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How to Choose Curricula

You've checked your state laws.

You've decided on what subjects you need to include.

You've even carved out a space in your home to do this in.

Hopefully, I've quieted some of your worries.

You may have even thought over your school calendar and schedule a bit.

But WHAT will you teach with? Friend, you need curricula!

Curriculum--the courses offered by an educational institution. (Merriam-Webster)

It's not enough to know that you need to teach your child math, but you need to know what math topics you are expected to cover in say, the 5th grade. This is where curricula comes in. When many of us attended school, we were given a textbook. This is what the teacher used to guide us through our math course for the year. As I understand from my nieces, public schools don't use textbooks like they used to. So many things are found online now, but in homeschool you can use either.

Online or computer-based--it is possible to do every subject online or on the computer (using CDs--a bit antiquated, but some curriculum still do use them).

Pros: No books to store or lose!

The lesson is taught by someone else (a video of a teacher or computer guided)

Often, no grading for the parents to do.

Lessons are broken down by days for you and timed.

Visuals for students who learn best that way.

Probably interactive.

Might read text to the student for struggling readers.

Mostly independent, allowing Mom to work or teach other students.

Cons: Can be costly.

Requires up to date computer/devices.

Difficulty sharing computer/devices if more than one student is using the curriculum.

Internet connection concerns.

Screen time concerns

Eye strain

Lack of parental involvement

If you did pandemic schooling during COVID, I don't need to explain to you about your child

being on a screen all day long.

It's easy to be distracted by other online activity.

Having said all of that, you may choose to do some subjects online and others not. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.

Textbook/Consumable Workbooks--consumable means the child writes in them. Textbooks sometimes have a complimentary consumable workbook and sometimes they require paper and pencil to work any problems.

Pros: Not online, no device required.

Parent and child can look at the same material together.

If not consumable, can be reused for another child.

This approach often feels familiar for the parent.

Can be taken anywhere to work on--portable.

Lessons divided for you.

Often come with complimentary teacher's guide.

Cons: Can be misplaced or destroyed (get a non-spill cup!)

Can become outdated.

Might not be best for a struggling reader (unless there is a complimentary audio book).

Workbooks keep all graded work together in one place.

Might not be the way all children learn best.

Hands-On Components--although they probably come with a book that is the spine of the course, some curriculum have more hands-on components that might be a plus for certain students. This might include drawing or coloring maps, manipulative materials for math, an additional video component, etc.

Pros: Helps some students to understand the subject better.

Promotes higher interest in subject.

Breaks up too much reading with other activities.

Allows for creativity.

Cons: More components to lose.

Can raise the price.

Must have a place to store.

Takes longer to get everything out and put it away each day.

It might be that your students truly does better with manipulatives for math, but doesn't need anything fussy for history. Again, this is not an all-or-nothing approach.

So how to decide? Well, if you and I were having coffee, I would tell you to start here:

Cathy Duffy Homeschool Reviews. This is a great site to begin to get a bearing on what you might like to use. You can also ask any homeschooling friends you might have what they prefer to use.

Whatever you choose, you might not like to invest too heavily in your first year. Buy used or borrow, if possible, until you are sure of what you want to buy. It's a shame to plop a bunch of money down on curriculum that many people swear by only to find out that it doesn't work for you. Take advantage of online placement tests (specific to the publisher you are looking at) and sample lessons online. Educate yourself, but be prepared to have to change course next year or sometimes even mid-year until you find out what is best for each child.

You can also visit the "Curricula" section of this website, where I have posted some things we have used in the past and are currently using.

Happy researching!


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