Searching for the right curriculum for your child is a never-ending and sometimes confusing task. Especially when you are just starting, you probably have no idea where to begin with a homeschooling curriculum, right?
To choose a homeschooling curriculum, list the subjects and level of the child. Then you go online to select a free curriculum and use it for one week or month. You will discover the kind of learner your child is, the type of teacher you are and have real experience by using the curriculum.
It seems so simple, right? However, me and my wife we spent months hunting for the best curriculum and plans and schedule. But after we collected tons of data we felt overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do next. So if you feel the same, it’s normal and please read on. We are here to help!
Homeschooling is a Lifestyle for Your Family
One thing that must be understood for homeschooling is that you will be doing this as a family. It is not just your child sitting at the kitchen table or in their room studying. It is a new lifestyle for your entire family. This is our view of homeschooling and the curriculum is only a small part of the picture. It is a formal way to educate your child and you have the responsibility to make sure that your child is getting the best opportunities they can. You don’t have a school or teacher to guide you in this endeavor. You are the teacher and your home is the school!
This sounds like a serious tone but think about it. If you do not do a good job, your child will not grow up with quality education and may have fewer choices for work and life. Now, whether or not the desire is to go to college or follow a vocational track of education you must provide your child with a stable and useful foundation. And we are here to sort through this maze of one of the most talked-about parts of homeschooling. But the good news is that once you realize the seriousness you can begin to do the work. And the selection is not as daunting as it may seem.
In our situation, we felt the educational system was not something we wanted to have our youngest son go through where we live. Some families may choose to homeschool for a wide range of reasons. Our reason was simply that we felt the curriculum offered was lacking. We are lucky and have access to the textbooks in advance, so we gave them a good review. The first year subjects seemed very basic. We have decided to adjust and add courses that align with things in the United States.
Picking Your Homeschooling Subjects
Once you begin to research and plan for homeschooling you may have a good idea of what is needed. Maybe you are familiar with the subjects your child is studying and want to continue this. Perhaps you have not even started with traditional school and are clueless. Either way, you can still begin with some basics based on your child’s age. I was completely new to the whole idea. When my wife said we should homeschool our son starting at the Elementary level, I was speechless.
Overall you will need to have them learn how to read, write, and do math. It sounds so simple, but at first, since I hadn’t stepped into a classroom for decades I had to ground myself in the basics. They will also need to learn about science, history, and geography. How well your child does in the math and sciences really does matter especially to the earning power and most likely quality of life. The following link and graphics show how math and science scores relate to the economies around the world.
Learning a second language is always helpful as is learning about art and music. You will also need to make sure they stay socialized since they are not going to a traditional school. Other subjects depend on the level and interests of your child and your family situations and beliefs.
STEM subjects and Coding with computers are hot in this new Internet economy and creative studies are popular as well. These are all the main subjects you will likely need and will have to consider. And don’t forget PE (Physical Education) and sports. You might also consider combining some family activities and hobbies like we do (with) leatherworking. Our son is very interested in building and creating things. Since he sees us working on our leather purses and wallets, and backpacks, he also gets interested and tries to join in. BTW check out www.themarcello.com if you are looking for a nice bamboo woven leather purse!
Select a Free Curriculum and Test it Out!
Our first piece of advice to save you some time is to choose a free curriculum and try it out with your child today. You will get a feel for homeschooling and the curriculum. In the beginning, because we didn’t have any idea what we were doing, we were looking around, comparing, reading and going to the library. And after a few weeks, we had so much information that we didn’t know where to start. It was so confusing and made us wonder, is homeschooling right for us? Then I found Khan Academy online and was pretty surprised. Click here for Khan Academy.
Khan Academy has everything well organized and has courses from K-12. You sign up and download the app to your iPad and PC or smartphone and start. That’s it, just try it and you will get your first curriculum experience. My son enjoyed Khan for Kids. It is mainly for kindergarteners and it is very easy for him to navigate and he figured it out for himself. I was impressed. But it was not all just games on an Ipad, it is real material being taught or learned by your child. They have fun with it and get a taste of what learning is like. So once we tried this we started to have some ideas and we took the next step.
Another free way to start is at EASY PEASY ALL-IN-ONE HOMESCHOOL and they have a very easy to use guide and full course list online. I didn’t find this one right away, but it is very complete and once again amazing that such a resource is online and free. One other free resource is IXL and it’s somewhat free because you can try out each subject and go through some courses but it’s limited to 10 questions and activities per day. Check out the site here, and membership is only $9.95 per month which is reasonable for what they offer.
Just Start to Homeschool and Learn Something
If you just start with a free curriculum, there is no obligation and you are free to try it and learn how it works. And you will also learn how your child reacts to this new style and material for learning. So after we tried Khan Academy, I finally decided to just get some basics for his age like math workbooks, writing exercises, phonics books, and some other basics like Greek mythology and history stories. We just got a few things from the library, we bought some supplies for our homeschool and got it started. We didn’t want to think too much. I believe this helped us.
