Choosing Curriculum: Delight, Dilemma or Driven to Distraction

Here is an article I wrote for HSLDA Canada a little while ago.  Lately I have been speaking with lots of people who are already planning for next year and some who are just starting now to homeschool now.  Hope you enjoy it and find it helpful.

Home education is a family adventure that can transform your family, grow your faith, and train you and your children.  Like all adventure stories there are chapters that are fun and others that we might like to omit.  When thinking about the whole home education story there is one chapter that seems to cause more angst than any other.  This is the dreaded “Choosing Curriculum” chapter.  True, there are those who actually enjoy pouring over multiple catalogues, visiting websites and reading various forums and blogs as they research their choices.  For others, whether they are new homeschoolers or seasoned veterans this can be a mind boggling, overwhelming challenge. Sleepless nights, desperate prayers and even tears can mark this season of the year.   As the market place continues to explode and choices abound it can be difficult to know what would be an appropriate choice for your students.  Here are some tips to help you navigate the curriculum jungle.

A good place to start is to consider learning styles. Many are familiar with the three styles of learning.  They are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.  An auditory learner is highly verbal.  They may need to hear something to learn and even to speak it back in order to process it well. The visual learner likes print, colour, and loves to read.  The kinesthetic learner has been affectionately called “Wiggly Willy”.  These are the movers and shakers of the world. If you have such a child, you know it.  They learn by doing and like to be physically involved with everything.  Sitting down to a big fat workbook is torture.  Fortunately, many children have elements of all three styles and can learn from a variety of approaches.  However, there are children who will be very strong in one of these areas.  If so it is important to find curriculum that will complement their style of learning. Often the Lord sees fit to give us children who have a very different learning style than our own.  This means that we may be drawn to curriculum that we would like but it might not match our children’s method of learning.  Ideally we want to find something that will reach our children but not be so far outside our personal box that we cannot work with it. 

Secondly, remember math and language arts are the core.  These are the pillars that all other learning will be based on.  These are the first subjects that you should sort out for your children.  Worrying about music, art and phys. ed. should not take priority over these subjects.  There seems to be some confusion about what is involved in the area of language arts.  In the early years until children read well, phonics should be included as well as reading.  Once reading is well underway then spelling, writing and grammar should be added as well.  There are many ways to do this.  Some choose to divide the different aspects up separately and others will choose a comprehensive program that covers all aspects of the language arts in one larger bundle.  With regards to math programs, many people are concerned because the majority of programs sold in Canada are of US origin.  This should not be a concern. The US market is so much larger than ours that this is where most of the programs for homeschoolers are published.  The concern about metric is addressed in that most will teach both standard and metric measurement.

The next consideration should be your resources.  Realistically how much time and money do can you devote home education in the coming year?  As you consider programs keep your budget in mind.  There are many ways to homeschool.  If finances are limited, then work to stay within your budget.  Adding debt will only increase your stress level.  If finances are extremely limited, look for used materials, and consider doing as much with library resources as possible.  On the hand if time is your limiting factor you will want to find materials that are easy to use, have good teaching resources and take little preparation time.  This would not be the year to tackle a big unit study that takes hours of prep time.

Many homeschoolers find themselves looking for the “best program”.  This stems from a sincere desire to provide their children with an excellent education.  The problem with this is that one persons’ best might be another persons’ nightmare.  Because our needs and children are not the same not all students will respond the same to any given program.  Taking the above points into consideration will provide a good basis for making a sound curriculum decision.  If you find you need some outside help consult with someone who knows a variety of curriculums and can take your family needs into consideration.

Last but not least, pray about your curriculum choices.  We serve a great God and He cares about our families.  Jeremiah 33:3 says Call to Me, and I will answer you and tell you great and mighty things which you do not know.  Let the God of the universe direct your paths in all things, including your choice of curriculum.

Got a helpful tip on how you choose curriculum?  Why not share it below!

Unless the Lord Builds the house they labour in vain to build it.

1 comment:

  1. I have been homeschooling for 12 years now and when people ask me what curriculum to use I tell them to take a drive to Goderich and spend an afternoon with Louise :-) By your recommendations we are using All About Spelling and All About Reading and we have been so blessed to have those resources!