Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum

Have you ever attended a homeschool curriculum fair and been totally overwhelmed by all the choices? Twenty-five years ago homeschool families had only a few options, today we have hundreds. While it is a blessing to have so many great products available, it can also make it almost impossible to find the right books for your children.

Choosing curriculum can be extremely difficult even for the experience homeschooler. Thankfully when I started homeschooling I didn’t even realize there were choices available. A friend gave me her old curriculum and for the first year we used it. When I realized there were options I had already gotten my feet wet and wasn’t totally overwhelmed by the process.

Here are a few of my tips for choosing the right homeschool curriculum for your child.

Don’t Buy Into the Hype.

If you’ve been to a homeschool convention you’ve seen this, it’s the popular booth. There is a line a mile long to purchase this new and amazing curriculum. Everyone is using it so it must be great, right? Wrong. It could be great, it could be amazing, it could be the best thing since sliced bread, but it might not be the best curriculum for your family.

Just because all your homeschooling friends are using it doesn’t mean you have to use it too. At most homeschool conventions you can look through the curriculum before you purchase it. On Amazon and you can view sample pages. If you go to the publisher’s website there are usually sample lessons available to download. I would encourage you to look through the book before you buy it.

It might be great, but not for your family.

Consider Your Family’s “Season.”

Something I have learned over the years is not to get caught up in a curriculum that doesn’t fit your family’s lifestyle. When my children were younger I purchased a popular unit study curriculum. While I loved this curriculum, it wasn’t conducive for a family with a toddler, newborn, a 80 hr a week shift working husband, and a child with severe learning disabilities. I tried to make it work for two years because it was so great. The truth is, it is a great curriculum, but it wasn’t a great curriculum for our family’s busy season.

By the time I realized it wasn’t working for our family I was ready to quit homeschooling.  I was stressed out, tired, and overwhelmed. Switching to traditional textbooks during that busy season made all the difference in the world for my family.

What is Your Child’s Learning Style?

Children learn differently and what works for one child might not work for another. If you aren’t familiar with the different learning styles Diana Waring has a great article explaing the four learning styles, Thinker, Feeler, Sensor, Intuitor. Your child’s learning style can make a difference in what curriculum works for them.

Money Matters

If you have a large family, tight budget, or both, finances can factor into your curriculum decision. While I don’t think money should be the sole factor in determining your child’s curriculum I do think it can sway the decision. If you are looking to save money consider buying curriculum that is nonconsumable. If your children do not write in their books you will be able to reuse them for another child or sell them to help pay for next year’s curriculum.

Try Before You Buy

Several publishers offer a 30-day money back guarantee on their curriculum. You can buy it and see if it works for your family, if it isn’t a good fit you can return it for a full refund (minus shipping). If the publisher does not offer a money back option, check with your local homeschool group to see if any other family has a copy you can borrow for a few weeks. Often it only takes a four or five lessons to determine if the curriculum is right for your child.

Ask Your Husband

Sometimes we need a different perspective to help make the decision. This year I really wanted to research a certain curriculum. I was very excited about spending hours at their booth at our homeschool convention. When I mentioned this to my husband he very kindly shared why he didn’t think it would work for our family.

He was right. I didn’t have the time to put into making this curriculum work for our family. While my husband is not involved in our homeschool on a daily basis, he does know our schedule and the kids well enough to know when something might not be a good fit.

Does it Even Matter?

Obviously curriculum choice does play a part in your child’s home education, but the longer I homeschool the more I’m convinced it isn’t the main thing. Yes, my kids are allergic to Saxon math and Bob Jones science is a little dry, but the years we used them my kids still learned. Don’t spend too much time agonizing over curriculum choices.

It is unfortunate that as homeschoolers we tend to define ourselves by our curriculum choices.

Don’t do it! Using a certain curriculum does not make you smarter, more loving, more dedicated, more organized, more creative, or more disciplined than someone who uses a different curriculum.

