Learn how to choose homeschool curriculum that will work best for your family’s needs. Get tips to use the curriculum best for a simplified homeschool day that is not overwhelming.
You’ve decided to homeschool. Congratulations!
Now you’re wondering how do I teach these kids?! What books do I use? Which ones are the best? How in the world am I going to know what I’m supposed to do?
Behind all of those questions, deep in your mind, is the question you really have, “Am I going to be a good enough teacher for my kids?”
I can tell you the answer right now. Yes, you will.
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How do I know that you’ll be a good enough teacher for your kids? Because you want what’s best for them. That’s why you’re spending hours on Pinterest and Google, looking at homeschool blog after homeschool blog, curriculum site after curriculum site. You want your kids to enjoy this experience and learn what they are supposed to learn this year.
You know what else I know? There is no one perfect curriculum. So don’t worry about making the wrong choice. Don’t worry that your kids will be ruined forever if you don’t pick the right curriculum. Your kids will be fine. There is so much more to learning than the books you use! Yes, curriculum is important. But it’s just one aspect of your child’s learning this year.
Now that that’s settled…take a breath. You’ve got this. You know your kids better than you think. So, first, let’s take a step back and look into how to choose the right homeschool curriculum for your family.
How Do You Choose the Right Homeschool Curriculum?
Every family is different and is coming from a different background into homeschooling, with different needs and abilities. There is no one curriculum that will work for everyone. As you read through these questions, think about which curriculum you have found online that will best fit what your family needs this year. If you haven’t found any curriculum choices yet, then look for some with the answers to these questions in mind.
Questions to consider when deciding on the correct homeschool curriculum:
- What are your local homeschool laws?
- Are you planning on returning to a brick and mortar school soon?
- How involved do you want to be teaching your kids?
- How do your children learn best?
- What is your homeschool budget?
1. What are your state/country homeschool laws?
One of the first things you should do before choosing homeschool curriculum is to know the homeschool requirements for your state or country. Some areas require more homeschooling oversight than others, which may determine what kind of curriculum you decide to use.
For example, if your state has strict homeschool laws, it might be easier to use an all-in-one boxed curriculum than to try to piece one together yourself, especially if you are new to homeschooling. Boxed curricula will typically include all of the books you need for that grade, lesson plans to use, and may even offer grading services. When you are already worried about how you are going to teach your kids, having a curriculum that is ready to go can help ease some of that fear and help you begin with confidence.
2. How long do you plan to homeschool?
Next, consider how long you plan to homeschool when you decide on curriculum. If you are only planning on homeschooling for a short period of time, due to a move, as an alternative to your current school’s remote learning plans, or just to try out for a year, you may want to look for a curriculum that is similar to your children’s current school. Using something similar will allow a smooth transition to homeschooling, along with a smooth transition back should you decide to return.
Perhaps you think you’ll only homeschool for a short period of time, but you end up loving it? In that case, there’s no harm in having used a certain curriculum. You always have the option to change the next year. Your curriculum is a guide to teach your children, nothing is ever set in stone. I chose a curriculum similar to my children’s Catholic school when we started homeschooling. However, as the years have passed, I’ve kept what I liked from that one and have added in different curricula for the rest.
3. How involved do you want to be?
Another important factor to consider when you are choosing homeschool curriculum is how much involvement you want as teacher. For example, curriculum including a lot of read alouds is going to require more time from you than an online curriculum. Additionally, piecing together your own curriculum will require more planning on your part than a curriculum that includes all books and lesson plans. So you’ll want to consider which teaching method fits your family best, or a mix of several, along with how much time you have or want to devote when you choose homeschool curriculum.
4. How do your children learn best?
In addition to your own teaching style, consider how your children learn best. For example, if you have a child with ADHD, you probably don’t want to choose curriculum that requires a lot of sitting and reading or writing with long lessons. Instead, you’ll want curriculum that has shorter lessons or allows for more hands-on activities and/or movement for your kinesthetic learner. Consider if your children enjoy being read to, or are auditory learners. Or if they’d rather read something themselves since they are more a more visual learner. Additionally, choosing curriculum that includes all of these learning styles best helps children who learn through a variety of methods.
5. What is your homeschool budget?
Homeschool curriculum runs a huge range of costs, from free to hundreds of dollars. When you are looking at cost, though, remember that some of the more expensive curriculum might cost more because it includes everything you’ll need for that course. You may receive all of the supplemental picture or chapter books, lesson plans, and perhaps even grading services. So it’s best to look at what each curriculum includes along with cost when deciding which to get.
Budgeting your money
Most of us do not have unlimited funds to purchase curriculum. However, there are some ways to try to get the most out of your purchases. Many times, an all-in-one curriculum is less expensive overall than buying individual curriculum for each subject since it’s all bundled together. You also can find free lesson plans online for a variety of curricula, which would then only require the purchase of books and other materials for the course.
How to save on homeschool curriculum.
