I am in a number of social media homeschool groups, and one question I see over and over from new homeschoolers is this: what is the best curriculum to use for my child? Here's the quick answer: there isn't any, and they all are. Here's the long answer: The best curriculum is one that you choose for your child, based on your child's developmental needs and abilities. With that being said, let's explore how to choose the best homeschool curriculum.
This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small commission from purchases made using these links. In addition, all curriculum suggestions are personally vetted by me and my daughter.
This may be a "duh" point but you want your curriculum to not be boring. If you get bored reading it (and I encourage you to read a couple pages, and skim through an entire book before purchasing any textbook), then your child will be bored--and you don't want that. You want the curriculum you choose to encourage your child to want to learn about the subject matter, whether that's math or history.
Children have an innate curiosity about them, and the curriculum you choose should present insightful text, questions that make your child think, and the potential for additional projects, papers, or problems to solve. Any curriculum you choose for any subject should spur in your child a love for learning.
The Charlotte Mason homeschool method utilizes the addition of living books, which are engaging books that bring the subject alive. Any time you supplement any curriculum you purchase using living books, you add a deeper level of understanding into the subject matter.
SUGGESTIONS: I really like the history curriculum from Notgrass History, due to the amount of possible projects and other assignments. I also really like Rabbit Trails Homeschool's history curriculum, because it's literature based using living books (take 10% off with our coupon code H1C). Rabbit Trails' science curriculum is top-notch, as well. For Bible studies, I love Not Consumed's studies, which combine biblical truth with practical teachings (I also love their student planner!). Everyday Graces Homeschool has beautiful Charlotte Mason-inspired studies.
Not only should the curriculum encourage a love of learning for your child, but it should also be fun to teach. When you learn as the teacher along with your child, you're more invested into the curriculum and in your homeschool. If the curriculum is too hard to teach, you're not going to enjoy it.
I have used curriculum that had great information, decent workbooks, but were tedious to teach. On the other hand, I've used old-school textbooks that had the text in smaller chunks with questions to reinforce retention. If you use textbooks that have a large amount of text, I suggest you break it up into chunks for your child, and if the workbook doesn't have questions for retention for that section, make up your own questions. I've done this many times.
Realistically, you are the teacher. so you can create questions, you can download worksheets, whatever you want to do. There are many resources that you can use to supplement your curriculum and help in teaching, such as the following:
SUGGESTIONS: Schoolhouse Teachers makes it easy to teach due to the scopes and sequences are laid out for each course. Many courses are taught via video, and others lay out the courses for you. Plus, if you join as a Silver member, you gain many benefits, such as the AppleCore program. This online program gives you the ability to track attendance, grades, report cards, and transcripts. I have also used old school textbooks that I purchased at a significant savings from Ebay..
Before the start of a new school year, before we buy curriculum, my husband and I always ask our daughter what she wants to learn in history and science. This ability to choose provides a sense of ownership and buy-in with your child.
If your child wants to have a say in his or her education, by all means, let your child have that freedom, but within reason. Often, especially for science, all it takes for buy-in is to involve your child in science labs. A good source for labs (and homeschool curriculum) is Home Science Tools. For both science and history, field trips are often incredible ways to make the subjects come alive for your child. Allow your student have some say in field trips, but always follow up with the field trips by asking what your child learned or have them complete this field trip report.
Developmental Needs and Abilities
In choosing your homeschool curriculum, one thing you must do is take into account your child's developmental needs and abilities. You can use the math placement tests from Teaching Textbooks to discover what exact level your child is on, and adjust accordingly. Sonlight also has placement tests, not only for math but for reading and language arts, as well.
If your child has special needs, you will want to teach him or her based on their developmental level -- not based on age or technical grade. You can teach subjects on different levels, for example, if your child is 12 years old and technically in the seventh grade, but because of her ADHD or his autism is developmentally in the fourth grade in language arts and tenth grade in math, teach the child on the developmental level.
If your child is in the ninth grade by his age but developmentally in the third grade, teach him in the third grade. In this case, I would also strongly consider adding life skills to his curriculum and not force the academics too much. Meet his needs where they're at, but don't frustrate him--or yourself.
