Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom
I vividly remember the moment I walked into my first curriculum fair at a homeschooling conference. 250 exhibitors had tables lined up side by side, there to show off their stuff (and convince me to buy it.)
In a word, it was overwhelming.
What I really wanted, what I really needed, were experienced friends who could let me in on what they’ve already learned about the curriculum-buying process. What worked for them, what didn’t? What resource was worth investing in–and what wasn’t?
Starting today on Simple Homeschool we’re doing just that–kicking off our own curriculum fair, simple style.
Over this month each of our contributors will write about the resources that have worked for them. From preschoolers to high schoolers and all ages in between, stay tuned to discover unbiased opinions from moms in the trenches just like you. Moms working with real budgets, real successes, and real challenges.
Get ready to find the inspiration you need to tackle planning for the upcoming year with confidence.
Welcome to the fair–grab your coffee and browse at your own pace. See you back here on Wednesday to get started!
If you could ask any question relating to curriculum or homeschooling resources, what would it be? We may be able to work some of the answers into our posts over the month.
Super excited about this, Jamie! The nerd in me loves reading curriculum posts.
Me, too! I find it fascinating to see what works for different families.
I am a total curriculum geek. 🙂
As someone just getting into homeschooling, I’m really excited for the advice! Thank you!
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Brilliant – I really can’t wait!!!
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We have tried several LA programs. Some we liked, some we didn’t. Here’s the question: How can parents make LA simpler? How can we avoid having 8 books for one subject? We have done life pacs, but didn’t favor them much. I make my children’s reading lists, so that is one thing I don’t have to worry about.
What are some of your favorite LA curriculum’s?
Thanks for helping!
Yes! This is my area of biggest confusion also. I love all my other choices (math, history, science, etc), but I have clue what to do for LA next year!
We do have a couple of posts that will delve specifically into Language Arts, so I hope that will be helpful!
Check out Christian Light Education.
This could not come at a better time for me! I’m up to my ears in homeschool curriculum. We are considering the idea in the Fall. Looking forward to reading everyone’s advice and suggestions.
I’m always intrigued to find out what other families use for curriculum. What’s working and what’s not because there is someone somewhere in the same situation as I am when it comes to one subject or another.
Looking forward to this Jamie!
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This will be a great resource for me! I’d love to hear about project/theme based curriculum and how to pick curriculum based on your educational philosophy. Thanks!
Pamela’s latest post: early literacy making labels
I would also love to hear something along the lines of, “this curriculum may appeal to you if your philosophy leans towards “x”, “y” or “z”. I find it hard to read between the lines on the publishers web sites!
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Great point, Pamela and Sarah G. I’ll definitely keep that in mind!
This will be so helpful! I am interested to know which curriculums (if any) have return policies and what the time limits are.
So excited about this! I feel pretty confident facilitating play based learning until about 2nd/3rd grade, then I’d like to use some curriculum type things as a back bone, especially in math. Of couse, our son is only 10 months old…so I guess a lot could change between now and then ; ) Looking forward to this!
Sarah G’s latest post: Friday Favorites Return- Make Your Own Ranch
This is much more inviting, and less stressful, than an exhibit hall adventure. What a marvelous endeavor! When it comes to a questions, does your philosophy of education/learning inform your curriculum choices or does curriculum choices mold your methodology? I struggle with feeling like I need to create an education manifest before I make a purchase.
And how about those mom/teachers who are the ones to find amazing deals on used books once they know what they’re looking for? I seem to be the deflated woman in the used book sale that is looking at a 1973 ‘current’ atlas of the world and knowing that this just wouldn’t benefit our home library!
I think it can go either way, in terms of philosophy or curriculum first, Shelley. I know for me it has worked both ways at times.
And personally, I like buying new when I know what I need, so we save throughout the year for that purpose. If I can find something used easily, then I have on occasion done so. But I keep in mind that my time is just as valuable as my money, so I don’t spend much time on the hunt for an item. I know some women do seem to be “gifted” in that area!
I’d like to hear how homeschoolers are using technology in their curriculum. Keyboarding, blogging, Google searches, videos, etc. I would also love to see a program that could teach children basic code-writing skills.
Lisa Anderson’s latest post: Unit Study- Rainforest
I read about a free program from MIT that allows kids to write programs without knowing code, I read about it on Homeschool Bytes
I’d really like to hear from the contributors what they tried but did NOT like, and why. Thanks for doing this- can’t wait to read this month!
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I second the motion! I can gather a lot of helpful info by reading about why someone did NOT like a particular curriculum. Whether I share their teaching style/philosophy or not, this type of feedback is extremely insightful. Hope your contributors will work this into their postings. xoxo
I love stuff like this! Can’t wait!
