Running The Curricula Gauntlet
One of the first challenges any home educator faces is what books to buy. The abundance of resources out there is somewhat of a proverbial “double-edged sword.” On one hand, there are tons of great curricula available, but on the other hand, finding out what works for your family can be a daunting task to say the least. We are a family that thrives on consistency, so once we settle on using something it’s rare that we change. I’m sure for some of you reading, you may like variety and switch up things as you go. Ultimately, every homeschool family should find a curriculum that suits the needs of their family, engages each child and his or her individual strengths and provides a solid educational foundation that will equip them for life once their formal schooling is done. Here are a few tips that have helped us when it comes to picking a curriculum:
1. Expensive doesn’t always mean better. The price range for textbooks can go from several dollars to whole box sets that soar up into the hundreds of dollars. One mistake that many home educators make is to assume that if it costs a lot it must be “better.” We started homeschooling when our first child was entering Kindergarten. She had been in home daycare and Montessori school up to that point. If I were to guess, we probably spent about $50-$100 on books and resources. We just could not rationalize spending hundreds of dollars our first year homeschooling. Much of that first year was spent assessing where she was both spiritually and academically. I’m sure some of the more expensive books would have yielded similar results, but we made a decision that first year not to purchase things we weren’t certain we would use. To this day, we compare prices between retailers to get the best deal on homeschool resources.
2. Find things that can be used across different ages. If you are teaching multiple children, it can be a challenge identifying and purchasing items for each child. It can also be very costly. Consider looking for books that can be used across grade levels. We have found that science is an easy subject to do this with. Although younger children may not understand the detailed scientific terms, they can listen and participate in appropriate science experiments. We recently talked about volcanoes as part of our science lesson. Our three and five year olds did volcano art projects to go along with the lesson. They had a blast! (no pun intended)
3. Choose something that your children will enjoy using and you will enjoy teaching. Our view of curricula is that it’s somewhat like building a home. The curriculum gives you most of the building supplies you need, but as the builders you AND your children are responsible for putting it together. It may take some time to find what works for your family, but if you are 2-3 years into homeschooling and it still feels like you’re not seeing things come together, it may be time to evaluate what you’re using. Your child may not enjoy every subject, but at a minimum, they should be interested in the materials they’re being presented with day to day.
4. Beware of the “I might use that later” mindset. There are so many things that we’ve seen that looked great and we were certain that we would use them...soon. Well, “soon” came and we still have some things that we simply aren’t using. We’ve put a system in place where we only purchase what we believe we will use during the current school year. As much as we pray that our five year old does well in Algebra one day, we don’t have the curriculum lined up for him in anticipation of when that day comes. For us, the only exception to this are books--particularly reference materials (ex. dictionaries, subject resources, etc.) or general reading material that we will pass on to our younger children (ex. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, biographies of famous Christians, etc.). We simply keep those tucked away.
5. If you’re a Christian, choose curriculum that will help your children grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord. We saved this point for last solely so we didn’t go on a tangent and run our dear readers away! But seriously folks, if you love the Lord, and you love your children, fill your home with things that will point them to Christ. Some will argue, that if they are reading the Bible to their children then it doesn’t matter what type of curriculum they use. There is no doubt that God’s word is inerrant and sufficient. But if that is the case, wouldn’t we choose textbooks that reflect that truth? In a later blog, we will share some of the resources we use, but rest assured there are TONS of solid, biblical choices for curricula out there. Many of them are very reasonably priced and easily accessible for use. Parents, don’t contradict the faith you cling to by using books that send a message counter to what you believe. It’s really that simple.
Until next blog, thanks so much for reading!
Rodney & Sherry