Because we were kind of stuck at first, trying to figure out the curriculum, which one, what about the schedule, then it all became so complicated. And the biggest obstacle was we didn’t start or do ANYTHING! So once you start to try a curriculum and do some homeschooling you will run into some obstacle and then you can see what is working for you and what isn’t. This was our way to get going. There isn’t any magic way to figure this out or watch a Youtube video and then choose and go! Every family will have different circumstances such as the age of the child, the learning style, time for studies, and the budget.
We also have older children and my daughter also tried Khan Academy and she likes it as well. It is not just for younger kids. They have courses for math, science, language arts, history and SAT prep as well as more advanced courses like AP Statistics and others. They even have Computing courses! It blew my mind that this was all free but the founder Sal Khan is an amazing person to set this awesome resource up and it is backed by a range of big foundations. I heard of this resource but never really knew how powerful and useful it was until I tried it.
Which Formats of Curriculum are there?
There are all kinds of curriculum formats to meet your needs from online, actual textbooks, complete kits sent to your home, as well as custom curriculums that you can assemble by yourself. There are Open and Go solutions that offer a schedule so you know exactly what you need to do every day and week. If you are new to homeschooling this is helpful! You can supplement any plan with CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, and so many variations for matching your particular needs. So far we have only tried online curriculums, audiobooks, workbooks, and textbooks since that is what we are familiar with and we find works the best for us with our 5-year-old son.
There are online formats that are very convenient and Christian based like EASY PEASY ALL-IN-ONE HOMESCHOOL. Just click on the link to see the quick start guide. It is also another amazing site with very complete materials and you can see it goes week by week. It lists out the activities and there are printables. You can see that the content is very well planned out and you can use it online or print out and there are even audio files to listen along. I also was amazed at the fact that it’s free!
See how to get started here with the free Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool.
Another resource you can review and browse is the Common Core standards. It is an initiative that is used as the basis for each state’s educational curriculum in the United States. The standards are given for the English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics core curriculum. It lists everything by age and what each child should be able to do at each level. Before I was homeschooling, I never saw this resource but only heard about it. I am sure many parents have never seen it as well! But it is a good start to give you an overview of what you might need to prepare and what to expect if your child will continue through high school and go to college in the United States.
There is also a resource of the main publishers used in the school and they have extensive catalogs. I would also recommend going to Cathy Duffy Reviews as she has done reviews of many of the books that are used across the subjects. It took me a long time before we ran into this resource online and she has each subject and even has a useful set of indicators that highlight some useful details for each book. You can see a screenshot of the review of McGuffey’s New Eclectic Readers.
Evaluate What Type of Learner Your Child is
Is your child the active type that enjoys running around building things and working with their hands? Or are they singing and humming all the time no matter what they are doing? Or do they like drawing and scribbling all over? To understand what type of learner they are will be helpful to know. It has been researched and scientists believe the best way for children to learn is actually with a differentiated method. This sounds ideal, right?, and it may be a lot of extra work to prepare classes to learn this way. But if you can make the best use of your time and know their learning style you could make it more efficient in your homeschool.
You will see many websites discussing the benefits and advantages of using one learning style or another. However,
The research does not show that there are any specific benefits of choosing one learning style over another so do be careful.. What we recommend is to use a method of teaching that is differentiated and varied in content, process, and product.
(1) content—input, what students learn
(2) process—how students go about making sense of ideas and information
(3) product—output, how students demonstrate what they have learned.
An example of varied content would be to use an audiobook of a story and then using an actual reader for the student to read it after listening to it. Then the process would be to orally describe the main characters and then to also have a few written questions to answer depending on the age. The product would be how your child shows you that they have grasped the subject matter. They have drawn something, written something, or done a quiz for example. If you want to see some ideas about learning styles check this article out.
What Kind of Teacher Are You?
This could be important, right? But if you are like most homeschooling parents, you are not a teacher by profession. But relax, you do not need to be a professional teacher for every subject. If you are the main teacher for your child you need to evaluate and be aware of your style. Do you like to follow a rigorous schedule or would you rather keep things open and decide at the moment? Some teachers prefer to lecture at the front and write on the whiteboard. Some may sit next to their kids and use a notepad, a Tablet (IPad Pro), or another writing device.
The teaching styles are based on the teacher or student-centric, and high-tech materials versus low- tech materials. If you want more in-depth knowledge read this article.
