Five Questions Every Homeschooling Mom Should Ask Before Choosing Curriculum

We are almost to the end of our homeschool year, and this is NOT the time that I want to be thinking about next years curriculum, but alas, the MassHope Convention is in town and instead of checking out and heading to the beach, I guess responsible mother’s everywhere are talking standardized testing and choosing curriculum. {ahem}

SOO, in order to not be a total derelict mother, I humbly offer you some things to consider when choosing curriculum each year for your kids.

As far as curriculum is involved, I do believe that you can learn no matter what you are using if you want to. There is no magic curriculum. We have used nearly everything under the sun in the past 14 years of homeschooling. My oldest daughter just finished her first year at Bob Jones University and has done extremely well. In fact, she made the Dean’s list. :)

These questions are more “self awareness” questions than curriculum questions, but I think they’ll help you determine what you are looking for.

1. Figure out your personality and find a curriculum that works with it.*

Most likely, you are NOT a teacher by trade, but have found yourself teaching for whatever reason.

Be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. This is half your battle.

Are you extremely structured, or do you follow a loose schedule?

Are you high strung or laid back?

Will you use real life as a teacher or books only?

Will you be home all day, or do you envision yourself visiting local resources and using hands on learning?

2. Think about your life stage and plan accordingly.

Are you in a time of transition (new baby, illness) or are things status quo?

Do you work from home and have a flexible schedule, or are you working around someone else’s time schedule?

Will sticking to a rigid lesson plan stress you out or give you a sense of security?

Does flexibility motivate you or hinder your performance?

3. Think about your family interests. Your time will be heavily weighted toward these interests and it will affect your school year. 

Expect that you’ll invest more time than other families in these areas and be okay with that.

Then, when you hear that one family grinds their own wheat and makes all their own bread from wheat they grew in their back yard and milled with a mortar and pestle, you will understand that their interests are heavily weighted toward those things and there is no need for guilt or comparison on your part.

Do you all love history or politics? Do you value art and music?

Know your interests and realize that they may change over time as your kids grow and express new interests.

4. Decide what you want from education. Begin with the end in mind.

Do you envision your kids as Harvard Grads?

Are you looking to develop the child as a whole: mind, body, spirit?

For us, we wanted to be sure that our kids did not reflect our current culture. We were appalled by the norms of young society/pop culture and realized that you can’t send them into that for 8 hours a day and have it not effect them.

We wanted our kids to love to read and be life long learners, so our choices reflected our long term goals.

5. Decide what is reasonable.

You cannot do everything, so decide what you can teach well and plan to get help with the rest. Kahn Academy, the internet, DVD’s, tutors, co-ops and other helps are readily available for home schoolers. Don’t feel bad about using them!

This generation has seen a shift in education since the rise of the internet. Today’s education is more about self education than ever before and part of teaching kids to be successful in the modern world is teaching them to know how to use the internet as a resource.

In our day, when you needed to research a topic, you trudged to the library unless you were lucky enough to own an entire set of Encyclopedia Brittanica. It is different today. They don’t look to teachers as sources of knowledge like they did in our day. Good teachers teach them where to look. :)

 

I know that this list is incomplete!  :)

Your turn! Please share any other self-awareness questions that you have found helpful when determining what curriculum to choose for your family? Feel free to share in the comments or to link to an article that you have written on the subject.

*Note: Just for clarity and communication between “adjoining nations”:  Hmschlers tend to use the word “curriculum” to mean the actual tool you’ll use to teach a subject that needs to be covered. So when I say I will use what works for us, I mean that I will choose a publisher who teaches the topic in a way that works for us as a family; I do not mean that we will pick and choose what we need to learn w/o regard for state law.  State and local laws DO set the norms for what is to be covered as a whole, which is what public school systems understand the word “curriculum” to mean. Mkay? ;)

28 comments

  1. Love this! As we are just preparing to start out on our journey I love looking into other people’s homeschool life. I am a teacher, which makes me sometimes a little over-ambitious, I think. “i can’t do everything’ is something I am going to have to constantly remind myself!

