Lee Binz, The HomeScholar
The struggle to choose homeschool curriculum can seem like a make-or-break decision for parents. A homeschooling mom was explaining her anxieties about high school. After seven successful years of homeschooling, she was panicking, and 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 homeschool 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.
"...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 homeschool curriculum.
When you are starting high school and feeling a bit insecure, how do you go about choosing homeschool curriculum? Here are ten proven strategies to help you make successful curriculum decisions.
If you have been homeschooling for a while, you probably have a good idea about what homeschool curriculum will work for 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!
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.
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.
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 your child can't possibly learn all they 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. Students 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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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 he 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 homeschool 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.
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!
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!
Tired of buying homeschool curriculum that just winds up on the shelf? Discover curriculum that's effective and fun!
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. Let me show you how to minimize your risks and maximize your chances for successful results. This book will show you how to avoid the most common crummy curriculum traps.
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.