One of the most heartbreaking things about homeschooling is when a parent spends hard earned money (especially when the budget is tight) on a curriculum for their child, only to find out that the curriculum just isn't right for their children. Add in the frustration of getting a month into a particular subject, realizing it's just not going to work, and then trying to figure out what exactly to do about it and it can send any homeschool family into a tail spin. Do you continue with the curriculum? Do you sell it off in hopes that you can recover the money loss in order to try another?
Nobody wants to be in that situation, so today as part of the 5 Days of Homeschooling Curriculum blog hop, I thought I would give a few tips that I have learned over the last few years to help avoid this major bit of homeschool stress.
#1. One Price for Everything Membership Is Your Friend
I cannot write enough to praise websites like SchoolhouseTeachers.com that have multiple style curriculum available for the cost of a membership. These types of websites offer a full range of subjects ranging from Core Classes such as Math and Language Arts, all the way to Electives such as Foreign Languages, Photography and Violin Lessons. A single membership allows members full access to all these classes and lessons to be used by all students in the family. I find these types of sites well worth the price tag because I can try a curriculum and if I find that it's not working for my kids, I can quickly find something else that does without having to make multiple purchases. This also allows me to allow both Garrett and Ashleigh to pick subjects that they find interesting that they can do independent from each other without breaking my bank account. The classes offered are often well planned and new material is constantly added. You just print it out and teach.
#2 Don't let a high price tag necessarily be a deterrent when deciding on a curriculum.
Many times, people get discouraged when they see a curriculum that might cost $99 for one subject. However, before passing on that curriculum, research particulars such as if the publisher allows for families to make copies of the materials for multiple children. For example, Institute for Excellence in Writing's Ancient History Based Writing Lessons in Structure, Style, Grammar and Vocabulary will run you $50 for the Teachers Guide and Student book combo - which is very reasonable. IEW is VERY generous when it comes to making copies of their material so this 50 dollar curriculum can easily be used for two students at one time or for using with multiple kids over a long period of time. When used between 5 students, that 50 dollar curriculum suddenly equals less than 10 dollars per student (since part of that cost includes the teachers guide) for a multi-subject curriculum.
#3 Know that Just Because Your Friends Like it/ Hate it Doesn't Mean You Will
I am so guilty of this and I had to learn this particular lesson the hard way (and with plenty of money lost). If you frequent any of the homeschool facebook groups or forums, you'll constantly see people asking for suggestions for a math program, history curriculum or Grammar program. Everyone will be quick to recommend the program they are currently using or say what didn't work for them. Take all of these recommendations with a grain of salt - what works for one (or even 100) won't necessarily work well for your family. Use these suggestions as a platform to research a curriculum, but don't buy a program just because it comes highly recommended.
#4 Know your Student's Learning Style
If your child is more of a kinesthetic/visual learner (meaning they learn better when they can put their hands on things), MathUSee with it's hand on block system might be a better math curriculum for your child than a more reading/instruction based system, even if the other curriculum comes highly recommended. A visual/Auditory learner might fare much better with an online video style curriculum than they will from a workbook/textbook style curriculum. Take a bit of time to observe your students (as not each one will have the same learning style) and learn their learning style before shopping for a curriculum. By understanding how your student learns best, you'll be able to match a curriculum they will get the most out of.
These other four all lead to the most important:
#5 Do Your Research
I can't say this enough - don't rely on others opinions to sway where you spend your money.. Order catalogs from the various publishers and download the sample pages they offer on their websites. Visit review websites like The Schoolhouse Review Crew to get non-bias opinions of the curriculum you are interested in. Attend homeschool conventions and actually get your hands on the curriculum. Never buy a curriculum on a whim, you'll almost always regret it in the long run. Also, when you do find a curriculum you have fallen in love with, research if there are any available discounts available. Many companies, such as Alpha Omega Publishing, offers discounts for military families, for example.
By keeping these four tips in mind when shopping for curriculum, you can help reduce the risk of ending up with a curriculum that you or your kids absolutely hate.