How To Choose Homeschool Curriculum (without going broke–or crazy!)

In many ways, we live in a land of plenty: we have access to innumerable curricula choices at our fingertips, and can purchase hundreds more with the click of a few buttons.

While I’m thankful for the luxury of choice, I know that so many options can also be paralyzing. How do you know you’ve chosen the right one? What if they all look amazing? Or what if none of them look quite perfect? How do you choose the best curriculum for your family?

In my decade as a homeschool coach, I had the opportunity to help many families choose the best curriculum for their students (though, spoiler alert, it’s rare to find one you think is actually perfect!).

Since we began homeschooling our own children when my eldest was in Pre-K, I have followed the same process that I used with my families. These steps will work for you, too!

First, decide what style of curriculum you would like.

I’m not talking just philosophy or educational approach, though if you know your philosophy, start there! (I find many parents like elements of many different philosophies, so don’t panic if you don’t currently have a preference!)

From a practical standpoint, do you want to pick and choose and put together your own curriculum using a bit of this and a dash of that? 

Or do you want an all-in-one curriculum that comes packaged together?

It is totally possible (and I even find it fun!) to put together an excellent course of study using little but the internet and the library. And you can do it for free! 

It is certainly simpler, however, to use a boxed curriculum–but boxed curricula usually come with a high price tag. Consider your resources–do you have time do DIY a course of study? Do you have money to outsource the curriculum creation? Do you need to land somewhere in the middle, creating your approach to a subject or two and purchasing a predesigned plan for other subjects?

Do you want a curriculum that is open-and-go or are you comfortable with some advanced preparation on your part? How much time is reasonable—for both you and your student—to spend on each subject each week?

It is  helpful to decide if you want to use textbooks or what Charlotte Mason calls “living books,” that is, novels or literature written by passionate experts in the field, to teach even subjects like history and science.

Do you feel a need to check off certain boxes to show you’ve “completed” the assignment? Do you need worksheets or projects to feel you’ve done something? Are you comfortable just doing the next thing?

Once you have thought through these questions, find two or three (really, no more than four per subject!) choices that appeal to you.

You can find options by googling or asking in a forum (join our Facebook group–we are great at this sort of thing!). This stage is a fun time to read reviews and crowdsource, but keep in mind the things that are important to you from Step 1.

Narrow your favorites down to just a few options per subject. One exception would be if you’re building a curriculum of living books–in that case, I would still choose 2-3 books per subject to begin with, but you will need to be prepared to add more as the year progresses.

Flip through the physical products, if possible. If not, do a web-based deep dive.

Does your city have a homeschool store? Are there any within driving distance? A good homeschool curriculum store is well worth the hassle of a daytrip, especially if you can carpool with a fellow homeschool mom or two.

Even if you can view the products in the store, ask ask ask. Homeschool parents love to share. If you can find a local networking group for homeschoolers (Facebook has many), you may find a few moms who would be willing to meet with you to share their experiences.

A thriving online community with many moms may provide the pictures and discussion you need, too, even if the moms are not local to you.

I hate to even say this, but before you purchase, do a little heart check. Is this curriculum a wise purchase for your family financially, and do you really think it’s the best thing for your kids right now?

Are you tempted to buy something with pretty packaging just because the homeschool mom from church–the one who seems to have it all together–recommends it?

Consider your reasons for making a purchase, pray for discernment if it’s a big one, and share your thoughts with your spouse before you checkout. Large expenses should be discussed as a family.

Remember that you, and not the curriculum, are in charge.

The books you order, the boxed curriculum sets, none of that will be perfect, and you know what? You can always adapt what you have to make it work. That often means shortening lessons or skipping chapters or pausing to study one concept for longer than the books allows.

Don’t switch curriculum too quickly.

Occasionally, a struggle with a curriculum does improve if you start using a different curriculum–but not as often as moms want it to.

This stings a little: the problems you are having  implementing one curriculum might still be there with a new curriculum. Before jumping ship and switching to something entirely new, do some troubleshooting of your routine, your priorities and your daily rhythm. Our free Daily Recommended Values chart may help you sift through your struggles and identify a few quick action steps that you can implement today.

Action Steps:

1. Make a list of the subjects you want to address next year. Typical school subjects include Language Arts (Reading/Writing/Speaking/Listening), Math, Science, Social Studies/History, PE and Art. Add anything else that’s important to you: Bible memory work, music appreciation, etc.

2. Jot notes about each subject and how you want to address it. Hands on projects? Lots of writing? That great DVD curriculum your friend told you about? Just put down any and all thoughts at this point.

3. Narrow it down. Try to find a few different ideas that seem to address most of your wishes. If you can’t find anything that’s already been created, put that subject aside for now and come back to it later. Check out cost of curriculum both new and used—don’t get too invested in something that you don’t want to afford.

4. Ask experienced parents and get your hands on the curriculum before making a final choice. I cannot overstate the value of seeing a product in person before you make a purchase.

5. Remember that you dictate the course of study—you’re in charge, and any books you buy are there to serve you and your family. Freely change curriculum to fit your needs.

Do you already have a plan in place? Are you finding it a struggle to work through your plan? 

We have something that might help! Check out our Homeschool Refresh and refine your daily rhythm to something that works for you and your kids!

Choosing curriculum can feel like an overwhelming investment, but it doesn’t have to! Follow our process and you’ll have a full course of study for your children in no time!

You’ve got this, mama!

Choose the Best Curriculum for Your Homeschool