Over the next several weeks thousands of homeschoolers will fill convention halls searching for the next best math or science curriculum. For new and even experienced homeschoolers this can be an overwhelming experience. If you go in with a plan, the homeschool convention exhibit hall can be a wonderful experience.
Choosing Homeschool Curriculum
Set a homeschool budget.
It is easy to get carried away in the exhibit hall. If you are a book lover (like me and my husband) it can feel like Christmas morning walking through the rows and rows of books. Figure out how much you can spend on homeschooling each year and create a budget. You can budget per child or for your family, but if you don’t have a budget you can easily go into debt buying books. In my experience, it is easier to save money when your children are younger. High school curriculum can be expensive, so budget accordingly.
I would recommend taking a prepaid debit card or using cash if you feel like you might get carried away in the exhibit hall.
If something works stick with it.
It is easy to get caught up in the convention madness and want to try every new curriculum you find. If something is working for you and your child, don’t switch just because you can. I have found that whenever I stop using something that works because I think I have found something better, I almost always end up using the old curriculum the next year.
If something isn’t working, replace it.
Sometimes great curriculum isn’t great for your family. If you feel like you need to switch, take advantage of the fact that you can touch, look through, and sometimes talk to the author about the product at the booth. Don’t feel pressure to make something work just because it is the most popular curriculum in the exhibit hall.
Know your child’s learning style and look for curriculum that fits.
There are three basic learning styles, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. There are books suited for each learning style, so don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole- it usually doesn’t work.
Don’t be opposed to change.
Just because you have always done something a certain way doesn’t mean you need to continue doing it that way. If you or your child aren’t thrilled with the current curriculum be open to looking for something different. Several years ago my husband went to a Total Language Plus seminar at the convention. After listening to the presentation he was convinced it would work for our family. I was a little hesitant because it seemed so different than what we had been using. Five years and three kids later it is one of our favorite curriculum.
Do your research before you visit the exhibit hall.
Make a list of books you want to look through as well as items you want to purchase. Often companies will run convention specials making purchasing at the convention a great deal.
Don’t let price be the determining factor for choosing curriculum.
Curriculum can be expensive, but don’t let price be the reason you don’t use it. There are ways to save on curriculum such as buying used, sharing with a friend, or finding curriculum that can be reproduced. Obviously price matters, but don’t make it the primary reason you don’t use something.
For the past two years my two littles have struggle through language arts. I had looked longingly at the Phonics Museum program from Veritas Press for the past several months. The high price tag was definitely a deterrent and kept me from seriously considering it. A few months ago I spent an afternoon checking out language curriculums and was certain Phonics Museum was the best choice for my kids. I paid the high price and it has been worth every penny. My kids beg to do their lessons and usually want to work ahead. I wish I would have purchased it earlier in the year.
Spend on some, save on others.
If you decide to purchase an expensive curriculum, find ways to save on other subjects. I spend a lot of money on our math curriculum, but our social studies/ history curriculum is inexpensive and I utilize books we already own and the library. Find a financial balance.
Get to know the authors.
Meeting Michele from Kids Love Travel.
Homeschool conventions are an awesome opportunity to get to know the authors of your favorite books and meet new ones too! After meeting Jeannie Fulbright, and talking to her at length about her science curriculum, I knew it was the best choice for our family. I was thinking about using the curriculum, but had some questions and she was able to answer them and help me choose the best book for my kids.
Get to know the exhibitors.
Most exhibitors are homeschooling families themselves and have a wealth of knowledge regarding curriculum. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions.
You don’t have to buy it today.
It is okay to walk away from a great deal. (Except if you are in the used curriculum hall and you find a great deal- don’t walk away, someone else will snatch it up! 😉 ) Almost every book can be found online and most stores offering free shipping if you spend over a certain amount. It is better to wait, think and pray about it rather than make an impulsive purchase.
Make it a hands on experience.
The exhibit hall is a great place to actually look inside the books you are interested in purchasing. While many online vendors offer the opportunity to look inside a book, it is usually limited to a few pages. I have never met a vendor that wasn’t willing to cut open packaging so I could look through every piece in the set. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Shop the used curriculum hall.
Many conventions have a place where parents can sell used curriculum. Take advantage of the great prices and shop the used curriculum first. Buying used is a great way to try out something without busting the budget. If it doesn’t work, you can sell it at next year’s convention.
Know what editions you are looking to purchase. Many times the books in the curriculum hall are the older editions. This is fine unless you are trying to complete a set and the books don’t match up.
All those choices can be overwhelming. Take some time and enjoy the event. Talk to other homeschool parents and find out what is working for them and what doesn’t. If you are feeling stressed about all the choices walk away for a few hours. Homeschool conventions are so much fun! Even if you don’t buy a thing you can still have a great time learning, meeting new people, and being around other homeschoolers.