I love preparing for a new homeschool year. Dreaming up the perfect schedule, writing mile-long book lists, finding fun and memorable activities that I know will be loved and impactful – it all gives me butterflies, excitement, hope.
I look forward to the start of each new school year, seeing it as a chance to build upon strong foundations we’ve taken the time to lay and to discover something new we haven’t quite mastered yet. I can finish what was left hanging, perfect what fell short, rid us of what didn’t work, and, the most exciting of all, get new curriculum.
The feeling of opening boxes and getting glimpses of the year to come is unmatched. I’m sure my mail carrier feels differently, but I practically dance when I see heavy boxes of books on my porch as the supplies start rolling in. Fresh workbooks, glossy covers, book spines unmarred by use – the newness makes me practically giddy! Enjoying the unboxing, however, comes at the tail end of a lot of work, the reward for hours spent pouring over catalogs, websites, reviews, and Pinterest.
Waning Homeschool Curriculum Confidence
Opening up the curriculum packages first starts with opening up an enormous can of worms – the search for the right homeschool materials. Whether you’re a veteran or a novice, searching for the right pieces to build your homeschool can be a daunting task.
Perhaps you’ve read so much on the different homeschooling styles that you’ve worried yourself into a corner. Maybe the method that’s always worked for your elementary students needs to be adjusted or switched out now that you have middle schoolers. Some subjects are just downright intimidating, so the search for course materials leaves you with both the pressure to find a good program and the insecurity of not really understanding it to begin with.
We modern-day homeschoolers are overwhelmed with choices, drowning in options, forever resisting the siren call to try just one more company, one more site, one more method. There’s so much to choose from that it’s easy to find options but nearly impossible to know if you’re finding all of the options.
The moms at co-op love the curriculum they’ve been using for years, but the program you saw at the homeschool convention made so much sense to you. This company has been around for decades, that one is brand new. Tried and true? Latest research? Just what is the right choice for your homeschool and how on earth do you decide?
True Homeschool Curriculum Confidence
Preparing for the new year is a blast. Planning for it, however, can easily overwhelm the most focused of home educators.
Fortunately in my years of homeschooling – and creating my own homeschool materials – I’ve learned a thing or two about narrowing down my options and feeling confident in the curriculum choices I make.
The First Step: Breathe
The first and most helpful piece of advice I can offer to any homeschool parent who finds themselves pouring and panicking over catalogues full of curriculum choices is quite simple – breathe.
Take a moment to step back from the pressure you’re feeling and take a breath. You will not do all of your homeschooling this year. Your children will not need to learn every concept, fact, or formula in the next few months, and there is no curriculum that holds the monopoly on effectiveness.
There are dozens and dozens of companies, methods, styles, and options to choose from, and while children have unique needs and personalities that may be best served by a specific one, there isn’t a product out there that will derail their education.
Homeschool parents put an incredible amount of pressure on themselves to find the perfect program for their homeschool when such a thing rarely actually exists. You have all the time and flexibility needed to adjust and adapt according to your family’s needs, so losing sleep over selecting the exactly ideal curriculum is completely unnecessary.
Nothing bad will happen if you pick something that needs tweaking, or even replacing. Traditional schools operate largely with a one-size-fits-all approach to education and still consider their classes to be sufficient, so no matter how you choose to personalize your childrens’ education is like icing on the cake. Your children will learn and you can make adjustments whenever you deem them necessary, so take a breath and realize that you’re not trapping your family by choosing anything.
A lot has been written about homeschool and learning styles, and there are some truly magical methods out there. You’ve probably even taken at least one quiz yourself to help you determine which homeschooling “denomination” fits you best.
There is a lot of research and writing that has gone into these styles, but another piece of advice I’d offer is to look outside of your usual style. Perhaps there is a documentary your formerly screen-free school would benefit from. Maybe adding a workbook to your unschooled routine is the right choice this year. Consider shaking things up by loosening them up, like accounting for some unstructured art time or including funny poems in your morning time. Look outside your usual circle of influence for what could benefit your family – after all, there are no awards for strict adherence to any one homeschool style!