You can save on curriculum in many different ways. First, look for used curriculum. You can join Facebook groups that are just for buying and selling used curriculum. Local homeschoolers may be selling curriculum as well. Also, check out local groups to find out if they offer a used curriculum sale, usually done in the summer. It’s a great way not only to buy curriculum, but to have a chance to thumb through it as well.
Another way to save is to purchase curriculum that does not have many consumables so that you can use it again with younger children. For example, instead of choosing a Language Arts curriculum with workbooks that the kids write in, purchase curriculum that is just a text and have children use blank notebooks to complete their work. I keep boxes of curriculum in our garage, separated by subject and labeled on the outside. Before I buy any new curriculum for the year, I first look through those boxes to see what I can reuse.
A third way to save on curriculum is by combining your children for subjects. When you combine your children, for science and history, perhaps, then you only need to buy one set of books to use with all of them. You may need to buy an additional activity book if there’s something they’ll write in, but for the main books you’ll only need one copy. Then you can save the books for younger children or sell them to help pay for future curriculum. So if you have three children that will do science together, you’ll only need to purchase one set of science books instead of three separate ones, with all the teacher manuals and extra books that go along with it.
Budgeting your time
Money is not the only factor to consider when purchasing your curriculum books. You’ll also want to consider budgeting your time as well. We only have so many hours in a day, so the more time you can save here or there with schoolwork, the more time you have for other responsibilities like meal prep and cleaning.
The biggest way to help budget your time is to schedule your homeschool day. A good homeschool routine will help keep everyone on track, knowing what to expect each day. This saves you time because you aren’t constantly wondering what to do or having kids sitting around waiting for you to tell them what’s next. You’ll be much more productive when you follow a routine each day. Below you can find a link to download my guide with 5 easy steps to help you create a homeschool routine. You’ll also receive weekly homeschooling tips on ways to keep your homeschool day simple and enjoyable.
Don’t let your homeschool days become stressful and overwhelming! Learn how to create a homeschool routine for a simplified day. When you join the Homeschooling in Progress community, you’ll receive a guide with 5 Easy Steps to Create a Simple Routine for Productive Homeschool Days. You’ll also get homeschooling tips, activities, and resources sent right to your email inbox each month.
An additional way to save time with homeschool curriculum is to combine your children. I know I already mentioned that above with saving money, and you’ll see it mentioned again below. But when you homeschool multiple children, the absolute easiest way I’ve found to keep from being overwhelmed is to combine their learning as much as possible. When choosing curriculum, you may want to first start by looking at curriculum that is “family style” or covers multiple age/grade levels. Once you’ve determined which subjects you can teach all of your children together, then you go back and finish getting individual curriculum for the subjects that will be taught separately.
3 Ways to Choose Homeschool Curriculum to Simplify Your Day
1. Choose Curriculum that Covers Multiple Age Levels
When you are homeschooling multiple children, the easiest way to simplify your day is to combine them as much as possible. It saves money because you only need to purchase a single curriculum level instead of one for each child. You save time when planning because you only need to plan that subject once. Your homeschool day will be simpler because you only need to teach that subject once.
For example, say you combine your children for history. You’ll want to choose a curriculum that covers multiple age levels. Perhaps you decide to purchase curriculum that covers Ancient History, and you are planning a unit on Ancient Egypt. You begin by reading the chapter(s) about Ancient Egypt to all of your children. Your youngest children may only listen to you read, and maybe do a coloring page as well. Lower elementary age children can locate Egypt on a map or globe and create a cartouche from modeling clay. Upper elementary age children may do additional reading and create a model of the Nile, explaining why it looked like that. Middle school children can read a chapter book set in that time period, while your high schoolers can research an Ancient Egyptian pharoah and write a report about him.
Your planning is simplified because you used a single topic to create assignments for your children. You only had to read once to all of your children. Then your children did assignments based on their skill and knowledge levels. If you choose assignments that children can do on their own, then that simplifies your day even more.
Another great way to combine your children is with morning baskets. Morning baskets contain subjects that all of your children can do together. They are an especially wonderful way to fit all of your enrichments subjects, like art and music, into your day.
2. Choose Curriculum Children Can Do Independently
Choosing curriculum your children can do on their own is another way to simplify your homeschool day through curriculum. Some subjects naturally lend themselves to independent work no matter which brand you use. Handwriting is an example of one. As children get older and can read on their own, they naturally will be able to do more work independently.
One way I help foster independence in my children is through assignment notebooks. Each afternoon, I write my children’s assignments for the following day in their spiral notebook. I place a star next to the work they should be able to complete on their own. My children are older, so they can do most of their work independently now, but even when they were in only 1st or 2nd grades, I’d star at least a couple of subjects. They can work on their independent work at anytime during the day. They may start when they wake up, while I’m helping a sibling, or after lunch during the time I set aside for independent work.
Child-led learning is another example of independent work. Younger children may have activities Montessori-style that you set up once, but they can access daily and work on their own. Older children may choose a topic they’d like to study, find books about it and complete projects independently to show what they’ve learned. Unit studies could also fall under the umbrella of independent learning.
