How to Choose a Homeschool Curriculum for your Kids

A student at their desk with headphones on

There comes a point in every homeschool parent’s journey where they have to figure out which homeschool curriculum will fit their family’s needs and provide an acceptable level of education simultaneously.

This can be one of the most exciting times in the early stages of teaching from home, but there are certain hiccups you may face during this process that have the potential to set you back a few days or even weeks if you aren’t careful. With a little help though, it can be an extremely simple process.

My goal by the end of this article is to leave everyone a little more informed on the sometimes monotonous hunt for the best homeschooling curriculum that caters to their respective lifestyle.

 

Hey there, my name is Jerromy and I am all about that homeschooling life!

I was homeschooled on a farm and I do my best to apply the same values I was brought up with as I teach my own children at home to this very day.

My main goal is to help other homeschooling parents make educated decisions about their kids’ schooling by providing resources and information to help them avoid the mistakes I have made on my journey homeschooling my kids.

If you are new to homeschooling, check out my article on how to get started the easy way.

Affiliate Disclosure: This site DOES contain affiliate links throughout. All this means is if you follow a link on any of my pages and make a purchase, I could receive a commission or referral reward, all at no extra cost to you!

A stack of books with a laptop open to the side

What is a Homeschool Curriculum?

The curriculum you choose for your students will be the actual information they learn; the grouping of different mediums, materials, exercises, and contexts from which they will gain knowledge during their studies.

This is different than the lesson plan, which is how you intend to carry out your studies, on a daily, weekly, and even yearly basis in order to meet the demands of life and your selected study material.

There’s a lot to choose from!

There are so many resources available to you, that it can be all too easy to select the first option you come across, but making sure you select the right option for your family is critical to their success, and your own.

There are many things to consider during this process, and I hope to get you started in the right direction so you can slide through this step with minimal effort.

Do Your Research!

This is a tough one sometimes simply because of the ever-growing number of options that are available, but this only means there are that many different directions you can take! It can be difficult to feel like you have ever made the best choice without looking at ALL options before making your selection, but discovering new ways to learn is all part of the fun!

Check laws and restrictions often!

Check State Regulations! Make sure there aren’t going to be any restrictions to follow or specifications you will need to meet in your state of residence in order to remain legal and avoid any disruptions to your new way of life.

If you are brand new to the whole teaching your kids at home thing, I highly suggest you check out my article covering How To Start Homeschooling Your Child, to possibly pick up a few tips that could make a world of difference as you begin this lifechanging process.

If you have been at this for a while, feel free to read over my posts and leave comments about your own experiences as a parent/teacher, and tips and tricks you have discovered on your path. I would truly love to hear what you have to say and I am certain that others would too!

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Consider Your Family’s Means

Before you can start this process, you need to know what expectations and limitations you might face on your journey.

You will want to weigh all opinions and facts here in order to avoid setting yourselves up for failure by going in a direction not compatible with what your family can actually commit to on a regular basis.

Time to keep track!

Get a notebook and write all your budget information down so you can have a reference as you move through different topics and have a better idea of what you need as you search for resources and set educational goals.

A girl working on her laptop at the dining table

 

Things you will want to identify:

  1. Student Learning styles
  2. Time availability
  3. Living situation
  4. Tech-friendliness
  5. Resources already available to you

Different learning styles may mean you will need more than one lesson plan and curriculum.

The timeframe is important when determining if you need a high-demand curriculum or a more relaxed option, as well as the extent of the education and the flow of information your child will be receiving.

If you travel a lot or live on the road, you may want an option that has fewer required materials and can be accessed from a mobile device of some sort, or stick to workbooks that can be stored easily and ordered at ease.

If you aren’t a computer-friendly household, there are many curricula that depend on textbooks and written assignments instead of having to worry about the tech requirements of the online options.

Depending on how extensive or what areas you want your students to study can affect the price of all the required materials of some options, even the online ones. Setting a monthly or yearly budget will not only keep you from spending too much on resources but can make sure you are investing enough into your children and their education.

