program, spelling program, etc.  A few states require that you cover certain subjects while some states don't specify.  Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a great site for checking on your state's homeschool laws.

If you are just beginning your homeschool journey, you may want to start with core subjects and add on extras like art or music later.  Buying the right curriculum can be overwhelming, and you don't want to rush into decisions that are disappointing.

Finding a confident fit involves a whole lot of homework, a little bit of trial and error, and a little bit of stick-to-itiveness.  You will be disappointed in some of your choices.  There is no perfect curriculum for your family!  If you love it, but your kids hate it (or vice versa), give it some time and perseverance. Pray, seek guidance, tweak it, and if you still don't feel something is working, change it.  Too many change-ups can confuse, cause gaps in learning, frustrate, and be expensive; so try to minimize damage.  Don't worry though, public and private schools can't tailor curriculum to fit every child's needs either.

I was overeager when first beginning with Charlotte Mason and didn't want to miss any of the great books recommended by different CM curriculum sites.  So I combined two of them.  And guess what?  It was way too much!  (Shocker.)  I finally settled on using Ambleside Online for my main program and using Simply Charlotte Mason for the extras that AO leaves open to choice.

Friends, co-ops, catalogs, blogs all pop new and shiny choices in front of my eyes on a regular basis.  But I am confident in the path we've settled on, and, after a little research, I rarely switch up.  That's not to say I don't recognize a less-than-stellar approach in some area and change it for the next year or next child.  We always have something to tweak for the next school year.

Once you've chosen and ordered, the fun part begins: Wait for your packages to arrive and have fun opening them up and thumbing through!

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