Like anything else, homeschooling can get quite expensive if you are not careful. I am a sucker for new curriculum. I’m a sucker for books in general- especially a book that I believe will solve all my homeschooling woes.
In the search for a perfect curriculum, money can vanish in an instant. And you can easily be left blowing your budget on stuff you have no use for.
Here are a few tips to think about when picking out your curriculum:
- Find your style. Charlotte Mason, Classical, unit studies, traditional, multi-sensory, relaxed schooling, spiral, master based etc. These and more are different approaches, styles of learning and flavors of homeschool. Do you like mastery-based math or spiral method? Textbooks or living books? Hands-on or independent teaching? Make sure you find something that your child can relate to but also you as a mother and educator can equally enjoy implementing. Finding your style will help narrow down what kinds of curriculum to look for. There have been times where I loved the look and style of a curriculum but my daughter was just not understanding it. Or vise versa, where my daughter would absolutely love something that I felt like was bothersome just getting it out. This step does take some practice. Knowing what you like and don’t like takes trial and error.
- Read reviews. Cathyduffyreviews.com is truly a blessing. Ms. Duffy writes very clear and detailed reviews on hundreds of curricula. She even has the prices laid out for you and where to purchase. There are also a plethora of videos on YouTube.com. One of my favorite is JustSewTrish. She is a homeschool mom with 6 kiddos who has a library of curricula she has used. She shares her likes and dislikes and her struggles and successes.
- Find examples. There are plenty of websites that will give you a sneak peak of what’s inside. I don’t ever buy anything unless I know what an average lesson looks like. You can also google image a curriculum and sometimes find examples that way too. And of course…there is YouTube. What would I do without YouTube?
- Buy used or an older edition. This is one of my most important tips. If you can, buy used with non-consumables! You will spend a fraction of the cost. This goes for older editions as well. If a curriculum company comes out with new editions, the older ones are not as popular so therefore, cheaper. 90% of the time there are only a few minor changes. I found a used Saxon 5/4 Second Edition textbook for $2.19! New and updated versions are well over $60. You all, math is math. Don’t get caught up in the new and improved. This brings us to our next tip.
- Always be on the hunt for a great deal. Just like grocery shopping, bargains come in surprising places. I have found great books I can incorporate in my homeschooling lessons in places like garage sales, Dollar Tree, free bins and the grocery store. Some of my favorite workbooks I found were at Costco!
- Borrow. Ask other homeschool moms if they have the curriculum you are looking for. You would be surprised what others might have. It really stinks to research something that I think I will love only to bring it home and hate it. Ask others if you can borrow a few different things. Maybe even try something you would never pick out otherwise. You may shock yourself that you take a liking to it.
- Re-purpose what you already have. I said buy used was my #1 tip but I think this one is. Just because you don’t like a curriculum doesn’t mean it’s useless. I tried Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with my oldest daughter. I did exactly what it said to do. We lasted up to lesson 6. I swore I would never use that book ever again. However, when it was time for child #2 to read, I picked it back up and loosely used the script. I even used the letter sounds and words to make up games. (She is very multi-sensory.) It has been so great! I can’t believe I was about to give this book away! Customize material to your child. Or just use it as a guide for your own reference. The curriculum police will not show up at your door if you don’t use the material exactly like it’s written. I promise.
- Understand there is no such thing as a perfect curriculum. It took me awhile to realize this. No matter how amazing something is, I will never stick to it 100%. The most perfect curriculum is one that you customize to your family, beliefs, goals, personality and lifestyle. Everyone is different. Every child is different. There is no magical curriculum.
- Don’t disregard material just because it’s free. There is nothing wrong with finding free math worksheets and using them as your sole curriculum. Nor any other subject for that matter. I have found great free unit studies, worksheets, games and such online completely free and most of the time, they are better than the books I buy. Just because it’s free doesn’t equate to a mediocre education.