Homeschooling in California: Choosing Curriculum & Finding Resources - Eva Varga

June 29, 2014

After making the initial decision to homeschool, the choice now rests on how to homeschool.  The most arduous of tasks is choosing curriculum. But it doesn’t need to be .. come along and I’ll guide you.

When meeting homeschool families, some of the first questions homeschoolers tend to ask are, “What curriculum do you use?” and “What kind of homeschooler are you?” To new homeschoolers, this can be completely overwhelming.

curriculum_resourcesDefine Your Style – What Are Your Goals?

Take a minute to think about what you desire for your children.  What are your goals for their education. Write out everything you believe about education. This is your mission statement; it will become your foundation for all of the choices you will make along the way.

After you have your mission statement, you will have a better grasp on what methods/theories will best suit you. Research the homeschooling methods out there and find one that matches your core beliefs. Here are a few of the most common styles.

  • Classical (including Thomas Jefferson and Well-Trained Mind)
  • Unschooling (including Delight Directed, Relaxed, Child-Led, and Radical Unschooling)
  • Charlotte Mason
  • Religion or Faith Based
  • Hybrid Schooling (including Virtual Schools, Online Charter Schools, or Distance Learning)
  • Montessori
  • Waldorf
  • Eclectic (aka, a combination of two or more styles)

As you progress along the journey and discover new tools and styles, don’t be surprised if your mission statement evolves or changes to better suit your family.  This is natural and one of the benefits to homeschooling.

Once you have a grasp of your homeschooling style, you will be better able to choose curriculum that is right for you and your children.

Choosing Curriculum

When looking to purchase curriculum, there are a few things to keep in mind. There are A LOT of options available today and so take time to peruse samples.  Request catalogs from publishers (Rainbow Resource, Classical Conversations, Peace Hill Press, Home Science Tools, etc.).  Many curriculum providers also have free samples or excerpts available online.

Read reviews and reach out to other homeschool families.  We love to talk about the choices we have made.  Ask us what we’ve used, whether we liked or disliked it and, most importantly, why. The very reason that a certain piece of curriculum didn’t work for my family may be the exact reason that it will work for yours.

The biggest thing to remember when choosing curriculum is that there is no one perfect curriculum; there is only the best fit for your family.  You may even decide NOT to use curriculum for every subject – and that is perfectly okay.

Keep the learning style of your kids in mind. If your child is a visual learner, workbooks might be the best choice for him. If, on the other hand, your child is a kinesthetic learner, you may want a more hands-on approach. Your voracious reader might enjoy a literature-based curriculum.

Utilize your library (if they don’t have what you are looking for, they may be able to get it via interlibrary loan). You may also be able to find it used – either at a local curriculum swap or online.

Don’t overlook the work that other homeschool families share online.  Many homeschool bloggers like myself make the materials we create available for free.  Click here to see my free science materials.

Finding Resources

Even if you have filed an R4 (establishing your own home-based private school), don’t feel like you have to do it all alone. If you are open to it, there are many ways in which you help your child achieve her goals in unconventional ways.

Homeschool Co-ops are groups of homeschooling families who join together to enrich their homeschooling experience by learning from and with one another. Often these groups will participate in field trips, sports, classes, etc. There are often mom’s night out activities and retreats to encourage and refresh us moms in the midst of our busy lives. As with any organized group, structure and rules vary from group to group.

Some homeschool parents volunteer their time to teach private classes for other homeschool families.  These small-group classes vary depending upon the skill and knowledge of the parent but may include literature circle (book club and/or writer’s workshop), art, woodworking, sewing, cooking, hands-on science, etc.  There are even online classes especially for homeschool families.

Similarly, you may seek out a private tutor or instructor for one-on-one classes.  This is particularly applicable to foreign language and music.

One area that many families overlook are resource specialists in you community. I have found that many specialists in the community love sharing their knowledge and skills with young people. This is particularly true of agencies funded by our tax dollars like the Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife, and National Parks.  Reach out to them and see what programs or opportunities they may offer. Many of these agencies also have extensive resources and lessons – even complete units – available for free on their websites.  Do a little digging and see what you can find.

Join me again next week when I discuss, Homeschooling in California: Preparing for College.

Don’t live in California? Starting July 1st, I’m joining homeschoolers across the nation to help bring you resources for all 50 states, plus a HUGE Homeschooling Giveaway with over $800 in prizes!


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