The best advice I’ve ever heard about selecting homeschool curriculum

Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.

This time of year makes me so happy.

Spring is in the air. We are finishing up our school year and anticipating summer activities.

This time of year is also when many of us homeschoolers start to plan and purchase curriculum for next year. It’s one of my favorite parts of homeschooling. I get starry eyed just thinking about the scopes and sequences, the planning forms and the boxes of beautiful books on the doorstep.

While I love it, the truth is, this spring fling with curriculum has cost me a lot of time, effort and money over the course of the past eight years.

A few years ago, I was talking with another homeschool mom about a curriculum I was drooling over. I explained that I thought it would help my son to learn to read. He was struggling with the basics and I was afraid that he was not progressing as he should.

She gave me some of the best advice I have ever heard about selecting a new curriculum.

Her simple yet profound advice?

Never buy new curriculum because of fear.

When she first said it, I was a little deflated. I wanted to buy it. I wanted her to encourage me to buy it.  But, looking back, I realize she was right.

Because I was afraid that my son was falling behind in reading, I was pinning all my hopes on a program that may or may not have been a good solution to the problem. It felt easier to throw some money and new books at the problem, than to rationally think through our curriculum options.

Because of her advice, there are some steps that I now require myself to take before I get caught up in the hopeful, maybe-this-will-fix-all-my-problems, frenzy of purchasing new curriculum.

How to resist buying curriculum out of fear

1. Recap your year

I find this to be helpful in so many ways, curriculum planning included. Before I even consider anything for next year, I take some time to thoughtfully recap and evaluate how our current year has progressed.

In an effort to keep it simple and not add more to my already full plate, I ask three simple questions:

  • What did we do well?
  • What do I wish we had done better?
  • If I pick one goal for my child next year, what will it be?

Starting with these questions always shows me that the most important parts of our homeschool have nothing to do with our curriculum.

Without exception, my priorities have more to do with consistency, character and relationship than any one subject a curriculum might teach.

2. Assess your current curriculum

Only after I have assessed our overall year, do I begin to assess our current curriculum.

For me, there are a few things to consider when evaluating our current curriculum:

  • How are my children responding to the learning?
  • Does it have enough hands-on activities? (a requirement for my son’s learning differences)
  • Do I still like using it/is it mom-friendly?

Based on my answers to these questions, I find that I am less likely to buy a ton of new resources. There are a few programs that work best for us. The more I remind myself of how well we are doing with a particular program, the less inclined I am to think the grass is greener on the other side of the curriculum fence.

The few times when I’ve decided that our curriculum did need to change in order to meet my boys’ unique learning needs, I purchased the new curriculum with a clear sense of why and how I expected it to better suit us.

In my experience, making the choice with peace, and not fear, makes it more fun and also more likely to be effective!

3. Add something fun

Having said all of this, I do think adding a little something fun to the curriculum pile helps to energize any new homeschool year, despite the fears we may experience.

A new game, an Audible subscription (afflink), a plan for field trips – all of these have been wonderful additions to our homeschool over the years.

None of them were added to our days because of fear. I added them to make our homeschool a little more alive, a little more fun, and ultimately, a little more effective.

Once I have taken the necessary steps to logically evaluate our overall year, I find selecting next year’s curriculum to be much easier and much more enjoyable.

After all, it is my favorite time of year!

Have you ever purchased curriculum based on fear, too?

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About Shawna Wingert

Shawna Wingert is the creator of Not The Former Things, a blog dedicated to homeschooling children with learning differences and special needs. She loves finding out-of-the-box ways for out-of-the-box learners to thrive. She is the author of two books, Special Education at Home and Everyday Autism. You can follow Shawna and Not The Former Things on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

Comments

  1. Great advice. I tend to think about the question as one of “Does this curriculum fit into my vision for our homeschool?” instead of “Is it motivated by fear?” but it is very similar. If I keep my big picture goals and vision for my children’s education (which is only partially about book learning) in mind, I can make much better decisions!!!!!

  2. My problem is that I have no idea what most of this curriculum even is. I’ve been going through my CBD catalog and going … wow … I have no idea what this is or if it would fit us. We’ve been creeping through Abeka because their workbooks are pretty straightforward, if a bit busyworky. I look at Diana Waring’s history curriculum, all starry-eyed, then I look at my toddlers, who wouldn’t get it at all. Sigh. Maybe down the road.

  3. I love the question “Is it motivated by fear”, because it gets right to the underlying truth.
    I can justify how something meets my vision, but asking myself the hard question blasts through my lofty ideas.
    It also reminds us to teach the child we have, not the picture in our head.

  4. Yes! I’m just starting the process of looking at curriculum to homeschool my daughter eventually and it can be overwhelming! Thanks for the reminder not to chose something out of fear!

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