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
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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