While you're on Sonlight's website, go ahead and order their catalog. Do an Internet search for "homeschool curriculum provider" and order all the catalogs you can. Using these, you can get an idea of scope and sequence, what they offer, what you can offer in your homeschool, and what electives exist. Apologia has free homeschool resources on their resources page, such as a homeschool curriculum planning guide, podcasts, and videos to help you in the homeschooling journey.
Homeschooling is a very individual thing, and you can't have a one-size fits all approach to it. What works for my homeschool (and therefore is my "best" homeschool curriculum) may not be a good fit for your homeschool, and therefore would not be your "best homeschool curriculum." The best thing to do is to examine first why you're homeschooling, what your goals are as a homeschool and for each individual child, and choose curriculum based on your family's lifestyle and goals.
For my family, we travel a good bit for my husband's wheelchair basketball team (you can see why he's in a wheelchair in this book) so we do a good bit of roadschooling, or homeschool on the road, so an online curriculum wouldn't work for us.. You may have a very strict homeschool budget, and need to find online resources that would be easy to teach, encompass all the subjects, yet be affordable (you can totally do that, too!) and can't buy a total big-box curriculum. There's nothing wrong with buying workbooks that you find at discount stores or at teacher supply shops and using those. Be sure to read my blog post on homeschooling on a budget!
No matter the homeschool curriculum you choose, remember than you are homeschooling-- the emphasis should be on the relationships you have with your children and building them up while learning. Learning doesn't just happen with books; it happens while you're cooking or cleaning the house, while your husband engages with your child and teaches her how to change the oil in the car, or how to make doctor appointments. It's about doing life together.
All my best,
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Buying homeschool curriculum can get expensive in a hurry. There are ways that you can purchase curriculum on a budget, however. Here are some tips and resources to show you how.
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Deciding what our child needs in curriculum is the first step. Accessing scope and sequences of grades and curriculum can be done through curriculum company websites or their catalogs. Many companies, like Teaching Textbooks, offers free math placement tests so you can determine exactly what is your child's level. Apologia offers this free curriculum planning guide.
The second step is determining a per-child curriculum budget. Don't be afraid to splurge on hardback, reusable books if they will be used by younger siblings. If you decide to use spiral curriculum or workbooks that are generally written in, either copy the pages or have the student write out the problems on notebook paper, leaving the workbooks free from marks. This way, younger siblings can use them (or you can sell them at either curriculum fairs or consignment shops).
Curriculum Fairs / consignment shops
This is where a simple search on the Internet with your town or city name comes in very handy. Search your town, with adding "homeschool curriculum fairs" or "homeschool curriculum consignment shops" in the search bar. You can gain some really good curriculum at fairs and consignment stores, but make sure you look through the books. I once paid for a science workbook that looked good for the first few pages, but then as my daughter worked through the workbook, the name "Ryland" was on every single page, and crossword puzzles were already completed. Buyer beware: just look through every page in workbooks , especially.
You may need to go often, but you can find some bargains in thrift stores' book sections, especially if you're willing to keep an eye out for curriculum to be used later. I once found a high school economics books at a thrift store and snatched it up. Sure, my daughter's going into the seventh grade, but it's certainly something she can study as a senior in high school, and it was less than $2! Thrift stores are also good places to buy literature or living books. If you happen to find a set of encyclopedias, buy them; even though we have the Internet at our fingertips, there's something to be said about reading and using an encyclopedia for resources.
You know the type: they're not exactly big-box stores, and they have seconds of products most of the time, but if they have a good book section, you can find some great workbooks, literature, and sometimes curriculum there. Homeschool supplies like crayons, paper, scissors, are often good deals, too.
We often think of Ebay as being a source for when we need a weird part for something (I'm currently in the market for a missing lid to my husband's favorite rice cooking pot). However, I have purchased many older school books for my daughter. As a homeschooler who refuses to teach Common Core, math textbooks from the early 2000s are perfect. Instead of a hundred dollars, last year I spent a little over $5 for Laura's math textbook. Be sure, in the Ebay search bar, you specify what you're searching for, such as "grade 6 math textbooks," or "grade 4 spelling textbooks." Use the link in bold above to access Ebay's math books, and you can search for other things, too.
Since the summer is curriculum buying-time, you can often find some good deals on curriculum and/or shipping. Apologia is offering free shipping on orders over $150 right now. Notgrass History offers first-rate history textbooks for all grade levels plus a great deal of general homeschooling resources.
