Picking a homeschool curriculum that will meet the needs of your family shouldn’t be difficult. The task, however, can be overwhelming to even the most experienced homeschoolers. It may be so daunting to new homeschoolers that they make a quick decision they later regret. Visit any internet search engine and search for “homeschool curriculum” and one quickly becomes inundated with endless choices. Simply asking “what curriculum do you use?” will probably confuse a new homeschooler even further. Making the final decision, however, can be made easier if you follow a few simple steps.

1. Think of the child first. Don’t try to buy something that will fit all of your children unless they are all close in age and have similar learning styles. Learn your child’s interests and style. Do they learn better by seeing, doing or hearing? Will they sit long enough to finish a worksheet or do they respond better to manipulatives?

2. Think of your teaching style. Do you want a curriculum that will do the teaching for you, provide you with a lesson plan or leave you to your own methods? Generally, the more teaching help you want, the more expensive the program. Many people new to homeschooling and still skeptical use a curriculum on video or an online school as a crutch. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it also doesn’t give the parent experience in teaching their children in a more formal way. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some parents feel their natural relationship with their child & the child’s curiosity is more beneficial than a formal lesson plan.

3. Identify what you want from a curriculum. What subjects do you want covered? What type of learning style and teaching style would you like it to reflect? What grade level will you need (grade levels mean very little to most homeschoolers, so look for a placement test)? Do you want a curriculum you can use year after year or with more than one student? Do you want something based on a specific religious belief?

4. Start your search. Visit an internet search engine with very specific search terms (ex: hands on Christian curriculum; workbook style English curriculum secular fourth grade). Visit message boards (see links at right) and ask for reviews and suggestions. Attend local homeschool conventions, call companies for catalogs, join a local support group and arrange a curriculum preview day. Both Christian and major market bookstores often have homeschooling sections, and if they don’t, almost all have teaching resources and offer educator discounts to homeschoolers.

5. One you have your list narrowed down to 2 or 3 choices, starting analyzing them with a critical eye. Factor in the cost, parent preparation time, and child study time. Don’t forget to think about the resale value, we all make mistakes and why have an unused item sit around for 5 years when you can sell it and make back a little bit of what you spent. Remember that consumable items have less resale value than reproducible items.

Also keep in mind that you don’t have to buy every subject from the same supplier. You can buy math from one company and history from another!

6. Once you make your final decision start looking for a price deal. Consider buying used if possible. Two of my favorite places to look at Rock Solid, Inc. for new items and VegSource Homeschool Message Boards for used items. Place wanted ads and browse for sale ads and see what you can find. Always visit Froogle to see if you can find a better deal.

Don’t be afraid to shelf, toss, resell or give away something that isn’t working. If the curriculum bores your child, makes you anxious, makes anyone cry or if your child hides at school time, it’s not a good fit! Pretty displays and glossy magazines can make even the worst curriculum choice look perfect! Remember, the curriculum companies pay people to sell their items to you; it’s your job to be discerning!

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Meg Grooms is currently homeschooling her four children in the southern United States. In addition to her homeschooling duties, she serves as a local school board home education advisor and leads a local homeschooling support group. You can email Meg at homeschooling@bellaonline.com

This article was originally published on Bella Online. For more information, visit http://www.bellaonline.com