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I’m also looking forward to this series! We’re just finishing our first year with Sonlight and received next year’s books last week. We love Sonlight. We get everything in one package, it doesn’t require much planning so I have more time with my kids, and it uses lots of books – we adore books! However, I never really researched other curricula much (isn’t that awful, and irresponsible of me?) – mostly because Sonlight seemed to be such a good match for my family from the start.
My question is: How can you tell when a curriculum is a good fit for your family?
It seems like it’s easy to fall into the trap of allowing the curriculum to “use” your family rather than your family using the curriculum. I’m interested in learning more about what a healthy homeschooling family should look like and how curriculum choices fit with that.
I felt the same way when we first discovered Sonlight, Mandy, though we no longer use it as it is traditionally designed. I would say if you’ve found something you love and that is working, then don’t even bother looking for anything else!
It’s too easy to fall into the “are we missing something?” trap. I only go looking for a new resource if I really sense we need something new.
Thanks for the encouragement, Jamie. You’re right about the “are we missing something trap.” I’m tempted toward that trap as well as the “we love it, so why don’t you at least try it?” trap. Just because something works for my family doesn’t mean it will work for my friends’ families. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that, but it’s true.
WOOHOO! I’m so excited about this! This will be our first year homeschooling and I’m overwhelmed trying to figure out what, exactly, we’re doing next year!
Add me to the “so excited about this” list! I’m going to be a first time homeschooler next year, and am super excited to hear what works/doesn’t work.
I am planning on started this homeschooling journey here in a few weeks with our eldest son,5. I was wondering if you could touch on some of these subjects:
1. Book Clubs- websites and which ones are worth joining, if any
2. Best websites for ordering supplies for art, science, games, etc.. I have looked at some of the websites that offer supplies to teachers, but not sure which are overpriced or reasonable.
3. Free resources on the web for science projects, hands on learning projects etc.. for preschool. I know that there are tons of stuff like this out there, just would like to see a few links, since I don’t really know what to look for 🙂 kinda like what you do for your weekend links.
4. Resources for teaching music and singing that are hands on, not just text books.
Thank you so much for doing this series!! This will help me beyond measure, your hard work is greatly appreciated!
OH I am so excited!! Last year for our first official year, I used Sonlight’s Newcomer Package. I loved it, but this year we are using Sonlight’s Core(with Bible — w/o readers) and science. We are becoming a little more confident to make our own choices for math, reading, language arts. I “THINK” we have made our decisions for those subjects, but it will be so wonderful to “attend” a virtual curriculum fair. 🙂 Super idea!!
Hope you’ll be talking about choosing *not* to use curriculum too. My favorite “curriculum” source is the library!
renee @ FIMBY
No worries Patricia. This will definitely be a part of my post (smile).
In the meantime you can check out my Simple Homeschool post on using the library here:
caroline starr rose
As a children’s author and with unabashedly selfish motivations, I’d love to hear from parents who have chosen to go the literature-based route. What programs have you used? What do you look for in a literature -based program (I’m especially interested to know if historical fiction drives your curriculum choices, if classics are important to you, if you choose to seek out well-received titles (award winners, those with positive librarian word of mouth, etc.). If you’re open to newer works).
What reading does a child with a lit-based education naturally pick up when reading on their own?
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I love classic books. The reason I love classics is because they are stories about people becoming better. Like Anne of Green Gables. She makes mistakes, but she is constantly trying to be a good person. To do good for others and not think of herself first. She is different, which is what EVERY kid seems to feel, but she makes do with what she has and is a good person for it. I HATE books where main characters are snobby and rude. Even when it’s done in a humorous way I still don’t like it. There are to many shows and books that do this and I think it effects the kids and makes they think that they can and should act this way. I also don’t like books that make the parents seem stupid. I know that parents make mistakes and am fine when it is part of a book. I think kids have lost some respect for parents and elderly people and that is really sad. Again like in Anne of Green Gables. When Anne got upset at Miss Lynde and Marilla tells her that she was her elder, a guest in my home and her friend so she should have bit her tongue. What a great lesson. Learning that just because you don’t agree with someone, or they are being rude, there is a time and a place and a best way to do things. Basicly I like books that inspire the reader to be a better person.
This is gonna be great! I’m in the thick of planning for next year. Thank you for putting this together!
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Erin @ Mama in Progress
I love this idea!
I would be interested to read specifics about why a program did or didn’t work for a family- one thing I’ve found reading reviews of curriculum is a lot of “we love this!” or “Not for us” but not a lot of specifics behind why they feel that way.