One curriculum creator, Rabbit Trails Homeschool, is launching new curriculum on July 1. She is having a party inside of her Facebook group, Relaxed Homeschoolers, The Rabbit Trails Way. During this party, she will be sharing all of the new releases, there will be giveaways, sharing new freebies, and there will even have an exciting flash sale opportunity. Don't miss this -- make sure you join the group today so you won't miss it.
In my own store, you can buy my newest study, Gospel Grammar, at 22% off with the coupon code Summer22 (along with everything else in my store, as the sale is storewide). Gospel Grammar is a Bible study about grammar, and a grammar study about the Bible.
You can find curriculum creators on Facebook (just do a search for one you're looking for) to access deals they have going on.
Amazon is not who we usually think of when it comes to homeschool curriculum, but they have a ton of curriculum available, in addition to supplies, computers, printers, and laminators.. Right now they have a lot of brand-name curriculum on sale for upwards of 20% off. Be sure to access this direct link for homeschool curriculum.
Once you have a list of subjects you want to do with your child, make a list of curriculum providers. Some providers provide all-in-one curriculum packages that include everything. A lot of that depends on your child. If your child is at grade 4 in math but grade 6 on everything else, ask the curriculum provider if you can switch out grade 6 math for grade 4, for example. Or, you can tailor-make an eclectic curriculum for your child using many different sources.
Once you have a list of curriculum and/or subjects, you can use this handy homeschool curriculum budgeting tool to help you keep track of costs. Don't forget to count music lessons, sports, and other extracurricular activities in that, as they also can count for homeschool (handy info to have for attendance records!).
I have a number of free or low-cost websites I use a great deal in homeschooling my daughter. These websites either supplement her curriculum by way of worksheets or online games, or I use them as curriculum.
I pay to use Education.com so I can utilize their word search and crossword generators for spelling. This website's annual plan is under $10 a month; paid monthly, it's $15.99 a month. I don't know about you, but $119.88 is a lot better than $191.88. I use this website every single day--and Laura loves the educational games that I can assign to her to complete. Disclosure: I am not an affiliate of Education.com.
Another website I use often, that I am also not an affiliate of, is Teacherspayteachers.com. You can search for free worksheets, and have a wealth of worksheets at your disposal, or you can pay per download for more expensive worksheets, lessons, projects, and other resources.
One website of which I am proud to say I am an affiliate, is SchoolhouseTeachers.com. Right now, through June 22, they are having a membership sale of less than $16 a month. Members receive a great deal of benefits, including a printed magazine, free access to hundreds of full courses and unit studies, record keeping resources, lesson plans, scope and sequence information, and a full curriculum for every grade. My daughter wants to do unit studies for science when we start back up September 1, and we're going to do that using SchoolhouseTeachers.com's incredible science unit studies. Plus, all members become automatic affiliates, so if you really like it, and share your affiliate link with your homeschooling friends and on social media, you can make some money, too.
Homeschooling can be an expensive endeavor--but it doesn't have to be. With a little creativity, asking the right questions, and looking for deals, you can find curriculum to teach your child without spending a ton of money. Don't forget to search for "homeschooling" on Facebook Marketplace--you will be amazed at the deals you can find there.
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
In a summer of rising fuel costs, beating boredom while you either take a break from homeschooling or have a lighter homeschooling load can become a very expensive proposition. Here are some fun, budget-friendly summer activities for homeschoolers.
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Gather your tent, bedding, snacks, flashlights, fire pit, s'more making materials, and pitch your tent in your own back yard for a campout. Share stories from your childhood with your kids, eat s'mores, sit around a campfire, and either sleep outside or stay out really late and sleep inside. Either way, you're making memories with your children--memories they will always remember.
Arm all your kiddos with mason jars, with holes punctured in the lids, or this cute bug jar, and let them catch fireflies outside. Encourage your kids' innate thirst for learning with this free science lesson about fireflies from Rabbit Trails Homeschool. This free lesson on fireflies is a favorite among Rabbit Trails users. Learn all about fireflies with amazing books, create your very own firefly that glows, and have some amazing summer fun learning together! Be sure to check out other incredible lessons Rabbit Trails Homeschool has to offer--my daughter loves them!