    • Sarah Beals says:

      It took me a while to figure that out, but then I realized that NO teacher in the public school system would be expected to teach all grades, all subjects like a hmschling mom. :)

  2. Debbie Smith says:

    Excellent insight and questions to ask yourself, Sarah…

  3. Karen says:

    The one thing that I have to remind myself every year is that education is not the end all or all encompassing focus. I remind my children that “Life is school”. We don’t have to do it all within the period of 12-13 years. The greatest thing that we give our children is the freedom to learn and grow and discover for a life time.
    We have home schooled for 18 years. I don’t know of anyone that has taken the approach that we have, in that I have gone with a very traditional curriculum. I have used Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools books all the way through and I always do my tests in April and order new books in March. Very simple, no fuss for me. But this is how I work. :)

    • Sarah Beals says:

      I agree. Education is a lifestyle. There ARE things we need to know along the way, and these standards are good, but we cannot obsess with SAT’s or teach to the test. This diminishes learning in the truest sense. I think we can all remember cramming for a test, to make a grade and then totally forgot all the material. Did we really learn? I contend that we did not. We learned to take tests. Love your approach, Karen. We are similar in our views. :)

  4. Great list! It took me too long to figure out #1. When we began, I was very careful about choosing curricula that fit my kids’ personality. I was slow to catch on that it needed to suit mine as well!

    • Sarah Beals says:

      I did the same thing early on Anne…but when I was “completely bald in front” (Little Women! :))from pulling my hair out due to teacher’s manuals, I decided that I needed to reconsider! ha,ha

  5. This is a great post Sarah – thanks for your wisdom as I am in the midst of these decisions right now. I’m so excited for next year but I know there’s some tweaking to be done and your list reminded me of how unique each homeschool classroom is :)
    Lots of Love,
    Courtney

  6. Karla Marie says:

    Thank you! I don’t make my own bread and THAT IS OK!;) I love the tip about getting curriculum to fit the mom’s style. One thing that helps me tremendously is considering my kid’s learning styles. I am such an anal thinker….I would always pick a one-size fits all……. Does not work for this fam. My other fav part of this article is considering what stage of life you are in. Our children are 9,8 & 5………but we are about to adopt 3 children under 4. Gotta stay flexible!
    Thanks!

    • Sarah Beals says:

      I DON’T make my own bread…unless you consider cinnamon buns to be bread…I do make those occassionally. :) Karla, if I were going to adopt three children, I would switch to a literature based curriculum where you read a lot as a family. I did that when my kiddos were young and it was very helpful AND enjoyable. :)

  7. Bobbey says:

    Great list! We’ve only been homeschooling for 5 months, but as we’re heading into the high school years I’ve been overly stressed about finding something that worked for all of us. My son and I both have ADD and need something that provides flexible structure. I think our biggest battles will come with writing but we’ll get there.

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Yes, finding something that works for both of you is a must! In our home, the curriculum needs to be very teacher friendly. I cannot have 15 teachers manuals open at once. I need something easy to use, easy for the kids to use and something that doesn’t require a ton of prep work on my part.Check out Timberdoodle.com. They are our favorite hmschl catalog and have lots of great stuff!

      • Bobbey says:

        I just found Timberdoodle.com yesterday and loved it. Need to go visit and bookmark it for future reference.

        • Sarah Beals says:

          I think I have one of everything that they sell. When my kids were little, we LOVED “Math wrap ups”. Not sure that they sell them anymore, but I would stick those in my purse and pull them out when they got fidgety waiting at the drs. office or whatever. Now, I pull out the ipods touch. :) Things change! :)

  8. I’ve realized that sometimes it’s not the curriculum you choose, it’s the curriculum you USE that matters. I’ve learned not to be too quick to hop from curriculum to curriculum, but to ask myself if I am making time to teach and discuss with the children effectively. Teaching from the kitchen sink is not effective :-). Whatever curriculum you choose, take the time to use it consistently and it just might work!

