By Lee Binz
How to Find Homeschool Curriculum
A homeschooling mom was explaining her anxieties about high school. After seven successful years of homeschooling, she was panicking. She sought help from a company with certified teachers and an accredited program. Instead of supporting her successful homeschool, they told her not to use the curriculum she had chosen. Why? Personal preference.
Even though the curriculum was popular and successful among homeschool families, the teacher didn't prefer it. It simply wasn't her cup of tea. The poor mom was left feeling more insecure and incapable. Fortunately, because she was a veteran homeschooler, she didn't stop there but continued to look for help that was a better fit for her family. That's how she found me.
Anxiety and feelings of insecurity can come and go. When you are faced with feelings of inadequacy, you may start wondering how to become a better homeschool parent. How do you become successful? Let me explain what will and will not make you a better homeschool parent. Download my free Ebook, How to Be a Better Home Educator: Build a Better Homeschool with Tools You Have Around the House You don’t need a certified teacher or accredited program homeschool high school!
"...That one phrase on your website got me," she said. "I will not judge your homeschool or evaluate your children." That was how she ended up with me, talking about curriculum.
When you are starting high school and feeling a bit insecure, how do you go about choosing curriculum? Here are ten proven strategies to help you make successful curriculum decisions.
Strategy 1: Use What Works
If you have been homeschooling for a while, you probably have a good idea about what curriculum will work with your child. Look back at your successful homeschool years and consider what you used that worked. Find a curriculum like what worked the previous year. Your mantra should be "If it works, keep using it." The grass will always be greener on the other side of the fence, but maybe the grass is Astroturf. If your grass is already green, don't look somewhere else.
When I work with clients, I always suggest they keep using a curriculum that works. If Sonlight has always worked for you, keep using Sonlight. The flip side is also true. If something is not working, start looking around for something else. Even if you are in the middle of a school year, once you recognize the curriculum isn't working, change as soon as possible. It will save so much frustration!
Strategy 2: Do What Works
When you are looking for something new, how do you know where to begin? As you shop for curriculum, your learning style and your child’s can help guide your choices. If your child works best with workbooks, keep using what works (see Strategy 1). In high school, some students do their schoolwork in notebooks.
If your child has done well with hands-on projects, keep using them! Even in the high school years, there are plenty of natural learning opportunities. Boy Scouts, 4-H, Patty Paper Geometry, and YMCA Youth and Government are all great hands-on learning tools. Look around until you find a match for your child's learning style.
My children learned best by reading. Whenever I got stuck with a curriculum that didn't work, we went back to our roots - reading. Sometimes my curriculum choice didn’t work - art comes to mind! That's when we would read about the topic instead, which meant reading books about art history.
"Do what works" also means using a curriculum provider you have used in the past. I used Sonlight Curriculum and it was perfect for our family. When I decided to try teaching Latin, I used the Sonlight program. I figured if Sonlight was working for us, I could trust them to choose a good Latin program. Since it worked for them and looked good to them, it would probably work for me as well. Place a higher value on recommendations from curriculum suppliers that work for you.
Strategy 3: Use Homeschool Curriculum
A textbook written for a public or private school assumes the teacher already understands the subject. A book written for homeschoolers assumes the teacher knows nothing about the subject! That's why homeschool curriculum is easier to use and makes you feel competent, not stupid. Curriculum written for homeschoolers doesn't assume your child is in a classroom setting or suggest impractical group projects. When you use curriculum meant for homeschools, you can teach subjects without help, even when you don't have a clue about the content. My children learned physics and calculus without any help from me. We purchased curriculum proven to be successful with homeschoolers.
Strategy 4: Buy Self-Teaching Curriculum
Homeschool curriculum works because it's usually self-teaching. Your goal is not to be the teacher of a subject. Your long-term plan is to make learners who can absorb material by themselves. Self-teaching curriculum is a good thing that will prepare your students for college and life. It will help you teach what you don't know, and help your children learn subjects primarily by themselves. When students go to college, they will need to absorb college textbooks by themselves. Choosing a self-teaching curriculum will give them the practice they need for college. I was the project manager, but it was my children who were learning the content.
Strategy 5: Don't Start Over
Most curriculum suppliers think their curriculum is the best in the world. They completely believe they have the best, teach the best, that their way is the right way, and without them you can't possibly learn all you need to know. A writing program may tell you to start at level one even though your student is in high school, so they can follow the program completely. A math program may tell you that even a 9th grader should start their curriculum learning basic addition. However, starting over is not always important or advisable. Our goal is understanding in order to move on, and build upon. We don’t require 100% recall or perfection to be successful learners.