We’re particularly struggling with picking a math curriculum for next year, largely because my son and I are so different in the way we learn. I need something that will work for his very ordered personality but preferably something that me and my artistic self don’t dread working with.
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Oh please, someone address high school math options–for a son good at math with a mom not so good at math. Help. Would also love input on organizational skills for high schoolers and communication/speech/debate curriculum. Can’t wait for this series.
Thank you very much.
Elle’s latest post: Date night at the
Looking forward to this topic. Here are my questions: Can you share….
Suggestions for 2nd/4th grade math? I’m so NOT a math mom and need help because grade school math sometimes has me scratching my head. Sad, but true. 🙂
Ideas LA curric for 2nd/4th grade? Lit? Grammar? Writing?
The ultimate, hands-down, very best list of websites for homeschool moms?
I am also curious how others make curriculum their own. How do you use it as a “spine” for a more personalized study? This is my heart for our family but I am a little confused about how to make it happen.
As the mom of a pre-schooler, I would like to know if curriculum is necessary or if you can simply piecemeal a few activities together for a couple of hours a couple days a week.
As a short answer, Kelly – no, curriculum isn’t needed for preschool (unless it’s something you and your child both enjoy doing!). See this post for more info:
I just found this website a few weeks ago and am so excited about this! I am just beginning to homeschool preK next year and was overwhelmed when I began looking for curriculum, there are so many options out there.
Would love to hear what non-creative moms do for art. I need hand holding with specific steps and list of supplies.
i can’t wait to see what information is posted on this… very excited!
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Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith
Suggestions for a science curriculum for a first grader. I was unhappy with the selection I made last year. The library is wonderful, however I am not Science person so I need some guidance.
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I have searched high and low for a possible science curriculum and came across noeo science online. I have never used it but it says it is for 1st grade and up, with the first levels. I was looking because I need something very hands on and I am not a science person either, check it out, it looks great to me! I may use for a 1st and 3rd grader.
Our Country Road
Looking forward to reading these posts-another curriculum junkie here (and I only have a kindergartener-sad huh?). I do have a question, though I’m getting pretty good at the answer, but that is how to work with hand-me downs. I have been very blessed with the ‘core’ books and ‘teacher manuals.’ But of course, they dont come with a work text-so I have been doing my own thing for that. What curriculums work well for hand-me downs, and what are really a one shot deal (even if there is a lot of ‘usable’ stuff left over)?
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I am really looking forward to this. It comes at a perfect time for me as we plan our first year of homeschooling.
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Woohoo!! Looking forward to this as we dive into our first year of homeschooling (kindergarten!!) I would love to hear from moms who have kids with special needs, specifically autism and ADD (or the easily distractable child) 😉 I know in this situation it will be specific to each child, but I’m sure there are moms out there that have some fantastic ideas! Thanks!!
Highly, highly recommend Carol Barnier, author of such books as How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and Onto Learning and If I’m Diapering the Watermelon, Where Did I Leave the Baby? Check out her webste, too, http://www.sizzlebop.com Although my eldest is very content with sit-down, study work, my middle child is showing more signs of being extremely active, so I am reading some of Barnier’s materials to prepare to educate this very active, busy, fun-loving child, too. Hope you find what you need through the posts ahead 🙂
OH wow, I am so excited about this!! My oldest child is two years old and as I look to begin gently schooling, I have no idea what kind or if I should use a curriculum. I am really looking forward to this series!
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Awesome!!!! I can’t wait!
Becky’s latest post: Lunch and Division
What timing! I’ve been asked by three new homeschooling families how to survive a homeschool curriculum fair. I will have to direct them to these posts. For me, curriculum choosing was daunting, but there were other things that made it overwhelming too. Understanding the lingo so I could find what I needed and learning to bring something to carry all of those supplies made my second fair much easier than the first.
Jennifer’s latest post: How to Go to a Curriculum Fair and Survive!
This series hits my needs perfectly. I just went to my first curriculum fair yesterday. It wasn’t a 250-exhibit affair, and I had specifics that I was looking for…but I’m totally stumped with how/which strategy/etc. to use when teaching my child how to read. Help, please.
I have never heard of a curriculum fair… How do you find them? We are new to homeschooling and have NO idea what is out there. We are just concerned about public schools and want to give it a try with our oldest who will be in kindergarten. One question I have is what do you do when your child is advanced in some subjects and not others. Like my daughter is Kindergarten age, but she is 1st grade in reading. Would I need to buy a curriculum for both kindergarten and first grade to keep her busy?
This is perfect- I am going through our garage/homeschool room and some things won’t even make it to Goodwill (half used color/work books, etc) Go recycling! Go Goodwill! Go giving-to-friends!
