For many homeschooling parents, no curriculum seems to “fit.” For others, the cost of a full curriculum is more than they can afford. There are all kinds of reasons why some homeschoolers want to design their own curricula: personal, religious, financial, and other purposes all play into the decision. So where do you start if you’re going to design your own homeschooling curriculum? Here are some tips.
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What are you hoping to achieve as a homeschooler? This list of goals may include practical academic ones as well as, for example, character development or more family time. Think through the kind of person you want your child to be. What do you want him or her to learn this year? Are there any character issues you’d like to see improve, such as greater independence or more respect for elders? Whatever it is you’d like to accomplish in your homeschool, write it on the goals list.
What Do You Think of When You Think “Education”?
Answering this question will go a long way in helping you decide how to design your own curriculum. If you attended public schools, the term “education” probably conjures up images of teachers, chalkboards, desks, and playgrounds. If you attended private school or were homeschooled yourself, then your ideas of education might be completely different.
Once you’ve defined what you automatically think of when you think of “education,” you can adjust and refine that to what you want education to be in your house. You might ask yourself, “How could my education experience have been improved?” “What did I especially like/dislike about my education experience?” “What about my friends – did they have any particular things they loved/hated about school?”
Your Child’s Interests
Consider your child’s loves, passions, interests, and so forth. Is there something your child always talks about or wants to see? Does he always gravitate toward something in nature (birds, wildlife, plants, rocks), or does he seem especially interested in how things work (engines, motors, machines)? My boys have always been fascinated by cars, NASCAR, and baseball.
Think about those things that your child is interested in, and tie them into academic subjects. For example, your child may like dogs, painting, and machines. You could list these along with educational aspects and create unit studies, like this:
- Science: Veterinary medicine; care for dogs as pets; origins of the domestic dog; the science behind machines
- Painting: Study various art techniques in creating paintings of dogs; paint machines to study how they work
- History: Trips to various exhibits and museums featuring machines
- Social studies: How machines have benefited the world and how they got started
As you can see, your child’s interests can be tied to his education with little creative thought. Think outside the box (curriculum).
Your Local Library
Contact your local library to see if there are any special services for homeschoolers. Libraries can help a lot in finding books on how to design a unit study, and they can help you put together a collection of books on a particular subject.
Many libraries even offer online books and audios. Usually, you just need your library card and a password to access the books or audios to “rent” for a set amount of time. These can then be downloaded to your computer or an iPad, tablet, etc.
Most states offer at least one homeschool convention a year. You can check with your local or state homeschool group for dates and locations. Most are held in spring or summer to cater to the following year.
Conventions have workshops and speakers to help you navigate all things homeschooling. And there are vendors set up with all sorts of curricula. You can actually pick things and up and look through to see if it would be a good fit for you and your family. Many vendors even offer discounts during this time.
Many co-op groups have classes that teach elective subjects. Or you might be able to seek advice from one of the parents in the group. Most homeschooling families are very open and love to help others.
Many online sites offer schedules or lists to help you plan your homeschooling curriculum. For example, Ambleside Online has a list of curricula scheduled out for each school year.
Also, many books are available online for free or for less than the price of paperback or hardback. Online stores like Christian Book Distributors offer many choices. Educents is another great option. They offer books, curriculum, toys, workbooks, and more. They also carry many products for those with special needs: ADHD, autism, dyslexia, sensory processing disorder, and more.
Check to see if you have a brick-and-mortar store in your area that offers used curriculum. We are fortunate enough to have one near us.
Also, you can check sites like eBay. We’ve even been able to find some brand new items at Goodwill!
Now that you know the basics, talk to other homeschooling parents, too, and find out some of their insights. Become part of the homeschool community, and enjoy the process! Part of the beauty of homeschooling is being able to tailor the curriculum to your kids. If something doesn’t work, there are other options out there.
There are many books on how to plan curriculum. I’ve listed a few here for you.
- Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School by Rebecca Rupp (this is a great resource; I read this early on in my homeschooling journey)
- Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace by Pam Barnhill
- Plan To Be Flexible: Designing A Homeschool Rhythm and Curriculum Plan That Works For Your Family by Alicia Michelle (this includes links to helpful online content and resources)
We use Amazon all the time. Just the shipping alone we save is worth the yearly fee. And since we canceled our cable, we still have options for movies and tv shows. I thought I’d share some of what Amazon offers:
Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial – Prime is a great option if you don’t have it already. Some of the benefits of a membership: free 2-day shipping on most items, streaming movies and tv shows, borrow Kindle books, photo storage
Prime Member Exclusive: Save up to $40 on Fire tablets – this is a nice alternative to a computer for some things; you have access to apps, the internet, e-reader, and more. If you have Prime, there’s access to the streaming videos and music
Shop Amazon Devices – $40 off Select Kindle E-readers – great deal for e-readers; we bought our boys e-readers a few years ago when Amazon had them on sale – now they don’t have to fight over a device to be able to read
Amazon FreeTime Unlimited Free Trial – access to more than 16,000 kid-friendly books, videos, and apps
Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans – access to over a million books, and thousands of audiobooks; you are allowed to have 10 books “checked out” at a time; Prime also offers PrimeReading as part of Prime without an additional fee