 If you don’t already have a family budget drawn up, it is critical that you include all financial information (income, bills, etc.) as you pin down an appropriate education budget to ensure you can continue to school, even during months that might see a decrease in income or an increase in spending; holiday seasons or vacations, seasonal workers, etc. 

Free resources Everywhere!

A lot of things you likely have already simply being a parent can be applied to their schooling in some way. Used notebooks with only a few pages written in can be cleaned up and used, or reams of copy paper that have been in the office collecting dust make great scratch paper or craft supplies. Even that old computer that barely connects to the internet can be added to your toolkit to teach little techies more about how a computer works or how to program their own software.

Get creative!

Before we go any further, I want you to know that as long as you are teaching your kids basic knowledge that is necessary for life, relevant to their age and maturity level, you are doing just fine! Math, science, reading, and social skills are the main ones to worry about, and most of these lessons can be taught in a variety ways, most of which don’t actually require a desk or the word “school” to be implied at all if you get creative enough.

There are no right or wrong answers here because you create the definition of what right and wrong are when pertaining to your children and their education (within legal and moral bounds of course).

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Discover different ways to homeschool!

Finding a good model to base your own operations around is the first step to a successful homeschooling experience for you and your family.

There are many different schools of thought for how to teach at home, for now just to keep things simple, we will touch on characteristics of a few of the most basic models that I have personal experience with:

Traditional Homeschooling

This take on homeschooling mimics the average classroom setting closely to provide some of the same structure that is included in a public school setting.

Pros:

  • Familiar setting for some kids
  • Easy to implement structure
  • Materials are easy to obtain
  • Tried and true

Cons:

  • Often carries a high demand lesson plan
  • State tests will apply in most cases
  • Might have a higher overhead cost if you have a larger family; cost of multiple curricula, desks, supplies, etc.
 

Unschooling or “Roadschooling”

Unschooling puts education in the kids’ hands, which makes scheduling a breeze. Rather than making them do school at set times, you set them up to learn on the move and in a multitude of ways throughout their day.

The basis of unschooling is teaching your kids HOW to learn instead of WHAT to learn, and they do the hard parts themselves. It’s not as simple as the name suggests, mind you. 

Pros and Cons of Unschooling:

pros:

  • No testing requirements (in most cases)
  • Pick and choose what, where, and when to learn
  • Easy to implement in day to day life as a parent
  • Student-driven

cons:

  • hard to manage at times
  • can lack structure
  • up to the parent-teacher to create the entire lesson plan (generally)
  • requires a certain level of motivation

Overall, I feel like this approach is best for beginners because you can really show your kids how easy homeschooling can be. If they stay motivated and complete an acceptable amount of work each week that meets a set (by you) standard, you know this is a good fit.

Check out my post that covers tips for Getting Started with Unschooling if you are considering this path to pick up a few unschooling ideas to implement in your own homeschooling schedule.

 

Eclectic Learning

This homeschooling method carries traits from both traditional and unschooling but is more hyper-focused with hands-on activities in areas that are based on your children’s individual talents and learning styles. This allows them to get the necessary information by performing a set of actions to accomplish a lessons goal or complete a project.

Lesson plans can be as strict or lenient as needed to help kids achieve their own goals in a timely fashion. Often in these cases, the children will be eager to get more work done because they are able to choose when and what they learn, you just have to provide the where.

A girl working on her laptop at the dining table

Pros:

  • Student specified curricula help retain motivation
  • Teach only what is necessary, which can mean whatever you define necessary as.
  • Planning stages are more student-centered
  • Easy to implement hyper-focused STEM strategies with this path
  • The lesson plan and curriculum evolve with the student’s knowledge

Cons:

  • Takes a little experience
  • Can rack up a high bill for all the different resources (depending)
  • Requires a higher level of motivation

This method might not be ideal for beginners, simply because you will need to know exactly what your child wants to learn, and the best way to go about it based on their individual learning style.

Eclectic homeschooling would be great for students who know what they want out of life and want to achieve it quickly. Someone who wants to be a software engineer, for instance, can start learning the coding fundamentals in middle school that will slingshot them into a career or the pursuit of higher education once they graduate. Why stop there though, they have every opportunity to be a master in their field before they ever start working if they are dedicated enough!

