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So Many Curricula Choices, So Little Time…

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.

Choosing curriculumDecide 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!

8 thoughts on “So Many Curricula Choices, So Little Time…

  1. My kiddos are pretty flexible but I love the literature based curriculum..
    Life Of Fred
    Sassafras Science
    Elemental Science
    Story of the world
    Some movies along with the history..
    Winning with Writing & other grammar
    We are very hard core 7 classes a day but I might tone down a little bit now that they are getting older.. Math & English being my most pushed & whatever they would like to dabble in.. My boy loves science & reading. My daughter reading & trying tons of new things right now she is loving making balloon animals…

    1. We love Life of Fred too! We do rotate through our classes though because it works better for my twins. They have a tendency towards getting deeply into a subject and having trouble switching gears, so we just let it run its course until they’re ready to change.

      And the balloon animals… our boys spent an afternoon in front of the local public school after school making balloon animals for the kids who walked by…and weeks and weeks learning to make them! Lots of fun.

  2. I have tried to stay away from boxed curricula in the past because of the religious reasons mentioned above. Also, my children learn better with hands-on lessons. This coming year we are going to curricula because I will have 4 school kids and I need to keep my sanity. I choose to go with Christian curricula that lined up with our beliefs. Our science uses a different version Bible than we do but it supports our beliefs in a young earth and creation. Our LA, Reading and Health use the same version Bible as we do and since this is the bulk of our curriculum for the year, I made sure that their statement of beliefs matched our own beliefs. Our math is secular and very hands on. We’ve used it for several years now and really love it. History is a Charlotte Mason style history and it’s the one subject that I didn’t research it’s Christian influence because it’s literature based and I felt that it would be easy to interject our beliefs as needed. It’s funny that the curricula we went with is one that I have sworn for years just isn’t for us. It’s a very heavy curriculum and requires much diligence, which is what I now find myself needing for our 5th year homeschooling.

    1. Audrey, I think the thing I love most about homeschool, is the fact that we have the ability to choose our curricula (or not) based on how we want to raise our kids.

      We tend not to use boxed curriculum because each of the twins has different educational needs…and because of the cost, and I can often find great deals by doing a little footwork.

      But it’s true that the world-view changes dramatically from one company to the next, and we parents need to be aware of their position so we can make informed choices. 🙂

      Kuddos to you for doing the research!

      Keep calm, and homeschool on…

  3. This is our 2nd year homeschooling, and I’m still trying so hard to figure it all out! I could certainly use some of that hand-holding you offered! Our budget is low to non-existant so I’m trying my hardest to find our best fits with what available out there for free. I have considered using tax return money to purchase curriculum, but i find myself so overwhelmed by what’s out there! I think a large part of my problem is how do I figure out for which teaching/learning styles a curriculum is best suited? Some are obvious, but many are so hard to tell. I know my boys are both visual/kinesthetic learners. They both also have autism, sensory processing disorder, and a few other developmental disorders, which makes things a tad more interesting, but not too bad. What are identifying points to look for in curriculum to know if it would (potentially) be a good fit for us? Thanks!

    1. Don’t assume you’ll figure it all out in one fell swoop… I don’t even hope for figuring it all out anymore! I’ve learned that there are times that being a perfectionist does not pay off and that you have to find something that can at least be adapted to your use.

      Ahh the budget issue. It was big our first year, because I had left a teaching job, low pay, but a job nonetheless. It was a motivating factor in not purchasing much that first year, but I found it was a blessing in disguise. As far as free resources, there’s a boatload out there, some good, some great, some not so good. But the quality aside, it needs to fit. A friend of mine started the Homeschooling Library (, she lists free and cheap resources.

      Once you’ve figured out learning/teaching styles, the next part is fairly easy. Most publishers list their style. For example, Memoria Press is a strictly classical style. Lots of memorization, very involved for the parent, which I don’t mind, but others do; Barefoot Meandering is Charlotte Mason with classical added for the structure. This I’m finding is a favorite method, especially for those who have kids that don’t handle sitting still for the purely classical well, but the parents want the added structure of classical.

      Visual/kinesthetic learners you would want to look for curricula that involves hands-on projects in some way. My boys tend to do well with this approach. If the curriculum itself is just the information, that’s fine too though, because you can always add little projects to include the tactile/visual portion they need. For the longest time my boys could NOT visualize what the words in a book I was reading to them said. They understood the words, but could not visualize it. It took some of those hands on projects to help bring those stories to life for them. Drove me crazy, because I was a freakishly early reader and I had trouble relating.

      Please email me at info @ learningtangent . com and we can continue the conversation!

  4. Awesome pic! Ha ha, it speaks to the article more than anything else, love it! We are always changing it up with curriculum, each year is different. I honestly take into account the most popular programs. I don’t assume they will work but I take the time to figure out why they are popular, what they have going for them. Teaching style is super important (unless you’re eclectic and then anything goes) but so is learning style. My son can go with the flow, he is super easy so I can choose curriculum I like. My daughter is from a different planet, I am still trying to figure her out. She is so so different and traditional methods don’t seem to work for her. We are looking forward to going to a conference and just leafing through books to find some more fitting curriculum for her. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Haha, yeah the photo really represented how I felt at first!

      There’s something to be said for finding out *why* a particular curriculum is popular, but I’m not one to worry over much about it. Sometimes it’s hype… that’s true of all industries. We don’t tend to change curricula often, but when we do there’s a reason. Either something so much more interesting came along teaching what we want, or… something just wasn’t working.

      I think all our daughters are from different planets – mine was the same, although I didn’t homeschool her or her older brother. For some reason us girls are a never-ending source of frustration for moms. Hmm….

      But again – the beauty of homeschool is our ability change when the need arises! Thanks for taking the time to share with us!

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