Over the past few months, a few friends (okay, only two, but I’ve had the question before) have come to me expressing interest in homeschooling and have asked about curriculum choices.
Forget about “Will I make my kid weird?” or “How will I keep from going crazy?” “What curriculum should I choose?” comes up A LOT and might be the hardest question to answer. (Okay, so “The S Word” comes up a lot, too…but I have answers for that!)
When non-homeschoolers (or soon to be homeschoolers) say “curriculum” I think they may mean “what pre-packaged, turn-key set of books and manuals and worksheets and lesson plans and (etc., etc.) do you use (or should I buy)?” They may not mean this, but this is what I hear in my head. For us “curriculum” is simply “what I teach my kid.”
Start at the Beginning
Here’s what I tell people who ask me where to start with curriculum selection: don’t pick anything right away. Whether your kid has never seen the inside of a school or you’re taking your kid out to give the homeschooling thing a try, you need to first figure out what they need academically, mentally, and emotionally. You probably know this already, you just haven’t had to apply it to “school”yet. (Sounds obvious, I know…but I’m Ms. Obvious. I even have a cape!)
First, try tapping into the stuff your kid enjoys. Are they budding naturalists? Do they like building stuff? Are they into historical fiction (Magic Treehouse counts)? You can use those interests to formulate a curriculum totally customized to your kid. Get creative! And by all means, start researching by reading blogs, reading about different teaching approaches (like Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, just to name a few), and joining online and local groups. Use that Pinterest account for gathering up interesting approaches to teaching at home. Ask a bunch of questions. Take notes. And take some time.
Then figure out if your kid gravitates more towards formal teaching methods or if they’re more hands-on. Do they like memorizing facts or are they creative thinkers? Chances are, they don’t fit in any box and you’ll be doing some things more formally and some things more experientially or creatively depending on the topic.
And remember: the library is your friend.
Take It Slow
You may think you need to pick something immediately and not waste ANY time figuring this stuff out. I’ve been there. If you rush into picking something just to have anything to start with because you don’t want your kid to “get behind,” you’ll probably be wasting both money and time with something that just doesn’t fit. I know you’re anxious. I know you’re wanting to hit the ground running. But, you and your kid will be better off if you take it a little slower than you might want to at first.
I don’t want to totally throw the prepackaged curriculum choice under the bus (and then run over it several times and offend people who’ve had success). A first-time homeschooler could purchase a turn-key curriculum and then customize it to fit the kid as they get comfortable with the whole process of homeschooling. Because all of this trying-to-figure-out-what-to-teach-your-kid business is overwhelming! However, going down the path of least resistance can be an expensive endeavor in both time and money.
Even if you purchase a pre-packaged curriculum and it isn’t working out like you thought, take heart. Changing the curriculum is pretty common.
Create Something That Works
Creating your own curriculum mash-up may seem like The Impossible when you’re first starting out. It did for me. I was anxious and uptight and trying to be an A personality about the whole thing (I still trend that way…). And I ignored the advice I just gave you! But I did do my research and got pretty close in the first year (after…ahem…purchasing an all-in-one package). Yes, the choices out there are completely overwhelming. So don’t even try to wade through it all and make a decision. Just yet. Give yourself a chance to really create something spectacular for your kid – something that works.