  9. Daniel says:

    Have you included poetry in your homeschool? If not, please consider our newest video course based on the textbook: The Grammr of Poetry, by Matt Whitling of Logos School. It’s a high-production value course designed by someone who grew up homeshooled overseas before getting into media and education.
    Check it out here: http://thegrammarofpoetry.com

    Thanks!
    Daniel, producer

  10. Lyndsay says:

    Thanks so much for the list! I have already chosen curriculum for next year but I still found this list very helpful. This was my first year of homeschooling so I have had to think about these questions a lot. I have found that even though I consider myself a laid back person, I need more structure with my homeschool day. If I don’t then nothing will ever get done! I have also learned that kids need to be able to just play. Homeschool is not regular public school at home it is something all together different, but wonderful!

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Thanks for visiting, Lyndsay. It is really important to know your own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, for Math and English we keep to a pretty rigid traditional book structure to keep us in line. But for history we tend to read aloud as a family. I know that a textbook for history would put me totally to sleep! ;) Science is mostly hands on for us in the younger grades with a textbook as a topical guide. It is a juggling act. :)

  11. soljia_s@hotmail.com says:

    We are thinking of pulling our kindergartener from public school and homeschooling next year. I think I need an organized plan to tell me what to do to make sure I cover everything and was looking at the accredited abecka program, whichever also keeps track of transcript stuff, has anyone worked with this? We could also do free on-line public school? My husband is graduating with his masters in teaching so we have flexibility law-wise with what we do, I just want to make a wise choice and don’t want to get stressed out because of lack of organization on my part.

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Yes, many have used aBeka with success. I think it is great to start out with a lot of structure, so you don’t miss anything. As time goes by, you’ll figure out the ropes and will be “braver” when it comes to choosing your own styles later on. When we started, we used BJUPress, the complete package. :)

  12. Elisabeth says:

    Good article. I AM teacher with a BS & MS in education and have decided to homeschool my preschooler next year, while probably leaving his brother in the Christian school I teach at now. The longer I teach, the more I realize that one style does not fit all kids, which is why we will be doing a hands-on curriculum for pre-K with Will. But,having been a classroom teacher for a number of years, I LOVE having a curriculum, even if it is hands-on, so I have more time to focus on teaching & less time on prep-work! I’m not quitting my teaching job to sit around & prep lessons at home! :-)

  13. Debbie says:

    Great article! We just finished our first year homeschooling and loved it! I have five children who are in K5-4th grade and I started out with a complete package to make sure I calm my nerves about hitting all areas but this next year we are going to relax and use a moshposh of curriculum. If I don’t like it, or it doesn’t work out with my children we will go back to the grade in a kit program. I would encourage most parents to try homeschooling if they are on the fence. I wish I would have homeschooled my oldest!
    Thanks for the great post, keep up the good work.

  14. Connie says:

    What do you think the odds of successful homeschool teaching are if the mother is living with in-laws and does not have a job. The Dad has a very low paying job and the in-laws are on the brink of bankruptcy. This mom has only a highscool diploma, sleeps till noon everyday and has a child who is very disrespectful, screams at his parents and still sleeps in the same bed with them every night at the age of 7? Both mother & son’s rooms are full of dirty dishes and look like a bomb went off in them. She says her reason for wanting to do this is because she’s afraid of what they teach in public schools, but our area is not really a tough inner city area. I suspect the main issue is that they neither one want to get up early and have a routine schedule. As I said, they sleep till noon everyday and stay up playing video games till 2:00am or worse almost everyday. The child was in trouble at school a lot last year for talking back to teachers, disrupting other students and stealing. The parents never enforce any rules or discipline so this child “rules the roost” shouting orders…”Go get me a drink.”…”Tie my shoes!”. He just throws wrappers on the floor and drinks milk straight from the carton and eats right out of the jar. The situation has gotten worse and worse in the last 2 years. The mom is very sweet and patient to a fault, but never follows through with any project she starts. I am very worried at what will happen if this child is pulled out of the discpline he gets in public school as that is his only real structure. He is an only child and has very few kids to socialize with outside of school. They can’t afford to enroll him in special lessons, or join club sports or activities that cost money. They can’t even pay their bills!

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