Written by Purva Brown of The Classical Unschooler
It’s that time of year again. When April rolls around, it’s as if we all take a nice, deep breath.
Spring has finally arrived. The winter doldrums are over.
The burnt out feeling is gone and we are ready. Eager to start another year. Hope renewed. No longer tired, no longer dragging ourselves out of bed, we look forward to the smell of new books, exciting new things to learn.
Are you beginning to think about what you might need for next year? Are you going to a homeschool conference or convention soon?
Before you buy any shiny, new curriculum, before you plunk down your hard earned money in hopes that you and your kids will love it, save yourself some heartache by asking yourself these five questions.
They will help you set the tone for a better year and could even save you some heartache:
1. Does this curriculum fit our style of learning and teaching?
A basic online search for “homeschool” is enough to completely bury us in information. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or sidetracked.
With so many options available, we forget that not all of them work for our unique family. We can get carried away by the reviews, by what some people might call “the best.”
Well it might be the best for others but if it is not aligned with how your family learns, you’re not going to use it and that “perfect” curriculum will soon just become clutter.
Know thy family, know thyself and avoid what doesn’t fit.
2. Does it seem arranged in an intuitive way?
To figure this out, you can’t start with the curriculum. You have to start with how you want to teach a specific subject and then check if what you’re holding in your hands matches the template in your mind.
I have found countless math curricula that do not teach new concepts in a way I find intuitive. They shuttle back and forth too many times and they teach to the test. That would be fine if we were preparing for a test, but we’re not.
So we have decided to ditch all math curricula and use other resources to teach the concepts. If it doesn’t follow your sense of how things should be taught and introduced, look elsewhere.
3. Do I like reading it? Does it seem interesting to me?
This rule, which we have for read-aloud books, works well for curriculum too.
Don’t you just love new books?! I remember distinctly being thrilled with my new textbooks as a child and reading through them during the summer.
It’s the same with my children’s curriculum. I love opening it up before school begins, planning and plotting and figuring things out.
As I’m doing this, it is important for me to be interested in what they’re going to learn. It can either be overt interest in the subject or it can be something that I can see them being interested in.
If either of these characteristics don’t exist, it is unlikely we will use it.
4. Am I excited by it?
This is a little different in the sense of anticipation. Our current science curriculum is not something I want to necessarily sit down and read, but boy, are we excited by it. I love opening up the pages, doing a quick experiment and then discussing it.
I find that I learn so much right along with my children. And my son can’t stop jumping up and down when I mention that “we’re going to cover science later today.”
I think getting excited by your child’s curriculum is a sign of a healthy homeschooling family and should be maintained as much as and as long as possible.
So don’t treat your own excitement about your child’s curriculum as an afterthought. Place it in the forefront of your mind and keep it there when you’re shopping.
5. Is it dumbed down just to entertain? Is it “twaddle?”
If you’re a Charlotte Mason type, you already know what twaddle means, but here are some adjectives to describe it: silly, idle, insignificant, trivial.
In other words, twaddle is writing that has been dumbed down or diluted, insulting the intelligence of the child and providing nothing of value. It is designed, above all, to entertain.
Keep your eyes out for twaddle disguised as curriculum and try to avoid it. Focus on depth, quality, and meaningful educational purchases instead.
If you’d rather build your own curriculum this upcoming year, be sure to check out my newest ebook Create Your Own Homeschooling Curriculum, currently available for pre-order on Amazon!
In it I’ll guide you step by step as you create a learning plan that you’ll love for the year ahead. (Note: A paperback version is coming in May! If you’d prefer a paperback copy, please sign up for my mailing list on my blog for updates.)
What questions do you ask yourself before you buy curriculum?
This is so good! I wish I had this advice when I first started. I spent hundreds and ended up using not very much of it. This year, we went with Life of Fred Elementary Math, The Writer’s Jungle, and Magic School Bus Science Experiments for a Year.
June’s latest post: Why moms should quit doing what they don’t absolutely love
Great info. My wife and I are considering homeschool for our 5 year old. This post gave some good insight into what we should pay attention to before purchasing curriculum. One aspect of homeschooling that intrigues my wife and I is that we have the final say into what curriculum we use. Thank you!