Friday, June 28, 2013

How to Choose a Curriculum by Jamie Hausgen

Homeschooling Curriculum – So Many Choices
I am certainly not an expert on homeschooling curriculum.  I have been homeschooling for seven years, but I initially used a very non-technical approach in choosing our curriculum.  My oldest children (twins) had used Abeka at their pre-school and the church we were attending used Abeka at their academy, so we went with Abeka, too.
We used Abeka exclusively for kindergarten (2 years) and first grade.  Abeka was a good fit for us in some areas, but in others, it was not.  My twins are SO different.  One of my twins just whizzes through most subjects and the other one does not care much about school seemingly at all.  Abeka “assigns” a ton of busy work.  I understand that in a regular school setting, the time has to be filled up, but I didn’t want to do school from 8 am to 3pm at our homeschool.  I can also see the point of the extra work from the stand point of giving the kids extra practice on a concept, but for the most part, I eventually cut out all of Abeka’s assigned “seatwork”.  That being said, I know many families that have used Abeka with their children from kindergarten through 12th grade with great success.  By second grade however, I felt the need to start investigating other curriculum for our homeschool. 
We currently use the following curriculum:
Abeka:  handwriting, reading, math for 2 children, poetry, science/health/history – strictly for reading
Math-U-See:  math for 1 child
Spelling Power:  spelling for all children
Veritas Press:  Bible and history for all children
Apologia:  Science for all children
Queen Homeschooling Supplies:  Language Arts for all children
Another thing I have learned through our years of homeschooling is to have my kids work on as many subjects together as possible - meaning everyone does the same lessons in as many subjects as possible.  It has been really fun to be able to learn all together.  My children are only 2 grades apart, so doing this has not been too difficult.  However, I have read blogs written by moms with many children who still try to combine subjects/ages whenever possible.
There are many different homeschooling philosophies or styles that may affect the type of curriculum a family chooses to use.  When we started homeschooling, I had never heard of a homeschooling philosophy, so I have never really had a concrete one.  I have read that a homeschooling style like mine is called “eclectic”.  We use some classical, traditional, and Charlotte Mason curriculum - this works for us.  Some of the common philosophies or styles of homeschooling are Charlotte Mason, Classical, Traditional, Unit Studies, and Unschooling.
The job of choosing curriculum can be difficult.  When I am interesting in changing curriculum for a certain subject, first I pray and then I usually ask my friends to see what has worked for them.  Also, there are many homeschooling blogs that have curriculum reviews.  And on many curriculum websites, you can request a free catalog and sometimes view samples of their products.  I have never been to a homeschool convention, but many of my friends have attended conferences and find them very helpful.  There are homeschooling conventions all over the country; you can find one close to you by searching the internet.  Abeka has local book displays in many cities several times a year.  It has always been helpful for me to go to one of the displays and view the books to get a feel for what I’m considering purchasing.  The schedule for Abeka book displays is on their website.
There are also online schools and classes on video that parents can use in their homeschool.  Many cities or areas have co-ops where homeschooled children meet one or more days a week and are taught by other people besides their parents.  Many of my friends have their children in a co-op type program called Classical Conversations.  There are many Classical Conversations communities all over the country.
Curriculum can be expensive, which makes the decision on which one to choose even more important.  The local homeschool group my family belongs to usually holds an annual used book sale each year where I have found good deals on curriculum and books we need.  I have also bought much of my curriculum on Ebay and borrowed books from friends.  Sometimes curriculum companies have sales and sometimes different curriculum is available from different distributers causing the price to vary.  I usually make a wish list and keep an eye out for sales or free shipping deals.  If you choose a literature-heavy curriculum, utilizing your local library is always an option instead of buying a lot of expensive books. 
Once you set your budget and narrow down your choices, curriculum shopping can actually be kind of fun.  I usually end up enjoying the process of planning our curriculum for each new school year.  I always love it when the new books start arriving in the mail with promises of a rewarding and fun school year ahead.

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