After the decision to homeschool, choosing and purchasing curriculum is the next biggest hurdle new homeschool educators face. We want the best. We want our children to learn well and to grow in their education. We desire the rigors of an exceptional education and picture finding the perfect resources to make homeschooling the best experience, ever, for our family.
I often see prospective homeschoolers posting comments like “I need a good curriculum, what should I use?” or ” I am going to be homeschooling, tell me what to buy. What is the best curriculum for me to use?”
These are both loaded questions, with no clear cut answer. Over the years, as the homeschool movement as grown, so has the access to books, tools, and materials for homeschooling. What was once an underground, grassroots movement, has become a multi-million dollar industry. With this explosion, has also come the pervasive “big box curriculum” vendors.
The Business of Homeschooling
These vendors were designed for those who want to homeschool but need guidance. A teacher’s manual, some workbooks, pre-printed tests, a book of answer keys, and set lesson plans, make these curriculums seem fool proof. They are a far cry from the cobbled together curriculums of those early homeschool pioneers. Albeit, does that make them better?
While there are some truly wonderful curriculum vendors and textbooks available, education is not about textbooks and tests! Textbooks were created to easily school many children in a systematical way and ensure roughly the same results. This is not to say that textbooks should never be used, they surely have their place, however, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that everything we want or need to learn must have a textbook, workbook, and unit end tests.
Before textbooks, people still were educated, primarily at home, using books and the passing on of wisdom. Books used to be a luxury for sure, and we are blessed to have access to the amount of books we do. So why not take advantage of the books around us to create a learning experience that busts outside the box? Homeschooling is not about school at home, it is an educational lifestyle!
Break out of that Box!
Breaking free of that school system mindset will not only make home education more enjoyable but will save you thousands of dollars! A boxed curriculum can cost upwards of $600 per child, usually more in the upper grades. You can build a home curriculum for a fraction of that and supply your children with a superior education. Oh,….you want to know how you will make sure they learn what they need? How will they keep up with the public school?
Well, we will explore that later in this series, but just rest assured, a great education can be had without “keeping up” or moutains of textbooks!
However, if you are looking for a little guidance or just don’t want to reinvent the wheel (Who can blame you? I’ve been there, too!) then there are a number of only providers of curriculum plans which are FREE. Each plan outlines what books to use, which skills to cover, and how to structure your day. Use these to the letter or as a jumping off point. Either way, they are a wonderful resource for getting those planning juices going.
Below are some of the more popular and well done online curriculum plans. This list is by no way exhaustive, and by all means use a plan that works best for YOUR family. You are a one family school, the only ones you need to keep up with is each other!
This is one of the original online curriculums. It began as a mom simply sharing what she did and has grown immensely over the past decade. Easy Peasy is easy to follow and even has the option of purchasing supplements where needed. Use the completely free version, or do a mix of Easy Peasy books and your own design. It is a perfect first stop of curriculum hunting!
Ambleside is a Charlotte Mason style curriculum that uses the hallmark “living books.” Living books are quality literature that has value beyond its story or non-fiction resources. As an example, Little House on the Prairie is a living book, while The Babysitter Club is not! The first is a historical fiction based on the life of a real person, the second is just a fun read. Ambleside can even be done just using your library card! (Actually any homeschooling can be, but this comes with an easy to follow plan–less work for mom!)
Want to find resources by subject? Freedom Homeschooling is a database of free homeschool resources and curriculum guides arranged by topic. Search through the virtual stacks of options and create your own curricuulm easily AND for free.
Another Charlotte Mason style curriculum, this has an added component of Catholic catechism. All subjects are taught from quality, living books. The beauty of Charlotte Mason, aside from her lovely vision for education, is that books can be used over and over, again. This will save money expodentially, as it become cheaper to school the younger siblings, instead of purchasing everything new, every year.
This Christian based curriculum guide provides not only free lesson plans and learning guides, it is actually based on completely free materials. All of the materials used are in the public domain, this means that they are works no longer or without copyrights that can be accessed for free by anyone. For the cost of printing the material, or the time of adding it to an e-reader, you can get an entire education career’s worth of materials on this site!
Outside the Box Internet Learning
The Internet has really flung wide the door of access to information. Site such as Youtube, Khan Academy, or even just a simple internet search can net the answer to any educational question. Feel free to build courses with online resources. Just be sure to check the validity of the sites you use. While the Interent allows us wild access to information, it also provides a perfect platform for misinformation. Verify your sources and teach your children to do the same!