I sometimes longingly look at the "good old days" of homeschooling when homeschoolers only had about three places to purchase curriculum. It was either that or write their own. Why do you think we have so many choices now? Exactly! A lot of those pioneering homeschoolers also published their own curriculum. And we do thank you. Honest.
I want to preface this discussion with these words of wisdom...Be prepared to spend money on curriculum that does not work for your family. Be prepared to spend money on curriculum your children doesn't like and makes it harder for them to learn. Be prepared to spend money on curriculum you simply cannot teach to your children. Not many get it right the first time...or the second time...or the...well, you get the picture.
But where does that leave a newer homeschooler? Floundering at times so let me share some tips in picking out curriculum.
It's helpful to also look at various styles of homeschooling. This is slightly different than the learning styles I discussed yesterday. Here is a brief look at the most common.
- "School-at-home" or textbook based. Typically this means that the basis of your teaching will look very similar to the public school setting. Textbooks are the basis for the learning.
- Classical education or the trivium. Learning is divided into three stages. The first four years are called the grammar stage, the next four years are considered the logic stage and the last four years are the rhetoric stage. Each stage builds upon the other. During the grammar stage the foundation of the education is laid. The logic stage is when the child begins to apply cause and effect to the facts previously learned. The final stage, rhetoric, is when the child takes all that has been previously learned and applies it.
- Unit Study. In this method of learning, everything the student does revolves around a particular topic. All subjects are tied into the topic. For example, a popular unit study is called The Prairie Primer and it uses the Little House on the Prairie books.
- Charlotte Mason. Charlotte Mason was an educator who lived in the late 1800s to early 1900s. She believed in teaching a child with "living books" and not "twaddle." She was a proponent of nature study, learning hymns, studying composers and artists, and teaching language arts through dictation.
- Eclectic. This is how I manage my homeschool. I use a bit of each of the above approaches and more.
Once you find a style or method of homeschooling that seems to fit with your educational philosophy, the next step is to pick out curriculum. I'm not going to list all the places you can buy curriculum. I'm sure at this point you have looked around a bit. However, two of the better discount sites are CBD and Rainbow Resource. There are even two sites that I like to share about that are completely free and completely full curricula - just add an internet connection, a printer with ink, and paper and you're good to go: Ambleside Online (a Charlotte Mason based site) and An Old-Fashioned Education.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't suggest you head over to the TOS Homeschool Crew blog. In the last four years a lot of curriculum has been reviewed. Check out what fellow homeschoolers have to say about curriculum you might be interested in. Check the column to the far right for a list of what's been reviewed over the years.
Many homeschoolers worry that they aren't meeting state standards. In my case, there are no state standards. The state of Maine allows each district to determine the standards for that particular district so they can vary widely. I typically will point new homeschoolers who ask to the World Book Typical Course of Study. In my opinion this should only be used as a guide!
Needless to say the amount of information out there can be overwhelming at times. Remember why you chose this path, pray, and let the Lord lead you to the curriculum that will best fit you and your family. And most of all...enjoy this time with your children.