In a similar vein, the old adage to not judge a book by its cover exists for a reason. Textbooks and worksheets are not the only way to teach and test a child. Allow yourself to explore unique sources outside of curriculum catalogues and incorporate magazines, historical fiction, YouTube videos, field trips, and more.
Not every brightly-colored reference book is the best resource, and not every black-and-white title with no illustrations proves to be boring. Just because an item is intended for children, or even created by a reputable company, doesn’t mean it’s the best option. Instagram and Pinterest are excellent resources for finding unique teaching materials, books you never would have considered, movies you’ve never heard of, and just about any other supplemental tool you may have passed over without recognizing its worth.
It’s a given that at some point in your homeschool journey you will absolutely purchase something that doesn’t end up working out. It’s okay. It’s expected. Prepare yourself to let it go. Sell it, stash it, trash it, whatever you need to do, and move on without embarrassment or regret.
Knowing that you’ll eventually end up with at least one poorly-fitting program, however, sometimes makes it incredibly difficult to commit. You like this reading curriculum a lot, it’s working fine, but you can’t stop yourself from daydreaming about the other one you’ve heard a lot about. You may find yourself browsing websites in your free time, staring longingly at the math manipulatives you’d talked yourself out of but now can’t seem to get out of your mind.
How can you know that this is the right writing program when that other attractive one is still out there? Well, you can’t.
There will always be something else to choose from, other options, attractive packaging, new methods, surprise sales. There are plenty of fish in the homeschool curriculum sea, and it would be not only impossible to catch them all, but also incredibly expensive. There’s no need to try them all.
Look in the mirror and repeat it out loud if you need to – you do not need to try every option out there. If what you have is working, stick with it. Ask yourself if you’re really having resource regrets or just a case of homeschool FOMO. Turn your back on the siren calls of mid-year change-ups and accept – even appreciate – what you have.
Don’t ask yourself what if…? Don’t wonder what you’re missing. You have the entire next summer to check out what else you could use for the next year, so use what time you have with what you have. No perfect program exists, remember? So calm your wandering eye and commit to what’s in front of you. At least for the time being.
If you find yourself working with a curriculum that doesn’t quite do it for you, if you’re needing to make changes, supplement, or buy multiple programs to create your own hybrid method, that’s okay. You’re allowed to do this, and it’s not indicative of a poor choice. You can even create your own program pieced together from multiple sources if you can’t find just one that works.
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Since there’s no perfect program, there’s no rule that says adaptation equals ineffective. If you truly can’t pick just one curriculum, you don’t have to. In fact, many companies offer supplemental reading lists and resources in addition to their materials. Don’t feel you’ve chosen poorly if you find yourself augmenting a curriculum – instead, embrace it as an opportunity to truly customize your children’s education!
Belief in yourself and encouragement in the midst of a method is easy enough to remember once you’ve committed to a curriculum, but how do you know you’re making the right choice before you even add to cart? Well, short of a crystal ball, you can’t. Not completely. Fortunately, we as modern homeschoolers have available to us one of the greatest products of the internet – reviews.
There is almost no shortage of opinions to be found online, and reviews can sometimes offer more explanation and information than even a company’s own site. Take the time to consider reviews of the items you’re eyeing – on blogs, on Amazon, within Instagram comments, and in YouTube videos.
You can even ask outright in homeschooling groups or on your own social media. We can’t know how a product will always work out for us, but we also don’t have to ever buy blindly. Find those reviews and use them to take a lot of the pressure off of yourself.
Honestly, there may never be a day in your homeschool journey where you aren’t faced with some self-doubt. When you take on the responsibility of your child’s education, with privilege comes pressure. We’ll always question whether we’re doing it right, doing enough.
The only way to truly feel confident in your homeschool choices is to focus not on the holes you’re afraid of forming, but the convictions that led you to homeschool in the first place. Why you homeschool will always take precedence over how you homeschool, so don’t give in to the temptation to rate yourself according to the books you buy or the resources you round up.
Your heart will always do more for your child than your bookshelf, so give yourself a break, take a breath, and enjoy this journey with the confidence of a parent who is doing what they know to be right.
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