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How to Pick Curriculum for a Successful Homeschool (Questions to Ask Yourself)

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Estimated reading time: 17 minutes

how to pick homeschool curriculum

If you need help with how to pick a curriculum, you are not alone. Nothing creates more fear in the hearts of homeschool moms more than picking a curriculum! Where do I start?

How will I teach it? Will my child enjoy learning with it?

What curriculum should I choose is the most asked question in homeschooling Facebook groups.

Selecting a curriculum for your child can be intimidating and overwhelming.

There are so many curriculums to choose from it is hard to know where to start. 

You then begin to think will it be the “perfect” one? 

You can always modify a curriculum that is close to being perfect. Start with what feels right and go from there.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself, reflect on, and consider to help you pick a great-fit curriculum. 

What Subjects Will You Select for Curriculum?

Let’s start with the basics. Another question for how to pick a curriculum could be what do you want your kids to learn?  

Most families choose to select math and English as two subjects to teach.

Social studies and science are also popular choices.

Those are the main subjects I teach my children. Think about what is a priority in your household and what interests your children.

If you choose a school-at-home approach, you can just mirror what your local school district is teaching, which is usually math, English, science, and social studies.

That’s perfectly ok.

You don’t have to be the mom that creates curriculum from scratch. Buying an open book curriculum is great.

Especially for those that own businesses, work remotely, or work outside the home.

You may have a child that loves art.

Guess what? You can design a homeschool that makes art a part of every subject. During homeschool, you won’t have a teacher waving her finger and saying, “no doodling on your worksheet.”

Homeschool allows for creativity and flexibility in what you choose to teach. The sky is the limit.

Here is a list of possible subjects to choose from:

  • English language arts (reading, spelling, creative writing, grammar, etc.)
  • Math
  • Social Studies/History
  • Science (chemistry, earth science, physics, etc.)
  • Musical Instrument
  • Foreign language
  • Life Skills (cooking, laundry, money management)
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Theater Arts
  • Art

AND SO MUCH MORE!

Your Children Can Help Select Curriculum

Ask your kids what they think along the way. Kids will help you brainstorm. You can ask your kids, “what do you think about ______________________?”

I just asked my daughter, “do you want to do every subject every day?” It’s helpful to get their input even if you disagree with their suggestions.

For example, my daughter did not want to do math daily. I don’t see it this way and feel my kids should complete math daily for retention, but I may have her do the Math Seeds app on Fridays as a compromise.

This school year, I have selected English language arts, math, science, and social studies.

There will be a weekly sports class, and maybe we will ease into theater and gymnastic classes later in our school year.

It’s ok to take things slow to avoid burnout.

There are other considerations too for which subjects you cover in your homeschool.

Are You Privately Homeschooling?

Each state outlines the different ways you can homeschool. If you are homeschooling independently (a public school affidavit in California), then you have complete freedom to choose the subjects you are diving into for the school year.

If you are homeschooling with a public school charter or another method, there may be some required subjects you must cover.

First, be sure to do your research. You can always teach additional subjects outside of requirements. 

Although I homeschool with a public charter, we start the day with bible study, but I don’t turn in those worksheets; public schools only want secular work samples.

You Can Try a School-at-Home Approach

Not sure what to teach? If you want an in-depth look at curriculum outlines, search online at your state board of education’s website or stick with the basics of reading, math, social studies, and science.

On the California state board of education website, and if you click on “teaching and learning” and then “curriculum frameworks,” it will show an in-depth look at each subject.

The documents are pages long, and you will need a block of time to pore it over. If you have extra time and are curious, that may appeal to you.

I homeschool my children and freelance, so I need a homeschooling shortcut.

If you are from California and want more info on your homeschooling options, check out my other post.

If you are like me, don’t worry. There are easier ways to decide what subjects to cover in your school year.

A Book Recommendation to Help You Choose Curriculum

A busy mom-friendly approach is getting the book “What Your (grade level) Needs to Know” by E.D. Hirsch Jr. It’s available on Amazon (of course).

There is a book for each grade level, and each book has an excellent outline of what you can teach your child. I just ordered books for my kids, and I plan to get a copy each school year. 

I am the type of homeschool mom that enjoys guidelines. If you are too, then you will enjoy the suggestions of what to teach from those books.