If you are looking for more information before you settle on a specific method of homeschooling, check out my article on Discovering your Own Style of Homeschooling!

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Different homeschooling curriculum formats to choose from

Most common types of curricula being:

  • online
  • book
  • or video-based formats.

This factor will be determined by your teaching style and the learning styles of your student.

Whatever route you go here, there will be a similar overhead cost, but if you are a budget shopper, there are many things you can do to reduce the cost of your homeschooling adventure (article coming soon).

Online Learning is an Easy, Affordable Option

More often than not, an online option will have most of the tools you need to set schedules and lesson plans with ease. At least pertaining to the education they receive under the platform that is. Even grading and progress reports to track your students’ success or determine what areas they need to focus on more will be readily available.

There are many platforms and resources out there that can be used singularly as an unschooling curriculum or as part of a broader eclectic curriculum.

Taking an online approach might also be a good opportunity to put all those electronic devices your kids have to good use. Instead of watching youtube, they can spend that time learning a new skill or studying an area of interest.

There are some online platforms that can be operated 100% from your phone, potentially saving you money and giving you even more freedom on how you school your kids from home!

Workbook Based Curriculum Are Easy to Implement

This is a very familiar and easy-to-start option as most parent-teachers and students have spent at least some amount of time learning from textbooks and workbooks.

Generally, a book-based option would be best for those who have chosen a more traditional approach, but would also be a viable option to make up part of an eclectic or unschooling curriculum as well if you want to focus on or supplement higher reading activity to improve literacy and reading level.

You can expect to find all the core subjects readily available but in most cases, and I have seen a few with a build your own bundle approach so you can save on things you might not need and invest in what your child needs to learn. Extracurricular activities and studies will need to be added through supplemental resources if they aren’t included as an option with the platform you have selected.

Some websites even offer a used book system that allows you to essentially rent the books and return them when you are done. Assuming they retain their condition, you could potentially receive a full refund or credit towards next year’s books!

There are definitely far more book-based curricula out there than there are online options, and you can guarantee to find one that meets your religious, cultural, and educational requirements and fits within the lesson plan and budget you set for your family.

Some Prefer a Video Based Homeschool Curriculum

This might be a good option for those kids who spend hours watching videos as they are already used to watching and listening to someone explain things and receiving information that way.

Surprisingly, there are choices for both online and offline learning, so a video curriculum in the form of DVDs could be utilized by those less than tech-friendly families as a supplement or a full-on curriculum with extreme ease.

This has never been a good format for my family as a primary source of education, but with most online curricula, you will find a lot of video resources that your children respond well to. I think the relationship with the TV as being a form of entertainment doesn’t allow my bunch to properly absorb the information when it’s not something they consider fun, but they are all very different from one another in how they learn which is what caused or grief with this method.

This is just our experience though, and I have known many families that did well with a video-based curriculum and their kids loved it! 

Setting Off On Your Journey

Now you should have a better understanding of each of the following:

  1. Answering the question, “What is a Homeschooling Curriculum?”
  2. How to start homeschooling your child the easy way (if you read my other article)
  3. Your families’ homeschooling budget and time frame.
  4. Which methodology you wish to follow.
  5. The different basic formats for homeschool curricula.

With this information, you are equipped to set off on your teaching adventure by choosing a curriculum for each of your students that will aid them in their own quests to higher learning. How exciting!

I wish you all the best on your homeschooling journey!

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If you don’t like it, request a full refund before the 14-day money-back guarantee is up, but I suspect you will not be disappointed with everything time4learning has to offer that can make your life as a homeschool parent so much easier.

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If you are looking for an affordable, beginner-friendly, intuitive platform that offers a complete non-religious homeschool curriculum, for either course material or as a supplement, check it out today!***

For now, I bid you farewell, but know that I am here to help you on your path to home education, and I encourage you to reach out if you have any questions or just want to chit-chat about homeschooling stuff; Just comment on one of my posts or email me, and I will respond ASAP! 

More to come soon!