In the hot days of summer, nothing is more refreshing than water play. If you have access to your own pool, add a bunch of pool noodles and floats to have a great time (keep all those toys corralled when you're not using them with this pool toy storage and equipment holder. This holder can also be used to keep pool and outside toys organized when not in use if you go to a neighborhood pool, too. If you're like me, and don't have access to a neighborhood pool, most cities and towns have community pools that, for a small fee,
Pools are not a requirement for water play, though. You can get an elaborate sprinkler like thisginormous, inflatable dinosaur one that stands six feet tall (!!!) or hook up a simple garden sprinkler to a water hose like this one, and let your kids jump through the water. If you live in an apartment with a patio or balcony, set out a pot of water on a towel on the patio or balcony, add measuring cups or plastic bowls, and let your child pour and splash to his or her heart's content.
On days when it's really hot outside, and you just don't want to spend the gas money going to the library, grab some books that haven't been read yet, or in a while, from your own book shelves. Encourage your child to turn off the screens and explore other places using the magic of books. Use this fun, summer-themed log to keep track of reading times, and when all the popsicles are colored in, let your child pick out a movie or a board game to play--or another book to read!
Family Game Nights
One of our family's favorite activities is playing board or card games together. The cool thing about games is that they're great learning tools--and the child doesn't even know he or she is learning! Our favorite board game, "Empire Builder," is incredibly hard to find, these days, sadly, but the closest thing to it is called "Empire Express." In this game, for 12 years old and up, players create competing railroad empires by drawing railroad tracks with crayons upon an erasable board. A player wins by utilizing a network of rail lines to acquire and deliver goods efficiently to accumulate the largest personal fortune. We've found, though, that wet erase markers instead of crayons work best. Other games that are favorites in our house are "Clue," "Settlers of Catan," and playing gin rummy with a standard deck of cards. There are so manyversions of "Clue" that there's something for everyone. Other favorites are "Hi Ho! Cherry-O," "Candy Land," and "Twister." Any games you have in your house are good games to play--the important thing is to play them and enjoy each other's company.
Neighborhood or Nature Walks
It's often too hot in the heat of the day to go for walks, but in the early morning, it's a great time to simply go for family walks either in the neighborhood or for nature walks in the woods (stay on paths so you can be careful of snakes). Later in the evening is also a good time to go for walks. Don't just walk, though--use the time to talk, catch fireflies, pick up interesting rocks, and chat with neighbors.
If you take your dog on a walk during the afternoon or early evening, please be aware that the pavement can be blistering hot to a dog's paws. If the temperature outside is 85 degrees, asphalt in the sun can reach over 140 degrees! Protect your pup's feet with these dog boots for hot pavement.
Family walks cost nothing, but they often encourage the best talks, and have incredible learning opportunities.
Sandboxes are easy to make: buy a simple kiddie pool and add play sand. Cover it with a small tarp, held down with boards, bricks, or even logs from the firepit stash at night to prevent rain from dampening it or cats from using it as a litter box. Using various sizes of plastic food containers from either the cabinet or the recycling bin, and a small container of water, your child can create the most incredible sandcastles. Yes, you can purchase more elaborate sandcastle forms that kids (and adults!) alike would get a lot of enjoyment from as they build turrets, bricks, towers, and other castle structures, but you really don't need to.
You can also make a sandbox by using a small tent add play sand on the inside of it. With the rain fly attached and it zipped up, there's very little chance of the sand being spoiled by rain, insects, or cats.
My daughter loves building indoor forts. Utilizing sheets or blankets, cover a dining room table with them and drape it over the side. Let the child design it to his or her heart's content. Add a thick quilt on the floor and a pillow, a flashlight, and some books, you may even catch your child reading in the fort--or even taking a nap. Forts can be as simple or as elaborate as your home or sanity will allow.
Catch a Game
Many communities have either church or neighborhood baseball or softball leagues that play in parks. You don't have to spend money to see a good game with pro baseball when you have games happening in nearby parks. Some parks even have concession stands; if they don't, make sure you pack a cooler with drinks and snacks.
There are many fun, budget-friendly activities you can do in the summer and continue to learn, as learning doesn't just happen at a desk or in a book. Explore your own county and check out places that you don't normally visit, like off-the-beaten path antique stores, county museums that may not have websites (so you wouldn't know about them in your field trip planning), or use the time to tackle some projects around the house as a family. Most of all, have fun!
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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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