If you’re new to homeschooling, one of the first questions you face will be curriculum choice. I myself am often asked about this topic by curious non-homeschoolers — How do you decide what to use? Where do you get them?
The fact that most believe there has to be a curriculum at all is telling of our school mentality. After seven years of homeschooling, I can tell you that you really don’t need half the stuff out there. I, for one, have never completed a set curriculum.
But for those starting out, this is not so easy to accept. I remember my first year and what I wanted then was guidance, a complete list of materials, and most of all, I wanted a schedule!
I liken the search for curriculum to walking through a maze. There are many paths you can take and not all of them are going to lead you out (to your perfect mode of schooling). I suggest you read through a few homeschooling philosophies and pick the one that rings true to you, be it Classical, Core Knowledge, or Waldorf (check out our sister site Curriculum Choice, for more examples).
Once you’ve decided which path to begin on, look through their main curriculum choices. For most of the popular ones — The Well Trained Mind, Core Knowledge, or Oak Meadow, for example, you should be able to find numerous reviews and sample pages of their suggested path of study. The best way to find out if it is the path for you and your child is to just dive right in and give it a test drive. If you hit an obstacle or dead end, then go back and try a different path. After all, if you find yourself faced with a concrete wall, you wouldn’t continuously charge at it to make the path work for you. You might eventually get through but it’s not going to be pleasant and you may even come out battered and worn. Most of us prefer the scenic, peaceful walk through whenever possible! If you’re stuck, turn around and try something else.
Just remember whatever curriculum you pick is one of many, many choices and you are not stuck with it. For this reason, if you can get your hands on a used copy, the better. Give it a week or even a month at the most. Eventually, most of us find exactly what works for our family. You may end up using parts from different curriculum or none at all. As long as your children are learning and enjoying their experience, you will find the path to the end of the curriculum maze.
Amida has tried out many curriculum and writes about her own choices at Journey Into Unschooling.