Pick up any homeschooling catalog, or take a peek with an internet search and you will see that there are endless combinations of curriculum choices out there for you to choose from. It can seem impossible to make an informed decision, especially with a topic that is so subjective. When you ask around, one friends loves a particular product, and the next person you talk to hates it. With the cost and time involved in getting started with a homeschool set up, there has to be a way to help narrow down the field for a smoother selection process.
Remember the 5 W’s in elementary school? They were drilled into our heads with every writing assignment: who, what, when, where and why. Using these five question we can eliminate some options and bring the curriculum choices you need into clearer focus.
Who is going to be using the materials?
Each individual child you are teaching is unique. They have their own learning need; topics they accelerate in and deficits that need to be braced up this school year. By knowing who the curriculum is for we can then begin to whittle down the wide world of curriculum to a few shelves of choices.
Consider Learning Style and Preference
How does your student receive learning materials best? As a parent , you might need to do some intentional observation. Is your child an auditory learner who needs to hear clear instructions or are they the child who runs off and figures it out on their own with little instructions? Do they prefer hands-on activities or do you find that supplemental projects usually fall by the wayside for lack of interest? These kinds of answers will help you select the best types of curriculum that fit the way your kids already like to learn.
What is Currently Working?
Looking at the places where your student excels is a great way to discover the learning styles and tools that are working for them. Conversely, you can look at areas where your child is struggling and determine where they are not connecting with the materials and then make the changes necessary. A good idea is to try to incorporate what your child responds to positively. It is surprising how often this point get overlooked. Choosing learning tools is a huge undertaking, but the student has to be a central focus in our planning.
What Are Your Teaching Preferences?
Knowing your learning goals will help you to know the kinds of materials will you need. How are you planning on covering the basic requirements for each child? Do you want each subject; Math, Science, Social Studies, Reading and LA, in separate books or booklets so you can systematically go through the materials over the year? Are you a creative yourself, and would like a more organic approach where you make room for individual learning time through more hands on learning tools?
Do you need to save time? When teaching multiple grades, you might like an more integrated approach, like a literature based program where you read books that cover several topics like social studies, history, reading and even some science all at one time.
When Do You Plan to Use The Materials?
Topics like science and electives can be done over the week in small chunks or they can be done in a larger segment of time on a day of the week. Many curriculum providers offer several schedule options, the choice of a four day schedule is becoming a popular pick with parents who want more time for non-academic learning activities. Some public schools have even adapted this four day schedule, leaving Fridays for extracurricular activities, sports, band and other practices as well as family time.
Choosing to do a subject like Science on a designated day makes it more likely that you will have the necessary time for experiments, field trips and other hands on studies. This also creates an opportunity to add other electives and your child can receive school credit while they do them as well.
Where Are You Students Going to Be Working?
Will they have computer access? Many homeschool programs are available in a hardcopy textbook or as an online program. If you have several students and you know you will have your attention divided at times, choosing one or two subjects on the computer is a great way to have you child do self-directed work while you teach little ones or meet with other students.
We also have to consider our lifestyle. Is travel a regular part of your life that would make consistent internet a problem? Then an offline program possibly could be a better choice. If you have regular outings, because of sports or medical needs, a program with smaller workbooks or a literature based curriculum can make it easy to grab and go. This makes it more likely to help keep school going on road days.
Why Are You Choosing to Homeschool?
More importantly, what is the main goal that led you to choose to homeschool? This is a key element that should be represented in your homeschool curriculum. If you want a better foundation in a life topic, school subject or personal discipline, there is a tool that will help you implement those goals in your family, be sure to include it. This will ensure that your top priorities won’t fall by the wayside.
With these questions answered, you will build a framework that will help you choose the right curriculum that meets the specific needs you have identified for you each one of your students.
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Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
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