Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Choosing Curriculum

It is hard to believe that it is already time to start planning and preparing for next school year.   We finished up school at the end of April, took the entire month of May off, and now we are back to doing some fun summer school activities about 3 – 4 days a week.  (More on those later.)  This is also the month where I typically plan and prepare for the new school year coming up.  I thought I would share some of our planning process as we prepare for the new school year.  First up… 

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This can be the most exciting part of the process, but it can also be the most overwhelming.  By this point, you may have attended a homeschool convention or perhaps like me, this spring your mailbox began to fill up with all the new catalogs.  I never have time to look at them in March or April when they arrive, but I do like to put them in a stack for this time of year when I can flip through and research all the new options for next year. 

We do not have a strict list of guidelines that we follow when choosing curriculum for our family but we do realize that our children will be spending many hours reading and studying the books + resources that we set before them, so we do not take this task lightly.  Here are some areas that we take into consideration…

  • Christian Beliefs + Family Values – This is one of those huge reasons why our family has decided to homeschool in the first place so while this criteria may seem obvious to many of you, I have found more and more over the years that some families are not concerned with aligning their curriculum choices with their beliefs and values.  Questions we ask…  Does it teach creation or evolution?  Is there an underlying belief throughout the materials that shows God has a hand in history or are the concepts portrayed as something man has “achieved” on his own?  We do explore other people groups + religions but we do our best to always bring everything back to the truth.  We also look at things like witchcraft, mystery, foul language, respect for authority, sibling relationships, etc...  All of these areas are on our radar and how we allow these types of influences into our home is important to consider. 

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  • Method + Style of Teaching – This is another big one for me because our school planning and curriculum choices depend greatly on what season/stage of life we are in at the time.  For example…  This upcoming school semester will bring a new baby to the family so Mommy will not be full of energy either at the beginning (30+ weeks pregnant) or towards the end (newborn crazy phase).  I also really like to find curriculum that does as much of the work for me as possible.  What I mean is…  I like to find pre-planned schedules, not a lot of prep work, and in some cases, even scripts are helpful. 

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  • Combined Learning – While we do not work on every subject together, we do try as a family to combine as much of our learning and our subjects as possible.  So for me to find curriculum that spans ages/levels, that is a big benefit.

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  • Learning Styles + Interests – I have to look at each of my children individually.  I am blessed to be their Mom + Teacher so I know their strengths and weaknesses, but I have to be careful and not make assumptions that just because a phonics or spelling program worked great for their big brother that it will work for them too.  I have to be willing to pick curriculum choices for each child that will both challenge their strengths and build up their weaknesses.  I did learn this the hard way but I also have to consider my teaching style.  This can make or break a curriculum purchase.  One other thing to note here…  I do my best to pick things that interest my children.  One of our main goals is to instill in them a love of learning.  I love seeing their faces light up and the excitement in their voice when learning is exciting. So when I find curriculum or book lists that will spark their interests, I schedule those things into our school year. 

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  • Cost + Ability To Reuse – This may seem like an obvious one too, but do not let this one trick you when planning out your school year.  There are so many excellent choices out in the homeschool market but some of them are just not budget friendly or they are not practical on the wallet.  What I mean by that is…  Consider how much of the materials you will be able to reuse with younger children?  Is the majority of the curriculum consumable workbooks or will these school materials you are investing in be a treasure in your family library for years to come?  Perhaps, you could even resell them to other families at the end of your school journey?  Like I said…  This is not an area to just ignore completely but we have found that if it takes a lot of printer ink to copy the downloads or if the materials involve an online fee for a subscription, that sometimes those are not the best choices for our family.  We would rather have the materials in our hands and have the ability to pass them down to younger students. 

So those are just a few of the criteria and guidelines that we consider when choosing curriculum for our family each year.  Of course, a lot of prayer and internet research goes into our choices too.  I love to dig into the books before we buy them.  Taking a peek into the curriculum via the “quick look” features on the publishers’s website, Christian Book, or Amazon, can be a deal breaker for me. 

I would love to hear from you.  What are some of the guidelines/criteria that you consider when purchasing curriculum for the new school year?

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