14 Comments to “How to Choose a Homeschool Curriculum for your Kids”

  1. Hi,

    Choosing a homeschool curriculum for your children is of the utmost importance. Not only does it set the pace of their education, but it also can make or break their success in life. Homeschooling is not simply about schoolwork; it teaches them essential life skills they will need to get by later on in life. A couple key things to keep in mind when curriculum shopping are the child’s interests and your teaching style.

    It is a good idea to talk with other parents about what they have used and liked or disliked. This will give you a better overall perspective on many of the popular curriculums out there.

    As long as you take time to find a curriculum that works for both your child and you, then the year will go smoothly.

    We use the method called “Charlotte Mason” and we are in our second year. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers,

    Pitin

    1. You are 1000% correct. I made some off choices in my early days, concerning the curriculum and lesson plan for my kids and it nearly ended in a trainwreck. Once I realized there was WAY more to homeschooling than just driving information into your children’s brains, it became a million times easier for them as well as their Mother and me.

      We tend to border very closely on the Charlotte Mason style as an overall approach, but “unschoolers” are what we call ourselves in casual conversation. We like to take WAY too many days off, but we don’t really have holidays either. In fact, a few of my kids logged in to school on Thanksgiving day without prompt. It was quite refreshing, not gonna lie.

      I do plan on getting an article for all the different styles of homeschooling and more individual breakdowns of each, respectively, so make sure to be on the lookout for when I get the “Charlotte Mason” article published.  It would be awesome if you would add your thoughts and comments!

      All the best to you and yours,

      Jerromy at Homeschool Homestead

  2. As I don’t have children I’ve never been in this situation except when I helped a young boy who cared for his sick mother to transfer to homeschooling. I’m the one who was given an education but it was wonderful to see this young boy blossom without the stress of meeting the demands of the local school. A few years ago I caught up with him as a man and was delighted to see that he had qualified as an engineer, a passion of his. He thanked me for fighting for his right to be educated at home.

    I thought your article was a perfect starting point for any parents thinking of home schooling. I loved how you broke it down into the various ways that parents could teach their children and the resources that they would need.

    1. That is truly amazing, and I want to personally thank you for advocating for homeschoolers!

      All children have the potential to do great things in life, it just takes a little help for them to fully realize their potential. That is what I try to accomplish with my children on a daily basis. I want them to know they can literally do anything they want to do if they put their minds to it.

      In my opinion, kids are more likely to realize what they want to do in life when they are taught they have options at an early age. In public school, there is no real specialized education until they reach middle school and sometimes not until they are in high school. All my kids, over the age of five, have an idea of what they want to do for a living, but they call them “hobbies” for now.

  3. I have seen some vast differences in outcomes from homeschooling in kids that I have worked with over the years.  As a public school teacher, and a Sunday School teacher I have seen many students that are currently in or came from a homeschooling environment.   In some of those cases, the student has done very well and were exceptional academics. I have seen a few problems as well.  In multiple cases, I have had kids that have come from homeschooling where the parent claims their child is doing very well and is on grade level, but the child is multiple grade levels behind.  Our students are expected to do very challenging things in school, and if you are not very familiar with what is expected at each grade level it’s easy to think your child doing great when really learning at a level that they need.  Choosing a great curriculum can really help you in this matter.  If you have a curriculum that is meeting standards then your child will be one of the very successful. I know among the homeschool parents there are many who are not big fans of the common core, but if you review the standards which are free to view online you will be able to see at what level your child is expected to be performing.  

    1. I agree, there can be “setbacks” with homeschooling, especially when you compare the level of learning in a homeschool environment with the more standardized practices found in public school systems. 

      It all really depends on what you deem necessary for them to know, and most kids are so vastly different at their core that you could never find a one-size-fits-all solution if you spent a million years searching. The proof is all around us.

      I have found that most kids will tell you what they NEED to know if you listen to them. A painter will never be required to know the same things as a doctor because the painter would never learn to paint if they were forced to spend time learning information completely irrelevant to them or their interests. Therefore a student that wants to be an artist should be allowed to spend more time learning their craft, while those who want to practice medicine should focus more on biology or chemistry in order to out-perform others in their field when the time comes.

      Teaching all children the same thing leads to adults who don’t know they can be different, and as such will never strive to achieve anything other than the “standard” that someone (they don’t even know) told them they had to achieve. 