As someone who has tried most of the curriculum available to homeschool families I know first-hand that your child can succeed with almost any curriculum. Your dedication and your child’s enthusiasm are much more important than whether you use Bob Jones, Apologia, or Tapestry.

You know your child better than anyone and you have the ability to find the curriculum that is best for you and your child. If you make a mistake, it’s no big deal! Find something else and continue educating your child.

Curriculum does not educate your child, you do. Keep that in mind and choosing curriculum won’t seem so overwhelming.

If you are looking for more information about homeschool curriculum check out my Homeschool Curriculum Roundup. New reviews are added every month!

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  1. What a great post. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt ready to give up. Thinking if only I could use this curriculum or that curriculum. I learned a few years ago to stop looking for the prefect curriculum and use what works for each subject. That might mean using 5 different curriculums instead of one all in one box curriculum. Thanks for a great post. I plan on sharing it on my fb page.
    Lil’ Momma
    Living with a hard working husband, 1 toddler, 1 preschooler and 1 middle schooler who are Five in Training for HIM

  2. Oh, how I wish someone had told me this when I started!!! Now, here we are, 9 years down the road & only recently have I admitted this is true!!! Trust me, new hs moms, listen to her advice!

  3. Hi,
    I am new to homeschooling and will be starting Kindergarten with my son in a few weeks. I am still putting together my curriculum. I noticed in an article of yours from last year where you listed out your curriculum for each child that your 6-year-old was using Explode the Code AND Handwriting Without Tears. I am planning on using ETC, and like what I see in HWT, but I didn’t think they were BOTH necessary?? What is your opinion? Thank you! 🙂

    • TheHappyHousewife says:

      It just depends. ETC is a phonics program and HWT is a handwriting program. I was introduced to both when my son was diagnosed with learning disabilities. My kids use HWT until they are in 5th grade and they use ETC until they are reading and decoding well. This is usually the 3rd grade….
      I don’t always have them write everything in ETC, sometimes I just let them “X” the answer.
      HWT emphasizes fundamentals in handwriting which is not the case in ETC.
      I hope that helps!

  4. So true! I have been homeschooling from kindergarten through 12th grade, and have been a professional educational consultant for other home schoolers, and I couldn’t have said it better myself! Love your site–thank you for all you do to bless other families!

  5. Thank you for this article. We are starting back this year with twin 5 month olds. I am very overwhelmed by the thought of it. I am still gathering curriculum and have been stressing out about it. Thanks for reminding me that curriculum isn’t what matters most.

  6. Kim Pfahning says:

    So, after 2 years of mulling it over my husband and I have decided to jump off the deep end and homeschool our 2 boys. We have a finishing 4th grader and finished 1st grader. Both are very strong readers and read well above their grade level. I’ve been really digging My Father’s World for this first year. I love the fact that both boys can be taught from the same “box”. I like the living literature aspect. What I’m worried about is the amount of prep work and daily work for me and the boys. I’ve been warned by veteran homeschool moms that I won’t be able to finish everything every day. Am I biting off more than I can chew? I love your 2011-2012 curriculum listing and am wondering if I should model my year after yours…….not to be a copy cat…..but to learn from those that have traveled before me! Your thoughts are so welcomed and appreciated. Where once I thought I had a plan, now I’m second-guessing EVERYTHING!!

  7. I noticed that all the postings are by the ladies. Any fathers do homeschool teaching? My oldest little guy turns 4 in July and I am really looking forward to a bit more formal stuff with him.
    Good article though.

  8. Great tips. I definitely do most of those, too. There was so much I could have said in this post, I just couldn’t get to it all!

  9. Great article! Oh, I wish someone had told me this when I started!!! I wish I could get the opportunity to choose curriculum but I selected online program for my sons. I am happy with what I did. Love your website! Thank you for all you do to bless other homeschooling families!

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