Teaching theories can be organized into four categories based on two major parameters: a teacher-centered approach versus a student-centered approach, and high-tech material use versus low-tech material use.Teaching Methods, Teaching.com
What are the Types of Homeschooling
Once you begin to try various curriculums, you will have some indication of the type of homeschooling that your child and you may prefer. This will give you a chance to adjust your curriculum as you go. There are mainly 5 types of Homeschooling you will run across in the United States:
- Classical Education (Trivium)
- Charlotte Mason
- Unit Studies
Here is a link to some good descriptions about types of homeschooling to check out.
I’m sure there are even more but it was enough for me to see these basic types and you may continue the search if it seems incomplete to you. But overall I think that we will try our best to instill a love of learning and curiosity in our kids. Lifelong learning is something I am a big believer in. Since I have lived abroad there are few opportunities for me to take any course in English so I joined Toastmasters in my country where I’m based. It’s helped me become a better communicator, speaker, and leader.
One of the major points of the Toastmasters organization is Lifelong Learning. Some people in my club have been a member for over 20 years. There are programs for kids as well to help improve their skills and at the same time build their confidence to speak in front of an audience. This is something I highly recommend! You might even search for a Gavel Club as they are called in your town or city. To learn more about them or to start a Gavel club you can check this info.
Starting from Elementary School
If you are starting from Elementary school then you have a good chance to start with a fresh slate. At this point in your child’s life, they have probably spent much of their time with you or a family remember unless they were in childcare all day long. Our son has been in preschool since he was a baby. We have a good childcare system where we live abroad. We were working full time and thought this was the best option for us. The care he received was excellent and was also very helpful for us. And then we sent him to a Christian pre-school where he stayed until he was almost 6.
Starting from Middle or High School
We don’t have experience with this yet, but, I have 2 older kids, 14 and 16. They both are in the traditional school system. They do well and play sports, baseball and track. My older daughter attends an experimental high school which we feel is better than the public school and it was her choice. But starting from this point is the same in our opinion. We will do the same as we did for our youngest son, just try and adjust as we go.
For high school we do suggest that you do more preparation and confirm what your child will plan to do for college and university. This will have an impact on the subjects you select. Start early and check the university requirements of the potential school you may consider. Many universities have a special section on their website for homeschoolers to review the requirements. As homeschooling becomes more popular they are making it more convenient for us homeschoolers to be prepared. The requirements are essentially the same, but do check first!
Following the Local School Curriculum
At first we used the local curriculum in the public school as a basis for us and to help guide us. We didn’t want our son to be at a disadvantage with his peers. And in case we needed to send him back into the public system we wanted to make sure we were aligned with the level of the material in the public schools. The content was sufficient with some additional courses to align with subjects like US History, Social Studies and community and government topics. But the basics will be the same most likely no matter where you are living in the world.
How to Read: The Basis for Homeschooling and Education
It’s recommended your child learns how to read before first grade. This is the basis for the rest of their education. They will need to read to learn about anything so this is recommended as the gateway. So if you are starting before this age, you will need to make sure your child knows the alphabet and have some understanding of phonics. There are several reading methods that we won’t get into here. But the general idea is that they are reading in the first grade at a basic level.
Math Requirements from Elementary School to High School
The next requirement is math because this is something that takes more time and the earlier you start the better. Math is a tougher concept to grasp but in the early years, they need to learn the numbers, addition and subtraction, and shapes. And from there they will need to learn more advanced math and problem-solving in Middle School. And then in High School, they will progress to Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus. Depending on their college or career plans, more advanced math like Calculus may be required in high school.
Writing Skills from Elementary to High School
The writing skills start with learning how to write the alphabet, copying words, then sentences and eventually learning grammar. Children are quick to pick this up and you can get them to start writing simple letters to their friends and family at an early age. It’s fun and grandparents especially love it! As they get older your kids will progress to more advanced writing such as creative and also analytical. Notetaking skills are also necessary as is report writing. Scientific writing is also learned in science, chemistry, and physics experiments. As a biology major in college, we had to do an extensive amount of reports and research-based writing and analysis. So I needed to have good writing skills.
Character Building, Virtues in Homeschooling Curriculum
Finally, there are also two areas I didn’t see much about or even consider in my own education: character building and teaching virtues. These topics probably meshed into my education and my home life. I don’t remember any specific classes about this and I’m sure they don’t exist in most public and traditional schools. We saw an amazing way to teach virtues with a set of books and parent cards. What’s that? Yeah, I didn’t know either but they are helpful “flashcards” for parents to use! They have a virtue and some easy to remember sayings that you can use throughout the week to instill a virtue like kindness for example. We found this to be very useful.
If you are like me and don’t know what virtues are, then this list of 40 virtues is very useful! What are the virtues? Orderliness, Courage, Generosity, etc.. How to teach them? Well, I will have to get back to you on this, but it certainly starts at home!
Virtues quiz, email and newsletter signup. Click here to check it out, try it!