      Copious curricula exist to meet the requirements of each child and every learning style; searching out the right ones specifically tailored to their individual needs could pay off a lot better for a student than having them follow a single curriculum that is set for all.

  4. Hi Jerromy

    Homeschooling is on the rise as a result of Covid-19.

    It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children.

    However, most parents opting for homeschooling may find the prospect daunting. Choosing a curriculum and adopting methodology is probably new and intimidating. Your article provides much needed guidance to these parents.

    Thank you for an informative and helpful article.

    1. Homeschooling has definitely started making a huge comeback due to recent events, which is why I decided it was time to start helping others find their own way!

      It can be a very difficult process to get everything set up the proper way, but there are so many options and opportunities out there to fit any lifestyle. 

      Once you realize that there is really no set template or path for homeschooling, it gets a little easier in my opinion. It’s similar to the difference between coloring in the lines someone else drew for you and having a blank piece of paper that you are in complete control of.

      That’s not to say you can’t take an idea or two from different sources to help out a little!

  5. I always thought that homeschooling is something that does not work, especially for younger kids as they struggle to focus for a very long time. 

    I did not know that you can follow a curriculum for homeschooling that was similar to what children learn in public school. Well you learn something new everyday. Thank you for this article. It was truly a great read 

  6. Thanks for your post. Choosing a homeschool curriculum for your child offers a lot of flexibility, but is also anxiety producing as you are holding your child’s future in your hand. It’s important to take into account your child’s abilities, personality, BS learning style. In addition, your child’s interests need to be taken into account. I’m a visual person, and so are my kids. So I think video-based homeschooling curriculum would best suit them.

    1. You are right that choosing a homeschooling curriculum can cause a little nervousness, but that’s what I am here for! I have been there and gotten over my anxiety more times than I can count, but these days I let my children play a major role in selecting their learning materials.

      This lets me see exactly what they are wanting to learn, and what areas they might need a little creative push in the right direction to become interested in and learn what they need to know.

      I have a few visual learners as well, and video curricula are excellent options to cater to this. I would suggest picking up some handwriting notebooks for everyone and maybe even getting everyone to start journaling in a notebook to build good penmanship and written communication techniques. 

      All the best,

      Jerromy

  7. I believe that homeschooling is a thing of the future. Although I no longer have grade school aged children, years ago I opted to homeschool my sons. The curriculum options were very limiting and stymied growth. In addition, I believe it valuable to control the direction of a child’s education. Allowing a child to excel in a controlled environment gives them a sense of true achievement.

  8. I have never been interested in homeschooling. I love kids, that is why I am trying to become a teacher. Even though I am just wanting to be a teacher, I believe this would help me have a better understanding on homeschooling and education. I really liked your article it is very useful especially if another pandemic would hit. 

    1. That is awesome! Public school teachers are generally great in my book, but I wouldn’t expect someone who might see negative effects if too many people switch to homeschooling to be exactly thrilled about the idea of it becoming more mainstream as a result of recent events. That being said, more and more people are breaking away from depending on the public school system to teach their children and I couldn’t be happier!

      It is high time that parents took up their roles as educators and started providing the values and knowledge that THEY want their children to know and live by. Having everyone learn the same things has gotten us nowhere in my opinion, and that is evident in the fact that the richest people in America dropped out of school and started learning what they KNEW they needed to learn. 

      No offense, but you could never teach my children what they needed to know and keep your sanity intact; my oldest proved his 2nd-grade teacher wrong every single day until she finally requested him to be moved to a different class so he would stop “disrupting” her lessons with the truth. That is one of the main reasons I haven’t sent ANY of my children back to deal with the public school system in over 3 years. 

      Now he knows how to program and is working on his first big game, which has grossed over $5,000 in presales and Kickstarter funds. He is on his way to financial freedom before the age of 12. Public school barely teaches you how to balance an account, let alone how to break away from the wage loop that so many find themselves in today as adults. 

      Regardless, from one educator to another, I wish you all the best in your endeavors! 

      P.S. (Some people will pay a hefty fee for you to provide in-home education, just in case you needed to know!)

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