Many new (and veteran) homeschoolers often wonder how to choose the right curriculum. There are several factors to consider in choosing the right curriculum - but once you find that fit you'll know!
Consider Their Learning Style
When you are first starting to research curriculum, consider what best fits your child's learning style. Learning style is not the most important factor when it comes to choosing curriculum. However, if you know that you have a kinesthetic learning on your hands and you pick a curriculum that requires hours of sitting and reading - you're setting your child up for failure. To help determine your child's predominant learning style look at the characteristics below. You may find that your child fits into many, or you might find that your child clearly prefers one style over another.
Characteristics of Learning Styles
- Auditory learners learn best by hearing. They do well with lectures or may do well with a computer based program that requires them to listen. They may also do well with listening to things being read out loud - whether by you or on tape.
- Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing. An ideal approach for a kinesthetic child something like lapbooking. Provide plenty of hands-on activities for each subject to help reinforce concepts taught.
- Visual learners learn by seeing. Reading information, associating information with pictures, or watching a demonstration are all excellent ways to reach a visual learner.
Most kids will not fall into one category exclusively. Rather, most children will be able to use all three learning styles, but still prefer one over the others. Considering your child's learning style is important, but it's not the most important factor in deciding on a curriculum.
Your Teaching Philosophy Is an Important Factor
You may often hear that you should consider your child's learning style first when choosing a curriculum but on the contrary, it is your teaching philosophy that will most guide your homeschooling journey. Think about the following questions:
- Do you feel that students should approach school using textbooks?
- Are you comfortable making up your own curriculum or using a variety of publishers?
- What role do you think literature should play in instruction - should students learn the bulk of history from biographies or a textbook?
- How much time and energy do you want to put into "hands-on" projects?
- Do you consider all life experiences equal learning opportunities?
- How are you most comfortable teaching?
- Will your children learn independently, or do you think that they need parent direction?
When you are selecting a curriculum, think about the curriculum in terms of how well it fits your above answers. If you are not comfortable creating curriculum or pulling from a variety of sources, then you may need a boxed curriculum or even an online academy! If you feel like your child will benefit most from reading biographies for history, you probably want to look for a literature based approach or use a Charlotte Mason style approach.
Consider Your Family Situation
Many people do not think about their family situation when choosing a curriculum, but it is in fact an important factor. You do not want to purchase too much and then end up not being able to use it.
Many big families tend to go either towards a very independent program that children can do on their own without a lot of parent direction, or towards something like unit studies that can be done with multiple ages. Realistically, you cannot teach several different grades without combining something.
It's important to be realistic about the amount of time you have to commit to homeschooling. If you know that you can only commit the mornings, or go over work in the evenings, you'll want to look at something that is more self-directed.
Life Changing Events
Sometimes the birth of a baby, a big move, or some other "major" event changes the course of the homeschooling journey. You cannot anticipate everything, but if you are able to anticipate something (like the birth of a baby), plan your curriculum around the event. There are no rules saying you must take off summers or schedule school from eight a.m. to three p.m.
A Few More Tips on How to Choose the Right Curriculum
Veteran homeschoolers will often tell you a few things about how to choose the right curriculum:
- The "perfect" curriculum doesn't exist. Most people who switch and then switch again, wish that they had stuck with what they had begun with. Only consider making big switches if it really, really isn't working.
- You do not have to spend a lot of money. The library, local historical society and museums all want to educate your child! They are often more than willing to work with homeschoolers and make special accommodations for them.
- One man's junk is another man's treasure. Don't assume that because all of your friends love a certain curriculum that you will too!
- Visit a homeschooling conference. These are frequently well worth your time and effort. It's the one place where you can get your hands on lots of curriculums that you are considering. On top of that, many conferences will have great inspirational speakers and good used curriculum sales.