It’s that time of year–decision time. Time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work, what you want to accomplish and which curriculum will help you reach your goals. Sometimes the decisions can be overwhelming, which is why it’s great to have a community to learn from others’ experiences and the internet to answer your many questions. In this series of posts, I’m searching the internet for you and compiling some helpful tips and useful links for you to check out. I hope you find the research helpful.
Taking Time to Evaluate
For the first-time homeschooler, there are a lot of questions to be asked. I’ll be covering “Defining Your Style” in a post later this week. But I’ll give you a couple of links to get you started.
- Free 7 week e-course: a “homeschool curriculum advisor” will highlight a few points to consider and then give suggestions for curriculum based on your answers.
- Free ebooks: though I haven’t read these books myself, the website has been helpful.
You’ll want to consider your state requirements for education and the state standards (or scope and sequence) for each grade level. A scope and sequence doesn’t have to limit your freedom to make your homeschool fit your family; use it loosely as a guide to keep you more or less on track with what your child is capable of learning. (Find your state’s scope and sequence by googling the name of your state and followed by “scope and sequence” and the grade you are searching for–i.e. Texas scope and sequence for first grade.)
Taking Time to Re-evaluate
For the seasoned homeschooler, the decision can be just as overwhelming as you try to decide if you will give your curriculum another try, or cut your losses. Here are a few things to consider as you re-evaluate your year.
- Don’t fix what isn’t broken. There are so many enticing choices, but switching curriculum “just because” might not be your best option. Because a curriculum is often unique in it’s approach and presentation, switching frequently from one curriculum to another could create learning gaps, confusion, and some unnecessary headaches. The grass will always look greener on the other side. But if a curriculum choice is working, focus on what isn’t going so well.
- Don’t label your problems; dig deeper for real answers. For instance, “it was boring” or “it was too hard” are labels; they really tell you nothing. Ask some probing questions (to yourself or to your child) to get to the bottom of the issue.
Finding the Perfect Fit
Once you know what holes you need to fill, there are a few helpful places to begin looking for the right material to fill those gaps.
- For reviews on products and curriculum, my favorite sites are Homeschool Reviews and Cathy Duffy reviews. And you don’t have to know what you are looking for to use these sites. Simply click on the subject you are researching and start reading the top reviews.
- For previewing products, the best option would be a homeschool book fair. But if that’s not an option, there are some websites that often provide sample pages for previewing. My favorite website to check is actually Christian Book Distributors but I’ve also found some helpful previews on Google Books as well as Amazon. Another option is the library, depending on the type of book you need to preview. Check the World Cat website for which libraries in your area have the book your looking for.
Friends can also provide great reviews and some products to preview. But keep in mind, what works for a friend’s family may not be the answer for your family.
Finding the Best Price
Book fairs, homeschool consignment stores, and friends are a great place to find the books you want. But price comparison is still important. You might be able to find a better deal shopping online. For gently used books, Ebay and website forums are a great place to start, especially for teaching material and lesson plans.
And once again, don’t discount the value of your local library. If you are not sure that a book is worth purchasing, try it out from your library first. If the book is one you keep coming back to, it’s probably worth the investment. However, if the book has a 1-3 week period of use, feel free to tote it right back to the library and save yourself some money and shelf-space.