Once in a while, you might worry about if what you are doing is enough. Your kids have a lifetime to learn.

Our job is to make sure they enjoy learning and keep that curiosity going.

My kids are still asking questions and amazed by the learning facts, so I know I am doing a good job. You are too!

If you don’t believe me, ask your kids.

The Endless Possibilities of Homeschooling

If your child has an interest, incorporate it into your day. With the help of books, Youtube, audiobooks, and websites like Udemy, your kid can be an expert in anything.

There’s no need to wait until after high school for your child to start thinking about a career.

Exploration can start today.

You can make room for art, music, life skills, Spanish, guitar, theater, career skills, and more!

Remember, your children have a lifetime to learn, so it’s not all up to you to teach everything. Your children will have time to pursue their interests independently.

You don’t have to do all the things. With the extra time that your child will have homeschooling vs. going to a traditional school, your child will learn independently with the spare time.


How Much Time Can You Spend on Each Subject Per Day?

 Homeschool can happen on the weekdays, weekends, or even at night! One of the mindset shifts in regards to homeschooling vs. traditional school is the idea of when teaching can happen.

Homeschool is flexible. It fits your family.

You can complete homeschool all at once or break it up throughout the day.

Sometimes the curriculum is “open book” and is a short session, and sometimes the curriculum requires more time. Depending on how much time you have, you may choose a curriculum that has a simple, straightforward structure.

After you have figured out what you will teach, think about how long each subject should last. Remember, younger kids tend to have short attention spans and need to move around.

Once again, always check the rules if you have chosen an option that has any time requirements.

Your State’s Homeschool Requirements

Homeschool is legal in all 50 states, but rules differ by state. Check your state’s requirements (if any) for the number of hours you are supposed to homeschool.

There are planners and software that can help you keep track of how many hours you devote to homeschool.

If you are out of the United States, follow homeschooling guidelines.

Your Children’s Preferences

Your family may have children of different ages, attention spans, and interests. One child may love math, and another a great book.

The joy of homeschooling is that you can arrange how much time your child spends on a subject. For example, if you notice that 20 minutes is the limit your kid can spend on math, then there is no reason to rock the boat with an hour-long marathon of multiplication tables.

Some days are easier than others, and you can cut homeschooling short if anyone needs a break. Or you can sit back with your coffee in amazement as the kids work quietly.

Each day of homeschooling is flexible and different.

Keep it simple. Take time to reflect and change course if necessary.


How Can You Create Time for Homeschooling in Your Schedule?

Homeschool can be a convenient part of your life. It can fit anywhere.

Your homeschool schedule is flexible. It may look the same week to week or look a little different each day. There is nothing wrong with your schedule changing if that works for your family.

I work from home in the morning before my kids wake up, and then we homeschool. Sometimes I take them to the park and then homeschool them.

Sometimes we don’t make it to the park.

Mom guilt is ok, but let it pass.

Doctor’s appointments are no problem. Family members getting sick doesn’t cause panic. The kids who are well can watch a video, and the ill child can receive care.

You can fill in everything you need to do creatively.

Using Time Blocking for a Homeschool Schedule

If you are looking to add homeschooling successfully to your day, I suggest time blocking with Google Calendar. You take your day and create chunks where you do one type of task.

You can organize your whole schedule, which is like putting pieces to a puzzle together.

For example, I block schedule my homeschool in the mornings for a few hours. My kids are at their best after breakfast.

I have tried other times of the day, and it just doesn’t work out. It may take some time, but you will find what time of day works for your family.

I use my Google Calendar to create a block of time and then make it repeat every weekday. If you use a paper planner or another system, you can write down your routines.

Plan Your Day  for a Successful Homeschool

Planning your homeschool time block can take the edge off. When you have everyone needing you for something, having a schedule as a guide can help.

A schedule can be a loose guide or a strict list of tasks listed hour by hour.

Make a list of a few priorities for your homeschool. I have a routine, and I also write down a few personal priorities for each day.

You may choose to plan your schedule on Sundays or the night before. 

My Homeschool Schedule

TIMESUBJECT
9:00 a.m.- 10:00 a.m.Bible Study
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.English
11:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m.Science (or Social Studies)
A sample of my homeschool schedule

My schedule changes because life is unpredictable. Kids get sick, some concepts may need extra explanation, or extra break time is necessary.

