Many families considering homeschool feel overwhelmed with the sheer volume of curricula providers and products that they stop before they’ve started. The overwhelming mass of choices homeschoolers face is dizzying to say the least, but there are a few ways that you can narrow things down to a more manageable number that you really can get a grip on!
When we started, it was crazy! We were instantly overwhelmed and didn’t know which direction to turn. In public school, we were used to seeing the same publishing houses that we’ve seen for 30+ years because my husband and I both went through the system. We didn’t know there were thousands more, just waiting to be discovered (by us). I tend to be the researcher, while my husband is more the strategist, and so I did the research and narrowed things down to a few, then discussed those findings with him before making final decisions.
We didn’t have the luxury of starting when our boys were in kindergarten – because I refused. I thought they would drive me crazy, AND that I was not qualified, AND that I would mess up somehow. So, we were faced with finding something that would both plug holes in their knowledge, and continue their journey forward. We removed the twins from public school at the end of second grade, and spent the summer trying to figure things out.
I looked at curricula, I studied, I learned. You know what I found? There are loads of resources you can use for FREE that will help get you over the hump. Sure, there are families who use exclusively free resources for budget reasons, but I am not overly fond of printing everything out, so I viewed those as aids in getting from here…to there.
Here is what I recommend to help you narrow down the choices, make the first year more pleasant, and not waste money.
Decide whether you want religious, secular, or non-sectarian.
Many people are religious or spiritual, but do not want religious curricula because they would rather teach that aspect of life themselves. Others prefer having a religious aspect to their curriculum. Some don’t really mind a writer who is religious, but prefer that it not be taught to their children. There is an increasing percentage who feels that they would rather not have someone else’s version of their faith taught to their children; there are also a growing number of homeschool families who are not of the majority faith and therefore prefer secular.
Whichever is right for your family, don’t apologize, just do it.
Decide whether you’ll use Common Core aligned resources.
This is a hot-button topic in the community right now because there’s a big faction of people leaving the school systems over Common Core. It’s not just standards, it’s so very much more, and many new homeschoolers are choosing to “vote with their pocketbooks” and support companies who did not change their curricula to align with the Common Core.
Tina Hollenbeck’s Homeschool Resource Roadmap is a fantastic resource for discovering whether a resource is aligned to Common Core. For a small fee, you can upgrade from the free subscription to access curriculum lists organized by subject.
Figure out how your children learn best.
Discovering learning styles takes a bit more time, and this is why we wound up NOT purchasing much beside Latin the first year. This is also why I encourage parents to spend time getting to know their kids again, and how they prefer learning before purchasing curricula.
While I have recently been smacked rather unceremoniously by the actual cost of “free,” I don’t advise new homeschool parents spend a lot of money on curriculum. Why? Because without enough experience to understand what it is you’re looking for, that curriculum purchase may become an anchor, weighing you down. Often our budgets are so tight that one big purchase immediately negates the ability to purchase something else if the first one is a mistake. Yes, homeschool curriculum can be sold to another family, but the sale takes time that you may not feel that you have. Another option might be to purchase one subject from the company from whom you’re considering the boxed set, before making the big purchase.
Figure out what kind of homeschooler you are.
Are you a classical homeschooler? Eclectic? More unschool type? These are important things to consider, because each publisher has a style they use. Do some research on the various approaches and you’ll quickly figure out what you prefer. For example, I like a Classical base with a splash of Charlotte Mason thrown in, it works well for me, and for the twins.
Once you’ve answered these questions, then you can narrow down the choices in an informed manner, and the overwhelmed feeling tends to subside. If you’re new, and would like someone to hold your hand through the process, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
If you’ve been around a while, how did you narrow down the choices? Tell us in the comments!