Are there times when you are second guessing the homeschool curriculum you have chosen? Read through this list of nine questions to find out if you are using the right curriculum for your family or if you need to make some changes.
1. Does it fit your child’s learning style and your teaching style?
I highly recommend this book by Cathy Duffy to learn more about your preferred teaching style and your child’s learning style. She researches and reviews many different homeschool curricula, then picks the top 102 and labels them her “top picks”. Her book includes a chart to help you narrow the search for the best homeschool curriculum fit for you and your child.
The most recent edition of the book is wonderful, but you can also find used copies of previous editions on Amazon or Ebay which cost much less and will still contain helpful information about the different learning and teaching styles. The previous editions will, of course, have her previous top picks instead of her current ones.
If you do end up buying an older edition of the book, you can go to her website and read her current curriculum reviews there.
2. Does it fit the preferred method of homeschool for you and your child?
There are several ways to structure your homeschool. Do a search on Google and you will find around 8-10 widely accepted methods. If you need help figuring out which method will work the best for your family, Cathy Duffy’s book has a quiz to help you determine that.
There are also quizzes online you can complete. Here is a Homeschool Styles Quiz and a Learning Styles Quiz (both you and your child could take that one to see if you have similar or different learning styles). Note: after you answer all of the questions you can subscribe to their newsletter to get your results via email, or click the “skip” button and it will give you your results without leaving the page (or giving out your email address).
3. Does it fit your budget?
Can you afford it? There are great options out there that are free or very inexpensive so there is no reason to spend more than you can afford. I recently discovered this amazing website full of links to free curriculum options for most subjects. And don’t forget about the wealth of information available at your local library.
If you have used and love a curriculum that is more expensive, or are interested in trying one that costs a lot, consider trying to find it used on Homeschool Classifieds, Ebay, Facebook, or somewhere else that sells used curriculum. Many families sell their curriculum (or parts of it) at the end of each school year in order to earn money to buy the next year’s curriculum.
4. Is it working?
Does your child seem to be learning and retaining information? Is it living up to what you imagined it would be like? I know I have had high hopes for curriculum I bought in the past only to have it fall flat and become one both my daughter and I dreaded actually doing.
You can usually tell within a month or so if your child is struggling or doing well with a curriculum. Scrap the ones that aren’t working, and continue on with the ones that are.
5. Does your child enjoy it?
Is it a constant struggle to get them started on it? Or do they seem eager to get going? Of course, each child will prefer some subjects over others but if there is a certain curriculum that causes constant tears, it may be best to look elsewhere.
When my daughter was in Kindergarten she was in tears daily whenever we would work on handwriting. It would take us forever to get through it. It even took a long time to get her to start working on it. I did some research and discovered Handwriting Without Tears. After talking it over with my husband we bought it and it was like night and day.
It had a fun approach and very valuable tips and information in the Teacher’s Manual that I referred to for years after. I was so glad we decided to try something different. It made a huge difference in our homeschool day!
6. Do you like it?
Let’s face it, if mom doesn’t like it, it has to be really, really good to be worth using. If your child loves it, is excelling with it, or at least not having any problems, then maybe you should stick with it. Otherwise, maybe you should find a different option that you like more.
On the flip side of that, sometimes you will love a curriculum but your child will not. There was a math curriculum that I really loved and was so excited to use with my daughter. I felt (and still do) that it was one of the best math options out there. It seemed to be a method that would help children learn the every day math that they will use for the rest of their lives.
So I bought it feeling very excited to start using with her. I was sure it would prepare her for the future and be just what we needed. Problem was, almost as soon as we started it, she hated it. She really strongly disliked it. There were tears and tons of frustration each day. We ended up switching mid-year to something else.
All that to say, there may be some curriculum that us moms love, and it may even be one of the best out there, but if it doesn’t work well with our kids, it’s not the best for them. That is one of the biggest blessings of homeschool, we can cater to our child’s needs, strengths, and weaknesses when choosing how to educate them.
7. Are you getting through it?
Are you progressing through it at a good pace, or do you keep putting it off for some reason? If you do put it off, consider the reason why. Is it a style that requires too much work? Would you rather have something more independent? Or maybe it is meant to be independent and you want to be more involved in the teaching of that subject. Do you or your child dread working on it?
If you seem to always put it on the back burner, and it never seems to get done, it’s possible it isn’t the right fit for now. It may be worth your time to save it for another child, retry it down the road, sell it, or give it away and look for something new.
8. Does it have a good Teacher’s Manual?
Are you having to guess about what the author is trying to get you to accomplish? Do you still have to look for answers online because it lacks the needed information to complete the lesson?
An easy to understand Teacher’s Manual is a must for many subjects, one that includes helpful tips is a bonus. Or, if it is written directly to the child for them to complete independently, it is vital that it contains clear directions.
9. Will I want to continue using this with my child long-term?
This applies to certain subjects, like Math or Language Arts, where skipping around could cause learning gaps. However, there are times you may want to use a certain curriculum at different stages of learning, even in these subjects. For example, you may want a very hands-on math in the elementary years, then you may transition to a different one as they grow.
Other times you will want to find one curriculum that fits your child well and use it for several years.
After sorting through your answers to these questions you will likely have a strong sense of if you are using the right curriculum for your child.
If you are on the fence about homeschooling in general, you may find this article interesting.