Choosing Homeschool Curriculum: What to Consider
© Beverley Paine 2011
How much time do you have available?
Most parents considering home education are stay-at-home parents and are available all day, every day to see to their children's educational needs. It is wise, however, to schedule time each day or week to look after your own needs: daily exercise, prayer or meditation, child-free time with your partner or spouse, and some uninterrupted time to pursue your own interests and hobbies. Quite a few homeschooling parents supplement the family income with part-time jobs or run small businesses from home. Working parents may need to consider the availability and cost of child-care, or perhaps the possibility of rearranging your hours to suit your homeschool schedule (or vice versa). As children grow they usually become involved or take an interest in the family business and it can be a wonderful resource, supplementing their education in most subject areas. Juggling working hours with homeschooling is a challenge but should not be seen as an impediment to teaching your children at home.
If you have more than one child under the age of four you may find it difficult to manage and organise lessons for the older children. Many other families have been through this and share their experiences in newsletters, magazines, online support groups and blogs. You'll find plenty of tips on how to set up and organise your home learning environment to encourage efficient learning and living habits. Practical and emotional support can also be obtained by belonging to homeschool learning cooperatives and local support groups.
Some families find using a packaged curriculum useful as it cuts down on the amount of time needed for planning or developing lessons and activities. Regardless of what approach or curriculum you choose, you will need to spend time with your children every day, especially when they are younger. Depending on the child, self-teaching materials can be used, but you will still need to make time to check the work and go through it with the child. It is impossible to home educate without spending considerable time actively working with your children.
If you find yourself in the car a lot, chauffeuring children from one activity to the next, consider 'car-schooling', a term coined by Diane Flynn Keith. There are hundreds of games you can play in the car to build basic skills or knowledge in every area of the curriculum. Diane, an experienced home educator from the USA, also manages an excellent and free subscription resource for homeschoolers called Clickschooling.
How much do you have to spend?
Budget will be a major consideration. Luckily home education can be as expensive or inexpensive as you desire! Generally speaking though, home education shouldn't - and usually doesn't - cost any more per child than putting him or her through school.
A quick and reliable question to ask when shopping for resources or curriculum is: Can I teach this in a simpler, more cost effective way? If money is an issue a bit of lateral thinking and creative ingenuity goes a long way. A homeschooling friend I knew once made a Scrabble game from the pizza box after dinner one night! Bread tags make excellent maths counters. Unused backs of letters from unwanted mail are great for art and craft. Family, friends, libraries, garage sales, opportunity shops, toy libraries, the internet, homeschool learning cooperatives and support groups are excellent sources of inexpensive learning materials for the homeschool. And if you are really stuck for ideas, consider purchasing the Practical Homeschool Series booklet, Learning Materials for the Homeschool, or the Home Education Association's Home Education Resources booklet, as they have many more ideas.
Perusing and purchasing over the internet has made sourcing suitable homeschooling materials and curricula easy. Search for and read reviews before deciding to buy. Long-term home educator Cathy Duffy provides a wealth of reviews on the most popular homeschooling resources. Join second-hand curriculum forums , such as Aussie Homeschool Classifieds or Australian Used Homeschool Books, to save money.
See also the other articles in this Choosing Curriculum series:
Or purchase Beverley's inexpensive Practical Homeschooling Series booklet from Always Learning Books - over 40 pages of practical information explaining the different approaches as well as useful and helpful advice.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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