3. Choose Online Curriculum for Some or All Subjects
Online Curriculum or Classes
A third way to use curriculum to simplify your homeschool day is to choose online curriculum. You can find online curriculum that covers all of your children’s subjects. Or you could just use online curriculum for one or two subjects.
We use an online math curriculum. Each of my children is on a different math level, so it’s not a subject I can combine. It’s also not a favorite subject among my kids, so math class quickly became a stressful part of my day. Also, since I had to teach my kids separately, it took a big chunk of time out of the day to teach. Using an online math curriculum, my kids are able to listen to the lecture and see examples of that day’s lesson. I stay in the room and can help with certain problems they don’t understand. But math now takes considerably less time, and frustration, to complete since they both do it at the same time.
You can also find many online classes to cover subjects like art, music, and nature study, among others. Many of these types of classes are just a couple of times a month, but they give you a little break from teaching during the day. You can do dinner prep or fold some laundry as the kids enjoy their class. We’ve done chalk art classes with Nana from You Are an Artist and SQUILT Live classes with Miss Mary. My kids have enjoyed learning nature study with Cindy from Our Journey Westward. My preschooler loves his Clap for Classics! music courses, which he can watch while I’m teaching the older kids or busy with household chores.
Printable Ready-to-Go Lessons
In addition to online classes, you can also purchase ready-to-go lessons for single subjects. For example, my kids and I love the monthly lessons from Art History Kids. Each week I get an email with a link to that week’s PDF lesson. I teach it to my kids, but all I have to do is read through the lesson. My kids learn art history and can complete a project each week. Plus, Lotus, the creator, also reads books about artists online. I save all the time it would have taken me to prepare that lesson.
Pam Barnhill also offers separate lesson plans for your morning basket. Morning baskets are a great way to teach all of your children at once. Pam’s lesson plans include subjects like memory work, poetry, art and music, geography, math, and nature study planned out for up to 14 weeks. Using premade lesson plans saves you planning time while still getting to those great enrichment subjects.
Reviews of Homeschool Curriculum Can Be Helpful
It can be so difficult to decide what books to get just from looking at them online. Many homeschoolers enjoy attending homeschool conventions so they can walk around the vendor booths and thumb through the curriculum available.
However, sometimes that isn’t an option for families due to cost, schedules, or where they live. Homeschool curriculum reviews can be an additional way to help you figure out which works best for your family. You can ask members of homeschooling Facebook groups what they use and like. Additionally, you can ask your local homeschool group for ideas, or see if they offer a curriculum fair, usually held in the spring or early summer. You can also find curriculum reviews online. I’ve found Cathy Duffy reviews to be very honest, thorough, and helpful.
Related posts reviewing curriculum
- Our favorite homeschool curriculum: In this post, you’ll find short reviews of curriculum we have used throughout our homeschool years.
- Homeschool math curriculum: This post explains how to decide on math curriculum for your family. It reviews a few different ones we’ve tried.
- Homeschool art curriculum: While this post explains how to include art in your homeschool day, you’ll also find reviews of art curriculum we’ve tried and enjoyed.
- You Are an Artist art lessons: You’ll find information about the benefits of chalk pastel lessons for your homeschool in this post.
- Homeschool history supplement: My YouTube video shares a history supplement that you can use with any history curriculum you use.
- Teaching Textbooks math program: This post is a review of the Teaching Textbooks 4.0 program.
- Mytek Lab online technology classes: Learn about a wonderful program teaching kids how to code and other technological skills.
- Preschool music courses: Learn more about a wonderful music program for kids 0-5 and find a link to get a free mini course to give it a try.
- Homeschool science classes online: College Prep Science offers great homeschool science classes for kids in grades 4-12.
Tips to Make Choosing Homeschool Curriculum Easier
- Curriculum is just a guide that helps you teach your children. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all curriculum. Choose the curriculum that fits your family’s needs best. The curriculum should work for you, not the other way around.
- You don’t have to choose only one style of curriculum. For example, we use an online math curriculum, a religion workbook, and living books for history. Those are three different teaching methods representing online, traditional, and Charlotte Mason, respectively, but they each work best in our homeschool.
- Remember that you aren’t tied to any one curriculum choice forever. You don’t even–gasp–have to finish curriculum that isn’t working!
- Don’t second guess yourself. You’ll always end up wondering if there’s a better curriculum out there. Use the curriculum you have and make it work. Try not to get caught up in the “shiny new curriculum” that everyone is talking about.
Choosing homeschool curriculum can be overwhelming. You want to choose the best for your kids, but sometimes you just aren’t sure what that is. Remember that your curriculum works for you and not the other way around. Choose curriculum that best fits your family’s needs for the year, and then be at peace with your decision. No curriculum is perfect. Just work at instilling a love of learning in your children and you’ll be able to make just about any curriculum work for your homeschool.