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Vee Writer @ havekidswillwrite.com
We won’t start homeschooling for at least another three years, but this is exactly the sort of thing I’ll be needing as I prepare for the homeschool adventure! I would interested in posts about great resources for unit studies or linked studies. I’m not sure of all the terminology, but the ones where you do math, history, language, and science all in connection with reading a book. Looking forward to the flood of information!
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I would love to see something addressing slow readers and how to incorporate spelling in a fun way to challenge the Learning Disabled kids out there.
Other than rote memorization, I need some suggestions to bring writing/spelling into my 10 year old’s life. English just does not always make phonetic sense.
Looking forward to your posts.
Oh how I wish I could gather all the information by Thursday; that’s when the homeschool fair hits here! And it is my first time to one, we are new to homeschool next year so all of it is overwhelming and exciting!
I know one thing for me as I have been searching online and talking to people about curriculum is thinking back to why we are choosing to homeschool- to slow down life and reconnect more as a family; so I assume when I enter the arena to keep that in mind at all times so when I look at the curriculum it is clear if it fits our goals or not. Of course this is just one thing to consider, so as a newcomer what does on consider when looking at curriculum to buy? Thanks I am still excited to learn!!
I am interested particulary on how to choose curriculum with very limited budget in mind. Also, figuring out what to do with a child who is extremely advanced in one or two areas and then at age level in some and then behind in others. It seems most complete curriculums don’t work for us since part of it is WAY to simple.
Math choices for early elementary grades! I’m currently using Singapore but I’m doubting if it’s the right fit for our family or for me. I struggle with the planning aspect of it. I can’t just toss a curriculum and buy a new one mid year as our budget doesn’t allow that. How do you know when a curriculum is the right fit for your family?
I’m really looking forward to the Fair Jamie, what a fabulous idea!
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My children are 8 & 6 and I am seriously considering homeschooling. I have no idea how to pick a curriculum for them. I also have a home based business and would love to hear from anyone else who works from home HOW to manage that schedule.I hope there are some posts on that.
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I’d just like to know where to start….like kindergartener. What should I focus on – what should we try first. Or maybe widdle it down to top 3 choices for different areas – math, reading, etc.
i’m excited too! my oldest is 4 (2nd is 1) so i’m still in the market for which curriculum to start with. my biggest concerns are about how different curriculums accommodate different ages and different learning styles. (i have a good idea what would work for my oldest, but won’t know with my youngest until he’s older.) i assume most are going to brag that they work with all learning styles???
I am interested in finding out about homeschooling a gifted child–either as a full-time situation, or in combination with the child being in regular school for part of the day. I have concerns about our local school’s ability to keep our child challenged all day long, and had read that it was possible to take him out of school for a portion of the day to homeschool. Has anyone done this? Any other tips about working with gifted kids?
Faye E. Hunt
Like several other readers, we are now researching and thinking through our schooling options for our two year old son. In having minimally been exposed to all of the homeschooling possibilities out there thus far, I am most interested in learning more about:
1) Those who have experience with homeschooling in a Waldorf-inspired way.
2) Those who have experience using the Oak Meadow Curriculum.
3) Those familiar with the methodology and practice of “unschooling.”
This will be an exciting series and I look forward to learning more through this incredible community of homeschooling families! Thank you!
Teaching reading…. One of my children is visually impaired so I need LARGE Print in regular handwritting letters, nothing fancy.
Materials that are great for extra practice, creative and hands on for afterschool from around the house with minimal preparation.
Yeah I know. I have lots of requirements….
I’m pretty sure I’ve been “home educating” since the day my 1st child was born 10 years ago. Since then we’ve been blessed with 3 more children with our 5th on the way. We really only tried home “schooling” our 1st born, her kindergarten year. We bought the A-Beka kindergarten program, and by the end of that year she appeared to be a genious (compared to all the other little kindergarten grads who were sounding out “C-A-T”, while our little prodigy wrote paragraphs IN CURSIVE!) However, something really interesting happened the next year, as I began to teach my 2nd child a little “pre-school”, I began to realize that the whole world didn’t revolve around my kids. I had 2 children to teach, at 2 different levels. I quickly realized that the “school at home” grade based approach wouldn’t work anymore. Even if we only had 2 children,there was no way I could spend 5 hours witheach one every day doing the scripted lessons. And thus began our families journey into real home and life education. I soon realized that ALL my children could learn reading, arithmetic, spelling, ect. just the same way ALL my children could get bathed and dressed and read to and hugged. We still have alot to figure out about what works really well for each of us, but I’m certain that we’ll never go down that completely age/grade segregated road again.
P.S. A few of our favorite things are Math-u-see, Apologia science, and the Answers in Genesis and Vision Forum suppliments.