There are probably good reasons for starting over, and you will know if that's important for your child, but it’s not important for all children. For example, when a curriculum offers a placement test, there is no reason to start at the beginning. I have seen parents start over with a different math program every year, putting their child further behind. Resist the urge to start over when you purchase a new curriculum. Start where it makes sense for your child.
Strategy 6: Encourage Specialization
Buy curriculum that covers the basics. Don’t skimp on the core classes of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. Beyond the basics, choose curriculum that will encourage your child’s passion! If your child loves art, music, or science, remember to buy resources to encourage that interest. I'm reminded of the Bible verse, "If his son asks for bread, will he give him a stone? (Matthew 7:9). If your child asks for a subject, give it to them! If they ask for microbiology, economics, or Russian history, follow their interests and get it for them.
Try to avoid making their delight directed learning specialization into a boring and dreaded school subject. I remember a client who wanted to encourage her student's interest, so she turned it into a homeschool course - complete with assignments, worksheets, and tests. Her student lost interest in the subject when it became a class that required work, instead of a pastime he enjoyed learning naturally. Don't make specialization a subject, simply let them enjoy it. When they are done, put it on the transcript!
Strategy 7: Invest in Your Weaknesses
Where is the best place to put your hard-earned curriculum money? Invest in your weaknesses! If you hate math, don't know what you're doing in the subject, and avoid it at all costs, that is where to put your money. Your child’s strengths are fun to finance and areas of specialization will often result in birthday and Christmas presents. But purchasing things for your weaknesses takes conscious effort.
What do you hate teaching? Which subjects do you feel you're failing? That's the best place to put your curriculum dollar. If you need to, you could teach all the fun stuff in the library and real life, but weak areas may need a little extra help.
Strategy 8: Allow Teens to Choose
It's also helpful to let your teen choose curriculum - especially in their weak areas. As your teen progresses, try to engage them in curriculum choosing. If you can come up with 2 or 3 suitable alternatives for a subject, and you can't decide, perhaps your teen can place the deciding vote. That will often help to reduce whining. After all, who can they blame? They chose it themselves!
This strategy is especially important when you are looking at a video curriculum of any kind. Teens are remarkably sensitive to visual programs. Things that seem fine to us may drive them crazy! Maybe it's the way a speaker dresses or the sound of their voice, but sometimes a video will annoy kids so much they can't learn.
Whenever possible, have your teen compare video samples and make the choice themselves. Even without a video, you may still be surprised at their choices. I remember being stunned when my son, Kevin, chose Saxon math! Believe it or not, he was looking for a book that had pages full of math problems. Meanwhile, I had been shopping for a curriculum with clearly written instructions and colorful photos and diagrams. Let your teen help you choose a curriculum and you could be pleasantly surprised.
Strategy 9: Invest in Yourself
Spend some curriculum dollars on yourself every year. Invest your money to keep organized, knowledgeable, and excited about teaching. When my oldest was in 7th grade, I started buying myself a book about high school each year. Before my oldest started 9th grade, I understood the basics of high school.
I continued investing in myself every year, working to become a better home educator. I learned about college admission, scholarships, and high school tests. I learned about being the guidance counselor and homeschooling college courses. Now I provide resources and information in books, online, and through private consulting to help other parents learn how to be more skilled in their chosen profession as a homeschooling parent.
What I learned helped me save money. I learned how to homeschool college courses, decreasing the time my children needed to spend in college. I learned how to use scholarship-writing and college applications as our English program, and college application essays brought wonderful financial aid. Investing in yourself will help you feel more confident now and can reap wonderful long-term rewards.
Strategy 10: Focus on Tried and True Resources
When you are looking at curriculum choices, try to choose something tried and true. Do you remember the crisis over "New Math" in public schools? Have you ever wondered why public school budgets are so high, while schools are throwing away perfectly fine curriculum? Schools are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest and lose sight of the tried and true curriculum.
Tried and true curriculum includes real books, real paper and pencil learning, and taking notes on actual paper. The current fad in education is digital everything but that method of education is not evidence-based, and has been proven less effective than off-line education. Pediatricians suggest only two hours of technology use per day through age 18, and that includes the time spent learning online. As parents, we must set logical technology boundaries to increase learning. Print reading is superior to screen reading.
Do you need in-depth help setting technology guidelines? Read my book, TechnoLogic: How to Set Logical Technology Boundaries and Stop the Zombie Apocalypse,
Avoid fads in curriculum choices. Be aware that shiny and new doesn’t mean better or improved. We want the new edition, the updated version, and the latest curriculum. But at what cost? It may be a good new curriculum. But it may not.
