As we wind down the school year, it seems to me we oughta be able to truly wind down — as in take it easy and stop thinking about school for awhile. BUT NO. We have to start doing our curriculum planning for NEXT year!! Aaaaaagh!!
My solution has been to procrastinate about it; I usually don’t get started until sometime in July. And even though we are now doing Classical Conversations, so I don’t have to pick out curriculum any more, I will still wait until then (or later, lol) to start to think about purchasing what we need.
But for those of you that like to get ahead of the game (I’m secretly impressed but won’t admit it), I thought it would be a good time to revisit a post from a few years ago in which I shared my methods for choosing curriculum for our homeschool, back when it was all up to me. The years when there were five students to plan for are over now, but I remember them pretty stinkin’ clearly, lol. (Next year I will only have ONE. JUST ONE. I can’t even fathom at this point.)
Let’s jump in at the middle, when it starts getting good (and stay tuned for a new special offer at the end):
–What follows is an excerpt from a previous post–
I have several things that I look for in a curriculum. These qualifications are what work best for our family — and my sanity level, lol.
Not too much teacher involvement or preparation. Even in the younger years, there were only certain subjects I was willing to be very involved in — such as math and reading. The others, I felt, could be done fairly independently. Certainly now, with kids in middle and high school, I look for curriculum that can be done almost completely by the student. In the early years I looked for independent learning curriculum because there was only so much of me to go around; now, though, it is because at this level I think they are ready to work on their own.
As easy on the budget as possible. Because of our somewhat large family, buying new curriculum each year for every student (as in consumable workbooks, for example) would be expensive. I look for curriculum that is packaged as a hardbound textbook or some other non-consumable format, so that it can be used again and again as the years go by.
Usually of a fairly challenging difficulty level. If a curriculum is known to be pretty easy, I generally avoid it. I’d rather take a challenging curriculum and have to omit parts and scale back on it than have a curriculum that is too easy that I now have to find things to supplement with. That’s just too much work for me!
Gets good reviews from those that have used it. I always try to read lots of reviews for any product I am considering. Usually the user reviews will have more detailed information than the sales material from the publisher. I like to know the nuts and bolts of how a curriculum works before I decide to purchase. I will usually look in these places to find reviews:
1) The Well-Trained Mind forum — I use the High School and Self-Education Board frequently to search and find out what others think about a specific curriculum. Sometimes I’ll ask a question myself. There is also a K-8 Curriculum Board, although I’ve not been on there.
2) Rainbow Resource Center — Their catalog every year is always larger than phone book size, and it is chock full of lengthy descriptions and reviews of the products they sell. All that same information is available at their website.
3) Christian Book Distributors — They have user reviews at the bottom of the page, after the usual write-up about a product. They might also have sample pages and/or lessons that you can download.
4) The website of the publisher or author of the curriculum — Here, too, you might find sample pages and/or lessons. You might also be able to email or call them if you have any questions that are not answered elsewhere.
5) Cathy Duffy Reviews — Back in the day, Cathy Duffy started by writing an actual book of curriculum reviews for homeschoolers. Now, her thorough reviews and explanations for about a gazillion different products can be read online. She also does have an updated version of her book; it not only includes reviews but also information about how to determine your homeschool philosophy and your children’s learning styles, and other helpful information to guide you in choosing curriculum.
I know my own curriculum planning preferences are not for everyone. One of the beauties of homeschooling these days is that there are so many options out there, and each family can decide what works best for them! Don’t ya just love that?? 🙂
–end of excerpt–
I hope this will reassure some of you that we don’t have to go looking for the most advanced or complicated curriculum all the time, or even at all. It’s OK to choose what will work easily for your family.
In our homeschool we ended up with a lot of textbooks and workbooks that could be done mostly at home — even for high school. We had very few online classes, and we did no dual enrollment, AP, or honors courses AT ALL. And yet those of my kids who have graduated have all gotten into college just fine and received merit scholarships to boot. So don’t stress over doing all. the. stuff, ok?
By the way, I think I should update that list of places to find reviews by including my two Facebook groups now:
Both are great places for looking for suggestions and researching opinions about all sorts of curriculum options out there!
Also, Amazon has sure come a long way when it comes to selling homeschool curriculum. You can find reviews on there now, too, though there weren’t that many when I wrote the original post.
But wait, there’s more! And it’s not a Ginsu knife! 🙂
Hey, while you’re doing the curriculum research thing, would you like a way to record all your findings about a particular curriculum — what people say about it, where it can be purchased, pricing, etc.? I’ve made a new printable form to help you do just that!
Happy researching! I’m gonna ride the procrastination bus awhile longer… but don’t worry, if you’re like me, the form will still be here later on when you need it! 🙂