The freedoms of homeschool are so new to our family that at first we didn’t even realize there were differences in curriculum! After graduating three children from public school we had no plans to homeschool our two youngest children still in the home.
Yet times change, families change, and here we are at the end of our first partial year of homeschool freedoms.
How to Get Started in Homeschooling
After spending their elementary years in public school and a short time in a small Christian private school our 6th and 8th grade daughters were doing well academically yet suffering socially and emotionally. The only direction we were willing to go was home.
We made the decision rather quickly without researching, yet we knew that the curriculum they used at private school was referred to as a homeschool curriculum. We knew nothing about learning styles, teaching styles, or even our own students’ preferences. We honestly never imagined there could be such a thing!
Obedience was important in our home and they were obedient to do what their teachers had always expected of them at school. We ordered the proper grades of curriculum they were already familiar with and dug in deep once those boxes arrived.
After weeks of diligent trial and error deciphering the lesson plans, and several months committed to the rigorous curriculum of text books, quizzes, tests, and repetitive studying we hit a wall. All three of us at once. We could hardly bear to approach the school table another day to review yet more flash cards and take more quizzes and tests. We raked the books off the shelves, packed up the piles of teacher manuals and test keys, and had a talk.
Conversations with my children were not unusual, but we had never asked them about their learning preferences – someone else had been making those decisions for our family for twenty years. We talked about what they have liked. What they have loved. What left them bored to tears. And as you would expect, both girls had different answers.
They thrive with different input. They love different things! They want to pursue different interests. One thing my 13 year old daughter said to me was unforgettable. She said, “Something about the way our text books give the information is very dry and boring. I feel like I learn and remember the information best by reading an interesting story or watching a movie that makes it seem real.” I said, “I don’t know what that will look like but I promise I will find out what’s available that will take us that direction.”
Oh my, what I didn’t know! Thankfully there are many literature based curricula available and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
There are as many curriculum and teaching styles as families on this Earth. Family needs are different, and as time goes by those needs change. You may have ten children under the age of 12 or you may be homeschooling the last two of your ten children. Life looks different as time passes and you as a parent are in a different season of life. Thankfully the curriculum choices are many and you can find what fits your family, your values, your teaching style, your child’s learning style, your budget, your schedule and your season of life.
How did we learn about different curriculum choices? We began looking at the homeschool guidelines for our state. From there we followed the rabbit trails of the internet, leading us to learn about teaching styles (classical, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, Waldorf, unit studies, unschooling, etc).
We did internet searches and watched hundreds of hours of YouTube videos featuring discussions about curriculum choices based on those teaching/learning styles. We contacted publishers to ask exactly what age a certain history curriculum targets. We interviewed other homeschool families in our community. We joined facebook groups that are structured around specific curriculum, publishers, or learning styles and asked questions in those groups. The members there are usually very willing to share their wisdom, experience and reviews.
Finding the Right Homeschool Curriculum
Find your state homeschool guidelines.
Read the descriptions of several homeschool teaching/learning styles
Contact publishers. Their books may be available on Amazon but their web sites will have a lot of details about their curriculum and how to contact them if you have questions.
Join FaceBook groups for specific learning styles and curriculum options, even if you’re not using them – they welcome your questions
Ask your own network of friends at church or in your community if they know homeschool families you can connect with
Find a local homeschool parent group or co-op (usually moms)
Don’t feel compelled to use the “number one homeschool curriculum” – it might not be the best for you and your children!
We have concluded that an eclectic selection of curriculum will fit our needs best, rather than expecting a single packaged curriculum to be one-size-fits-all. Our Bible, science, math, history, language and nature studying curriculums all come from different publishers, but don’t expect this to be the magic answer for every family.
Some children thrive on memorization and retain facts well that way – classical text books and curriculum may work best for them. Some parents have a part time job or other schedule that requires their children to be self-led with their studies and need a clear pre-made lesson plan. Some families spend much of their time in nature or traveling and find that certain learning styles and curriculum are best suited for their lifestyle. Learning is not one-size-fits-all. The first thing you choose might not be your favorite. Don’t let that hold you back from making progress. Figure out what didn’t feel right about that choice and let it guide you to what you try next.
Find the curriculum that fits the needs of your family and the passions of you and your children. You can even create your own curriculum! The possibilities are endless and you’ll never regret the time spent exploring curriculum choices for your children.
Laura Spradlin of Sugar Bunny Boulevard is a Christian mother of five children and Grammy to two grandchildren in El Dorado, Kansas. She used to do a lot of knitting, spinning, yarn dyeing, gardening, meal planning, drinking coffee with friends, and driving her children back and forth to public school. Now she spends her days homeschooling, drinking coffee with her children, and wishing she had started this a long time ago. Nights are spent researching curriculum choices! You can also find her on YouTube.