If you have extra money and the latest and greatest is important to you, feel free to get the newest choices. When you have the money to correct any duds, there is no harm in that. The worst that can happen is a bookshelf filled with unused, shiny and new curriculum, hot off the presses. But if you don't have the financial flexibility to make frequent mistakes, consider using only tried and true curriculum.
Conclusion: Starting Points for the Completely Befuddled
Do you have a bookshelf filled with unused curriculum, collecting dust and taunting you? Or perhaps you are brand new to homeschooling, completely unsure how to begin. Here are simple ways to start your search.
Whether you are a compulsive curriculum buyer, desperate for the one true “perfect” curriculum, or a frequent fad-follower, perfectionism is your enemy. Actually doing the work of homeschooling will provide a better education than searching for perfect curriculum. A lower rated curriculum that fits your child will work better than a top-tier product they hate.
Ask your friends.
If you have no idea where to start, look for clues around you. What do your homeschool friends with similar goals use? Does it look good? Do you trust their judgment? Do their kids seem to be learning? If you are homeschooling alone, I’ll be your friend. I used and loved Sonlight curriculum. It’s a literature-based curriculum with a simple checklist that I found very easy to use as a beginning homeschooler. I have collected other curriculum options on my Amazon Store.
Look at curriculum providers.
Find homeschool curriculum at a convention or support group meeting. Check out curriculum suppliers you know and trust. If you trust them for science, perhaps you could try their history program. Shop at my online store for help homeschooling all ages and subjects. Home Science Tools is my favorite provider for lab science because they offer science ideas for every subject and age group and they have great customer service. And for great homeschool resources of all kinds, check out ChristianBook.com.
Read Cathy Duffy’s reviews.
There are reviewers of all kinds online, but not all of them are independent. I suggest reading reviews from Cathy Duffy to see the cream of the crop curriculum choices. Her book, 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, provides guidance about how to decide if each curriculum might fit your family.
Be confident in homeschooling.
You are the love-giver of your child. You are the one who knows them best. Nobody else can tell you what curriculum to use without their biases shading their opinions. Use what you know about your child to make your decisions, taking into consideration your learning style and your child’s learning style. Invest in your future by putting your money into yourself and your weaknesses first. Provide the basics and invest in your student’s interests.
This is a stressful time of year, when your curriculum budget takes the biggest hit. But take heart! You know your child, and you can make wise choices.
Homeschool Curriculum That's Effective and Fun!
Avoid the Crummy Curriculum Hall of Shame!
[Kindle and Paperback]
Do you have a "Curriculum Hall of Shame?" You know … it's on the bookshelf hidden in the corner that chronicles your every half-baked idea and ill-conceived plan. Ours was filled with fashionable failures, multi-volume mismatches, and loathsome lesson plans.
This book will show you how to avoid the most common crummy curriculum traps. Minimize your risks and maximize your chances for successful results. No matter what kind of homeschooler you are, you will benefit from some sanity-saving ideas and practical advice!
12 Keys to High School Success
Prepare Your Teen for Launch
Do you need a boost of encouragement and lots of proven tips to help you have your most successful homeschool year yet? Let me help you. Take my free recorded class filled with tips, and it even counts as continuing education! I know there are homeschool parents who can compete in the Tour de France while nursing their newborn and teaching their high schoolers Advanced Latin. This class in not for them.
This workshop is for those mortal, human, sometimes frail and tired homeschoolers, who truly want to do the best job possible preparing their children for college, but could use a little extra "boost." I promise you will learn solid strategies that will make homeschooling easier and more rewarding for both you and your children! Listen to it and let me know what you think!
The HomeScholar High School Solution
Guidance for Every Age and Stage
If you are a beginner at homeschooling high school, consider the High School Solution, which provides detailed training on homeschooling, from middle school through senior year. The resources included give specific help for all stages, from getting started and planning high school courses, to understanding high school testing and college admission and scholarships.
Get complete instruction for choosing curriculum, encouraging delight directed learning, and teaching advanced subjects through training classes for parents, all with handouts or workbooks plus articles and templates.
Copyright © 2019 The HomeScholar LLC, www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com. Text may be reprinted without permission if used in full, except for use in a book or other publication for rent or for sale. Reprint must include this copyright, bio (below), and the original URL link (https://www.homehighschoolhelp.com/10-no-fail-strategies-for-choosing-high-school-curriculum).
Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com/freebies.