Thursday, August 6, 2015

How to Put Together a Homeschool Curriculum

So often I get emails asking recommendations for a complete curricula that is in Spanish/Bilingual/literature heavy/STEM focused/or something else. Too often what we are looking for is not available, so it is up to us as homeschool parents to create our own curriculum to meet the needs of our children and family. I've been piecing together our curriculum for a while now, and felt it was a good time to share how I do it and give you some tips for putting together your own.

First, I want to emphasize that there are LOTS of great complete curricula available today. I love most of them. And if you are just starting out (this is your first year homeschooling), then I STRONGLY recommend getting a complete curriculum your first year. Especially if you have no teaching experience. That was the best advice I received when I was starting out. I began kindergarten with my oldest child using Calvert Homeschool curriculum. It taught me so much, such as how much time to spend on each subject, how to teach, what to say, how my child learned best...

After that first year, I was ready to branch out on my own and pull together a curriculum for my daughter. Although we loved the curriculum, I quickly discovered that she was at vastly different levels in each subject and the math just wasn't a good fit for her learning style. For instance, she was a fantastic reader and her literacy skills were equal to a much higher grade while in math (her least favorite subject) she was at or below grade average. For my own sanity (and hers), I decided to piece together our curriculum for the next year pulling from different sources for each subject so that we were at the right level for each one to challenge her without frustrating her.

Okay, so now that I've said all that, let's get to it.

To begin, I consider three things:
  1. What is my child's learning style?
  2. What do I want from a curriculum?
  3. What is my budget?
Each year when I begin putting together our curriculum, I start off writing a list of all the subjects I want my kids to study over the school year. If you're unclear which ones to include, I high recommend picking up a copy of the Core Knowledge series (aff link) for the grade your child will be starting. So for example, this year I have a fourth and a sixth grader. I'll pick up a copy of "What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know" and "What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know." 

(Before I go any further, I should clarify right now that I am NOT a fan of Common Core Standards (CCS). While I think that it is good in theory, I think it is an atrocious failure in practice. Why? Because although it is great to have a guideline for what children should be learning in school, I know that kids learn in different ways and in their own time. I object to teachers being forbidden to teach anything outside of the CCS, or to teaching to tests. Our goal is to teach children to be functioning and contributing members of our society. My goal as a parent and teacher is to raise happy, healthy, considerate, and hard-working kids. But this is a rant for another day.)

Okay, so now you have your list of subjects. Next to each one, write down how your child learns that subject best. For example, my daughter is a very hands-on learner in science, but in math, she is very visual and even prefers real life problems. Boring texts for history are definitely out; she prefers project-based learning.

Now I set my budget. Typically, I limit myself to around $300 each year, but that varies. I've spent way more and way less. And keep in mind two things: Think about what you'd spend if your kids were going to a traditional school (public or private), and if your budget is small to non-existent, you can use the resources available to you (your library, the internet) to find free materials.

Once you've done that, it is time to look at the curricula available keeping in mind what it is you want out of each one and your budget.

There are four main sites I use to buy my curriculum: Amazon, EbayTeachersPayTeachers, and Christian Book (and not necessarily in that order). Once I settle on the materials I want to use for each subject, I check all three sites to get the best price.  For example, my kids' math is always cheaper at Christian Book then it is on Amazon, but sometimes I find good deals on Ebay. (Psst! Amazon is best for Spanish materials!)

REMEMBER: If you choose to buy a used curriculum, there may be writing in the student pages. If you don't care, go for it. But I personally prefer a curriculum that has clean pages so my kids can write directly in them.

TIP: If you are careful, you can sell the materials when you are finished with them and put that money toward the next year's curriculum. You can do this by photocopying pages (pretty expensive) or by using transparencies to cover the pages and let your kids use dry-erase markers to fill in the work. You just check the work, then erase it and use the transparency over and over again.

But how do you FIND the curricula? Three ways:

  • I scour the internet for reviews, 
  • I attend homeschool conferences and carefully go through their expo hall to learn about new curricula, 
  • I receive homeschool catalogs. 

Of course, MommyMaestra has lots of great reviews, so use the buttons in my sidebar to find materials for the various subjects. But other great sites are: 

Before buying ALWAYS go to the company's website and download a sample of their materials to see if it is a good fit for your child.

Don't forget that apps and online game sites, such as those by PBS KIDS, are another fun way to teach important concepts in almost any subject!

ONE LAST TIP! Many homeschool curriculum companies have sales toward the end of the summer because by then, most people have already purchased their curriculum. If you are not picky about when you start, you can get some amazing deals at the end of July and beginning of August!

Did you enjoy this article? Are you thinking about homeschooling your child? Let me help! My book - The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling - covers everything you see here and more. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...