Deciding which curriculum to use can feel daunting. I think it can sometimes remain arduous years into your homeschooling journey. Many homeschool parents find themselves continually second-guessing their choices.
All of this uncertainty makes the topic of curriculum a prevalent one among homeschooling parents. Everyone loves to hear what everyone else is using, and everyone loves to share what is and isn’t working for them and their kids. In light of Valentine’s Day and amidst all the hype about love, here’s what I’ve learned and love about choosing the right homeschooling curricula.
I relish that all we have to do when beginning to homeschool is to start somewhere. I’ve said it before, but it resonates so clearly in every facet of homeschooling that I feel the need to repeat myself. There is freedom and flexibility in schooling your own child. If you pick a curriculum and it doesn’t work well for your family, it’s not a big deal. Just pass it along and pick something else to try. The most important thing is to start with something.
Learn Your Students’ Learning Style
Finding out how your children learn best is a great way to tailor the curriculum to their learning needs. When we began homeschooling, an experienced advisory teacher conducted an assessment on me to determine my teaching style, and also on my daughter- so that we could better understand her learning style. I learned that my oldest was a hands-on/activity-based learner, which isn’t that unique for a kindergartner.
My oldest is now in 3rd grade and has grown into a visual (spatial) and an aural (auditory) learner. My youngest never had an assessment done but is very obviously a physical (kinesthetic) learner with a secondary focus on logical (mathematical) learning.
Learning how your kids learn helps you maximize your teaching because you can communicate ideas to them in the style that they receive best. If you haven’t considered how your kids individually learn, consider reaching out to your local homeschool community to get suggestions and ideas. I also recommend checking out resources on the internet for choosing the right curriculum, finding what your teaching style is, and finding what your students’ learning style(s) are.
Here’s a quick list of seven different learning styles:
- Visual (spatial) Learner
- Aural (auditory) Learner
- Verbal (linguistic) Learner
- Physical (kinesthetic) Learner
- Logical (mathematical) Learner
- Social (interpersonal) Learner
- Solitary (intrapersonal) Learner
To learn more about these learning styles, check out this site: https://www.time4learning.com/learning-styles/.
Curricula that resonates with your family
Another approach is to find a type of curriculum style that best suits your family as a whole. Different curriculum developers focus on different objectives or overarching approaches to learning. As you venture into your research, you’ll find that many strong options really don’t fit your family’s circumstances or overarching goals.
For example, some curriculums are nature-based, some are art-based, and some are literature-based. Each of these models uses their overarching focus to breech each subject. If you or your kids are not particularly drawn to art, a curriculum that pulls art projects into each subject may not be the right fit for you.
Take heart. If you feel like you can identify with many of the various styles, or perhaps none of the styles, you may be more eclectic like me! That’s okay too.
The Curriculum We Love
When I first began homeschooling and had the learning/teaching assessments done, we used that information to choose our curriculum. But honestly, it wasn’t just one brand. What we opted for was a curriculum package put together by a company that tests many different options to find what they consider to be the best. The company I used to help us is usually fairly arts-based and hands-on, which is my preference. I’ve loved picking curriculum through this company because it taught me that I didn’t have to stick with just one publisher. I learned that it’s perfectly acceptable to love the math from one publisher, the English from another, and the history from another. I’m not tied to one company for all of the subjects.
Timberdoodle (https://timberdoodle.com/) is the resource I started with to select our curriculum, and it is still one of the primary resources I use yearly. I no longer purchase big bundles through them because I’ve learned enough after four years to know what we need and what we don’t. But I love reviewing their recommendations because I’ve seen their solid choices work for us in the past. In essence, I trust their expertise.
But what curricula do we use? Our curriculum choices have mostly stayed the same since that first year because our initial bundle from Timberdoodle worked so well for us. Some things didn’t fit, but the items we stuck with are all broken down here:
Math-U-See. This is a very visual and hands-on/kinesthetic approach to math. We started with Math-U-See, but I considered moving to a different curriculum later on so that my daughter didn’t become too dependent on the manipulatives. Then I remembered that even though the curriculum comes with the manipulatives and encourages their use, I’m still the teacher, and I can have my student work through the book with as much or as little manipulative use as I deem appropriate. I ultimately stuck with it, and I’m glad I did because my daughter is now learning multiplication, and the manipulatives are coming in handy again. https://mathusee.com/
For English, I’ve relied on Spelling You See (https://spellingyousee.com/); Italic Handwriting (https://handwritingsuccess.com/); First Language Lessons (https://welltrainedmind.com/); and a lot of reading! I’m always evaluating whether or not I have the right mix of ingredients for this subject. This collection of resources I use can sometimes feel like too much. I even tried a different curriculum last year called The Good and The Beautiful (https://www.goodandbeautiful.com/). While I loved that curriculum for the time, I found myself continuing to come back to the first collection because it covers the different aspects so well. Yes, it’s a lot. But somehow, we always seem to make it happen. I would still highly recommend The Good and The Beautiful curriculum, though.
Story of The World (https://welltrainedmind.com/). This is a literature-based history curriculum that we love. As we go through it, it feels like we are reading a captivating story! If you also purchase the accompanying activity book, you get coloring pages that correspond with each lesson, as well as additional recommended reading, craft projects, recipes to try, and many more helpful resources.
We use the Building Blocks of Science curriculum (https://gravitaspublications.com/). This bundle comes with a textbook and a laboratory notebook. I love how it inculdes a lesson, followed by an experiment to helps solidify the concepts in the student’s mind. I do not have a scientific brain, and in the past, much about science has gone straight over my head. Working through this series has helped both me and my girls lay a great scientific foundation. We also supplement with many other books, such as books on the skeletal system, on animals, on plants, on the world and outer space, books on nutrition, etc. We also do a lot of hands-on science through activities from our Wild Explorers Club through Wild and Free (https://www.wildexplorersclub.com/).
Skill Sharpeners (https://www.evan-moor.com/). Our primary geography lessons come through our beloved Geography Club through the Raven Homeschool charter in Eagle River. However, I still enjoy supplementing those lessons with this simple workbook to establish some foundational geography concepts like how to use a compass and how to read a map.
Building Thinking Skills (https://www.criticalthinking.com/). This concept may not be on everyone’s radar, but I deem developing critical thinking skills as incredibly important. I include critical thinking workbooks and activities wherever I can, and these workbooks are a simple addition to our daily activities.
As I mentioned, I’m a bit eclectic when it comes to our curriculum. I love finding what works for us regardless of who the publisher is. I usually check both Timberdoodle, the individual website, and Amazon to find the best prices. Timberdoodle offers “bucks” that sometimes make the resources cheaper overall, even if the list price is initially higher.
When I go back and sum up all of these pieces of our curriculum equation, I would say that we adopt an eclectic, child-led, interest-based style of homeschooling. There isn’t any need to place yourself or your children in a box or give yourself a label like that, but sometimes defining your approach can help you navigate through the many different curriculum options.
Remember, when beginning your new curriculum choices, don’t get caught feeling stuck! If what you picked isn’t working out, pass it along and try something else!