Choosing Homeschool Curriculum: What to Consider
© Beverley Paine 2011
How much time do you have available?
A question I'm often asked is, how much time do you need to spend with your kids when you're homeschooling?
The answer really depends on your personal family situation.
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. That was our situation and I loved it. Something I learned, probably the hard way though, was that 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.
A lot of homeschooling parents need to supplement the family income with part-time jobs and many operate small businesses from home. Working home educating parents may need to consider the availability and cost of child-care, or perhaps the possibility of rearranging hours to suit their 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, such as The Educating Parents Homeschooling and Unschooling.
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. Others use unit studies, focusing on one topic at a time, which can work really well for helping children of different ages learn according to their need and ability. Most families find that the 'basics' don't take a lot of time each day to cover because of the individual and focused attention it is possible to provide. The rest of the day is available for fun, discovery, creativity and exploration!
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.
The internet makes sourcing suitable homeschooling materials and curricula easy. Search for and read reviews before deciding to buy, or do what lots of people do now, simply ask in a homeschool group! You can also look through the list of hundreds of educational providers The Educating Parent Resource Directory for providers or programs. And then there are second-hand curriculum buy/swap/sell groups (listed in our Support Groups Directory) which can save you a lot of money.
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.
Perusing and purchasing over the internet has made sourcing suitable homeschooling materials and curricula easy. Search for and read reviews before deciding to buy. You can also through the list of hundreds of educational providers The Educating Parent Resource Directory . Long-term home educator Cathy Duffy provides a wealth of reviews on the most popular homeschooling resources. Join second-hand curriculum forums (listed in the Support Groups Directory) 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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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
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 supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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