I originally planned to give reviews of the various homeschool curriculum I’m using on this blog. However, I’m not using a single curriculum exactly how its intended. Not a single one. So today, instead of telling you what products I’ve purchased, I’m going to tell you what I’m actually doing.
The biggest thing I’m doing is improvising. I started our homeschool year in the middle of August, so even though many of our local public schools are barely getting started, we’re almost two months into our homeschool year. I started off by talking about the various homeschooling styles. I thought I was selecting curriculum based upon the style that would best suit my students. But before they really started homeschool, none of us knew what styles actually work best for our family. So we’re changing our plans and re-configuring how we use our curriculum to make it better match our needs.
That is one of the biggest blessings of homeschool. When something isn’t working, you can change it. Chances are high we’ll change things again several more times before the year is over. This actually leads to my biggest piece of advise for other new homeschool families. Don’t spend lots of money on curriculum during your first few months of homeschool. Obviously, you need to have something to use with your students. But start with a few simple workbooks and a stack of library books. Or see if you can download a sample week of a curriculum your considering and then actually try it for a week before you purchase it.
Chances are high, you’ll abandon most of your workbooks long before you complete them, but at least you haven’t spent a small fortune on an expensive curriculum you’re quickly casting aside. The biggest thing you need to figure out in the first few months of homeschooling isn’t what curriculum you plan to use, but how your kids learn.
Do you love reading aloud to your children, and do your children also love listening to you read aloud?
Do your students enjoy reading to themselves, even when the books your giving them are non-fiction? Are they capable of doing narration or writing assignments about the books you have them read? Or would a guided worksheet to accompany their reading be better?
Are Documentaries and Educational Videos a valued addition to your homeschool experience, or something that puts everyone to sleep? If you do like videos, I highly recommend Crash Course. It’s a PBS series on YouTube that has year long series of videos on just about every subject you can think of (geared mainly for middle and high school students).
How much do you enjoy setting up complicated art projects and science experiments, and how much do your students enjoy doing them? If you’re spending an hour to prepare for a ten minute activity your kids don’t even like, you might want to cut back on the number of projects you’re preparing.
All of these questions can be answered with a bunch of library books, some online searches for documentaries, and project ideas. Websites like pintrest and teachers pay teachers are great places to get ideas for things to try as you figure out how best to teach your students.
Once you actually know the answer to all these questions, then you can think about buying curriculum. But even after you do buy curriculum, don’t be afraid to tweak it to better fit your families needs. Maybe that means shifting the order of the lessons, pulling in extra resources, or skipping some of the assignments. Maybe it means you do an entire weeks worth of a curriculum on a single day, or that you use the textbook but set aside the adjoining workbook completely.
I also recommend starting simple. Especially if you have older students, you will likely want to begin your school year with a homeschool experience that looks relatively similar to traditional school. As time goes on, you can modify either the curriculum you use or how you use it to more perfectly match your families teaching/learning styles. But to begin with, having something that looks familiar can make the transition to homeschool a lot less stressful for everyone.
I have found Teachers Pay Teachers to be a great resource when trying to replicate school at home. All the lessons I purchase through Teachers Pay Teachers look and feel like public school. When I only select fun and engaging activities, everyday of homeschool is like the best day of public school. And as an added bonus, Teachers Pay Teachers is very affordable and you can purchase anything from a month long unit curriculum to a single days activity. So its easy to start small and build larger once you actually know how your homeschool functions best.