I have an ideal schedule, but it’s ok if we don’t stick to it and finish work later.


Does the Curriculum Fit Your Child’s Homeschool Learning Style?

Some researchers believe that everyone has a preferred learning style. So, make teaching your child easier and select a curriculum that uses their preferred learning style.

Below are a few, and I will explain what each one looks like in action.

Auditory Learning Style :

This child learns best through listening. Hearing instruction works well.

Listening to audiobooks is an excellent format for this learner.

The traditional style of  “I tell you what to do, and you do it” teaching style fits here. Instead of reading a story getting a collection of books on tap (mp3. ha!) can work out better.

Visual Learning Style:

If you give instructions verbally and repeat your instructions a few times, a visual approach may work better.  You may use charts, graphs, and drawings to help your learner understand.

Preview the curriculum you are interested in and see if the books have lots of pictures. Younger learners tend to love images anyway.

Who doesn’t love pictures? 

When comparing and contrasting a subject verbally, you can use a Venn diagram instead.

Kinesthetic Learning Style:

If you have a learner who does not like to sit still, learn to love kinesthetic approaches to teaching and frequent breaks. For example, math can include projects, manipulatives, standing instead of sitting, and building.

You can be creative and allow for movement during every subject. If you can’t think of anything, I’m sure Pinterest will lead you in the right direction.

Math-U-See is one of my favorites and is a popular curriculum that includes blocks, instructional videos, and songs to help solve math problems. 

When learning to tell time, the Math-U-See curriculum tells you how to use blocks to teach time concepts. It’s hands-on and an exciting way to learn.


Where Can I Find A List of Curricula?

I don’t know about you, but I do not want to spend hours finding a curriculum using Google. The questions above allow for you to reflect.

You are almost ready to have a school year’s worth of curriculum!

Next, you can start browsing curriculum equipped with what you know about your family.

Look in Homeschool Magazines

Find lists of award-winning and researched-based curriculum in magazines. You can even look at the ads too for ideas.

From there, you can read the descriptions, look at pictures, read reviews of the curriculum to see if it will work for your child’s learning style. 

Make a short list of your possible curriculum.

Here is a sample of what brainstorming might look like.

Possible English CurriculumProsCons
Handwriting Without TearsCritically acclaimedNo phonics program
Happy Cheetah ReadingHands-onMay be too many items
What brainstorming can look like

Practical Homeschooling Magazine

I’ve subscribed to Practical Homeschooling magazine for years. They often ask their subscribers to vote for their favorite curriculum.

This is a quick way to make a selection: feedback from real families. Reading blog posts about the recommended curriculum is helpful, but a part of me wonders if compensation drives the rave review.

One curriculum, in particular, gets amazing reviews everywhere but does not work for my family. If this happens to you don’t feel bad.

Sometimes you only know for sure if a curriculum will work for you if you buy it and try it. 

Go Online to Pick a Curriculum

Cathy Duffy Reviews

I have used the Cathy Duffy Reviews website more than a few times to help with a curriculum choice. The reviews are organized by subject, and there is a handy sidebar that tells you if the curriculum is secular (non-religious) or not.

I homeschool with a public school charter, so I need to know if I can use it for work samples that need to be turned in. 

Facebook Groups

The most popular way to find a new curriculum is to ask in a Facebook group. There are many homeschooling Facebook groups, and you can do a search or create a new post.

My suggestion is to search because unless you have a different detail to add. For example, maybe your child has challenges, or you have unique circumstances that someone in the group can help with. 


Do You Want a Curriculum that is Secular, Religious or Both for Homeschooling? 

You can create a homeschool that has your faith as the foundation. Homeschooling is full of choice and freedom. If you are homeschooling with a public school, anything you turn in for work samples must be secular (not religious).

Some parents use a religious-based curriculum and use secular worksheets for samples when dealing with a charter school homeschool.

If you are not sure if a curriculum is religious, you can send a message to the customer service department or look for their frequently asked questions page. 


Will Your Homeschool Curriculum Be Any Good?

What makes a good curriculum? In my opinion, if you and your kids enjoy it, and they are learning.

