How to Choose the Right Homeschool Curriculum

Top 10 Things to Do When Choosing Your Homeschool Curriculum

1. PRAY and ask for God's leading. He knows the perfect curriculum for each member of your family and will guide you in your search.

2. EXAMINE the different homeschooling teaching styles. As a teacher, consider which of the following methods you would enjoy best:

• Print-based – Many first-time homeschoolers enjoy the confidence of teaching with a proven, print-based curriculum. LIFEPAC is a K-12 worktext curriculum designed by seasoned educators. It covers the general subject areas of math, science, history and geography, language arts, and Bible, as well as a variety of electives. LIFEPAC is based on the principle of mastery learning, and teachers use consumable worktexts, drill and memorization, practice problems, review, testing, and grading to instill academic concepts in their student.

Another print-based option for homeschoolers is Horizons. Horizons offers a complete preschool curriculum for three and four year olds, as well as courses in math (K-8), phonics and reading (K-3), penmanship (1-5), spelling and vocabulary (1-3), health (K-8), and physical education (PreK-12). Using a method called spiral learning, students using Horizons will move through each concept in a process of introduction, review, and reinforcement. Students enjoy each colorfully illustrated lesson, and parents benefit from detailed teacher's guides and a precise structure that diminishes prep time.

• Computer-based – Monarch is an online Christian homeschool curriculum for grades 3-12 that's compatible with Windows® and Macintosh® operating systems. Featuring anytime/anyplace accessibility, media-rich lessons, and time-saving teacher tools, Monarch offers single, 18-month subscriptions in five core subjects and over 35 electives.

Teachers also use technology and time-saving features in Switched-On Schoolhouse, a CD-ROM curriculum for students in grades 3-12. Homeschoolers can add their own touch and easily customize lesson plans with this interactive, multimedia curriculum that covers five core subjects and a variety of electives. Grading, recordkeeping, and daily lesson planning are also automated with the administrative tools for teachers found in the curriculum.

• Unit studies – Teachers focus on a particular topic or time period with age-appropriate activities for students in the main subject areas. This method requires intensive teacher preparation, but teachers and students alike enjoy the active hands-on learning. The Weaver Curriculum from AOP is an excellent curriculum that is based on the unit study approach.

3. DETERMINE your child's learning style. Teaching more than one child requires adapting your curriculum to accommodate each learning style. Physical and mental limitations should also be considered when determining your child's learning style.

• Kinesthetic (hands-on) – Child learns by acquiring information from simulated or real experiences. Teaching this child involves demonstrating or showing by example.

• Audible – Child learns through lectures, audio tapes, speaking, and discussions. Music is a must for a child with this type of learning style. Teaching this child involves mostly verbal instruction.

• Visual – Child enjoys learning through pictures, graphs, charts, posters, videos, or worktexts with illustrations and loves to underline text with colored highlighters. Teaching this child involves preparing visual aids with illustrations and pictures.

• Read/write – Child prefers to receive information in the form of words and learns through lectures, writing stories, and books. Teaching this child involves allowing the child to read and express himself through writing.

4. KNOW the homeschooling laws in your state. You may need to teach certain subjects in your curriculum that are required to meet state regulations for high school graduation.

5. TEST your child's skills in the main subject areas such as math and reading if you are starting a child who has already been attending school. AOP offers free placement tests for Monarch, LIFEPAC, and Horizons. Switched-On Schoolhouse placement tests are also available for purchase.

6. PLAN your budget. First-time homeschoolers will save by investing in a trusted, packaged curriculum that covers all subject areas. Alpha Omega Publications also offers a variety of free resources.

7. EVALUATE your learning environment restrictions. For example, computer-based curriculum works well in an environment with limited space.

8. VISIT homeschooling curriculum fairs and conferences. Viewing new products and capitalizing on promotional discounts makes attending homeschool conventions worthwhile. Motivational speakers, workshops, and helpful advice from vendors and seasoned homeschoolers will also assist in choosing the right curriculum for your family.

9. INVESTIGATE the curriculum used by other homeschooling families, but remember, each family is unique. What works well for others may not fit the curriculum needs of your family.

10. DISCARD curriculum that is not working. Once you purchase a curriculum, you are not locked into using it forever. Beware of curriculum hopping, but if your child is not learning, it's time to try something new. Observe your child's learning style and adapt or supplement as needed.