It’s that time of year! Around mid-summer, homeschool moms begin a type of training camp to get ready for fall.
You may be inundated with curriculum catalogs in the mail and emails selling digital bundles. You may have attended your first homeschool convention (spring practice) near the end of the school year, and your head is spinning! If you are homeschooling multiple children, you may be trying to figure out how to stretch your homeschool budget to cover everything you need and make it last until the end of the season.
So many choices! How do you cut through the clutter and find the right curriculum for each student?
First and foremost, you need a game plan. After 15 years of homeschooling, I do not have it all figured out, but I can tell you that my curriculum shopping has gotten much easier over the years. I do have many hand-me-downs, but they don’t all work for my rookie students. Mainly, I’ve learned how to discern what we really need and what is vital for us to homeschool effectively.
Want to see my game plan? Let’s huddle up and get started!
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
1. Understand your end goal
What is your main purpose for homeschooling? Do you want to provide your children with a Christian education? Are you looking for materials free of evolutionary content? What kind of homeschool style do you have? Answer these questions and write down your objectives. Keep these in mind when choosing curriculum. If the materials don’t fit within your overall plan, you probably don’t need them.
2. Be realistic about your schedule
Do you have small children? Are you working from home? How much help do you have with household chores? Keep your schedule in mind when deciding on curriculum, and don’t commit to time-consuming projects, experiments, or lessons that require a lot of advance legwork if you don’t have time for them.
3. Decide what you are going to outsource
Math is not my thing. Ask anyone who knows me, and you will hear about my allergy to algebra. My son is great at math, but when an unfamiliar concept comes up and the guy in the audio lecture does not explain it, we have realized that we both need help. This is where recruiting other methods comes into play. For us, it meant dual enrollment at a local college for algebra. You might find local classes, a co-op, or online programs to fill the areas you need help with.
4. Get input from your team
Your children have unique talents and abilities. Customize some of their coursework to take advantage of their areas of interest. They will be more motivated to do their schoolwork, and you may be laying the groundwork for their future careers. Consult with your kids and find out what they want to learn. When my son discovered a love of medieval history through a video game, we decided to focus on medieval literature and history for a year of high school. One of my boys loves cooking and wants to be a chef, so we incorporate that into his geography lessons by learning about international dishes and even math by learning to measure and divide recipes.
5. Create an individual plan for each child
Write down every subject each child needs to cover for the year. What can you combine? If your older child is studying biology, can your younger kids learn life science along with their sibling? Make your job easier by gathering everyone together for as many subjects as you can.
6. Decide what you can reuse
If you are not a first year homeschooler, look through your bookshelves and see if you can use anything you already have. If you can’t, put it away so it doesn’t become clutter or pass it on to someone else. Clean out that locker room! Let it go!
7. Try it before you buy it
Don’t forget your curriculum try-outs! Many curriculum companies offer free samples of entire units. It pays to use these before investing in the full product. You can also see if someone in your homeschool group has something you can look through or even check with the library. You might learn that a curriculum isn’t a good fit and save yourself some buyer’s remorse.
8. Focus on your goal
Remember number one? Draft your players. Now that you’ve spent some time coming up with a strategy, make a list of what you need to acquire. Check used curriculum sites, look for coupons and deals, and write down your wish list.
9. Decide what you need
Before you are blindsided by all the shiny bells and whistles, don’t do a full blitz and buy the whole shebang. What do you need to get started? You don’t have to buy the entire year’s list of books at the beginning. If you get halfway through the semester and decide your curriculum really isn’t working, it is easier to change the plan and call a time-out if you haven’t made a huge investment. (Ask me how I know!)
10. Embrace your role as the head coach
Adapt the curriculum to YOUR needs. One of the most challenging things moms face, even after many years of homeschooling, is giving yourself permission NOT to check off all of the boxes on the instructor’s guide schedule pages. Do what works for you and take charge of your curriculum.
Now, you’re ready for kickoff!