Sometimes you can get two out of the three. Sometimes two out of three is enough.

There are some ways to tell if you have a curriculum winner without making a purchase.

  1. Is the curriculum research-based? Has this curriculum worked for thousands of kids? 
  2. Have your kids take a look at the curriculum. What do they think? You’d be surprised how insightful kids can be! If you purchase the curriculum and your kids can’t tolerate it, there can be adjustments made to the curriculum. If that still doesn’t work ditch the curriculum.
  3. Do you think you’ll like teaching it? Your enthusiasm about a subject or curriculum will catch on! If you just can’t get into it, then a class, online class, or tutor can take your place and take it off your plate! 

What if Your Curriculum Does Not Work Out?

When you pick a homeschool curriculum that does not work, you can first realize and accept that it is not working and try to make adjustments if you can. If that still doesn’t work try something different.

I used an English curriculum for my daughter once, and all of the material was at the same level. The reading, spelling, and writing were all at the same grade level. The problem was her reading level was 3 grades higher than her ability to spell.

Yikes.

There was a lot of frustration and I could see the love of learning fading away.

The solution was to pick different curricula. One for spelling, and something different for reading.

Take time at the end of each month or semester and reflect on the curriculum you have chosen. Only your family can answer whether or not a curriculum works. 


Does Your Curriculum Need to Be On-the-Go?

Most families will homeschool at home. If you are on the go, keep that in mind when selecting your curriculum.

Where are you going to be homeschooling most of the time? 

You might be a family that enjoys roadschooling in an RV. Less might be more in a situation like that.

A curriculum with many workbooks and flashcards with each lesson may not be a good fit for a family traveling frequently. If you are homeschooling a few kids in a small space and everyone is sharing a table, and little wall space, then giant posters are probably not a great idea.

E-books, online curriculum, audiobooks, and workbooks can work out great for homeschooling while traveling. They are convenient and easy to use in small spaces.

Great homeschool apps:

  • Reading Eggs/Math Seeds
  • PBS
  • Starfall
  • Your local library’s app
  • Selected YouTube channels

We homeschool in a small space so having a curriculum that has the least amount of items and an online component is great.

In case you are curious this is what we are currently using:

  • Spelling-U-See
  • Reading Eggs/Math Seeds
  • Handwriting Without Tears
  • Math-U-See

We have been using those for about three years. We are trying some new science and social studies curriculum this year.


What is Your Curriculum Budget?

Last but certainly not least, how much can you spend on homeschool materials? Since there are many ways to get a curriculum on the cheap, I say that finding a curriculum that checks all the other boxes should be a priority.

Does your family enjoy it and is your child making progress should be a priority. Here are some ways to get the homeschooling curriculum you want cheaper or free:

  • Used Homeschooling Curriculum Websites
  • Trading with families
  • eBay
  • Amazon for Used
  • Facebook Groups
  • The library
  • Homeschooling with a public homeschool charter (California)
  • Goodwill 
  • Websites that offer free curriculum (it’s true!)
  • Special coupons for being an email subscriber to a curriculum company
  • Holiday deals
  • No one wants to pay full price! And you don’t need to.

If you want even more ideas about how to homeschool for free read my other blog post.

Here is a handy checklist of homeschool curriculum questions to ask yourself:

What Subjects Will You Select for Curriculum?

How Much Time Do You Need for This Curriculum?

How Can You Create Time for Homeschooling in Your Schedule?

Does the Curriculum Fit Your Child’s Homeschool Learning Style?

Where Can You Find A List of Curriculum?

Are You Using a Curriculum that is Secular, Religious, or both for Homeschooling? 

From a Quick Glance Is Your Curriculum Any Good?

Does Your Curriculum Need to Be On-the-Go?

What is Your Curriculum Budget?

Now You Know How to Pick a Curriculum

Hopefully, this post will help you select your curriculum.

A curriculum needs to fit your family! You should consider how much time you have to carve out for homeschool, your child’s learning style, and how much you want to spend.

Then, pick a curriculum and dive in! It’s ok to experiment and pick something new next semester (or immediately).

I enjoy helping families start to homeschool. My hope is for every parent to have a homeschool community. 

Stay in touch so I can help you on your journey.

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