The Relaxed Homeschooler’s Guide to Picking Curriculum

Welcome to Day 3 of the homeschool planning mini-series! Today’s work is probably the most difficult but most important to your success. Choosing a curriculum can be daunting since we have soooo many choices! I’m going to cover a few ways to narrow down the playing field and some strategies to evaluate what you’re left with.

For this series, I’m referring to “curriculum” in the broad sense of everything you might use for learning purposes in your homeschool. But for this article, I want to focus on books and texts and sets you might be interested in using. Tomorrow we will discuss non-book learning that you can coordinate into your homeschool schedule.

Here are the topics for the other days of this planning series:

Day 1: Planning Your Homeschool Year

Day 2: Homeschool Schedules and Routines

Day 3: The Relaxed Homeschooler’s Guide to Picking Curriculum

Day 4: Non-Book Learning for Your Homeschool

Day 5: What Should I Put in My Child’s Portfolio?

This article is also part of a blog hop with the Homeschool Review Crew. Please use the Linky at the bottom of this post to find some new homeschool bloggers to follow!

Constitutional Literacy by Michael Farris

This article originally appeared on my old blog, Townsley Times. If you came here looking for this particular article but thought you were going to a different site, never fear, you’re actually in the right place. 🙂

“Relaxed” means different things to different homeschoolers, but for me, it means we have a loose schedule/routine on school days, we try to incorporate learning informally every day, and we don’t use a complete set of curriculum from any one publisher. We are free to pick and choose and change things up, depending on what are kids need at any given time. We are not doing “school at home.”

We do have a “skeleton plan” or a spine for our main work. I think this is a good idea for everyone who decides to mix and match from different curricula. Ask yourself what the main goals are for your kids this year (we covered this on Day 1) and that will determine what your spine should be. For us, reading and math are the two things that are most important for academics. So our resources for those subjects are our spine.

Like most things, homeschooling is very much trial and error. I’m not here to tell you what to use. You have to try things for your family to see how they work. You may have something work perfectly for your oldest but it’s a disaster for your second-born. It’s all good – we are homeschoolers and we will live to die another day! Just switch to something else.

Choosing a curriculum is a decision most of us agonize over, though. We feel like we’ll be married to it. Spending money and feeling it was a waste is always a bummer, so I get it. Let’s think about this logically so we can make the best decision possible right out of the gate. (Have I used enough cliches yet??)

Steps to Choosing Curriculum

  1. What subjects do I need to cover this year?
  2. How many kids am I teaching and do they all have the same needs as far as what subjects to learn? What levels are they each on? Can I teach them as a group, and on what subjects?
  3. Do I want to use textbooks and worksheets, or do they learn better through unit studies, projects, or video courses?
  4. How much energy can I put into this for each lesson? Is there a lot of prep time, and am I willing to do all that is required? Would I need to modify some of it for this reason? Is my child going to be willing to do everything also?
  5. What is my budget? Can I reuse some of this for my next student or the following year as a spiral? How much will it cost me during subsequent years, and how much is that saving me since I won’t have to buy new stuff? Will I need supplementary materials?
  6. Does it fit our worldview? What do I think about Common Core?

Phew! That’s a lot of questions to ask yourself. But this is going to help you make the best choice you can. If your kids are old enough, ask them what they prefer! It will take some of the guesswork out of it for you.

Answer the questionnaire above on a piece of paper so you can refer back to it. Do you remember your homeschool style from the quiz I linked in Day 1? This will come in super handy for today’s “homework.” It will help you figure out where to start your search.

Shortcut #1

What you’ll do is type “homeschool curriculum (your style here)” and see what comes up. Or “(style) homeschool curriculum list” and see if someone has compiled a good list for you to reference.

Be as specific a possible. Maybe you need free options, plenty of ideas come up for that! “Homeschool curriculum Christian” leads to some good results. Right away I see Sonlight, My Father’s World…and a post that has already done the work for me and compiled a list of links to publishers! Jackpot! You can then just work down that list and see what fits your needs for both your spine and anything else you might want to cover. (Apologia is on that list and we have loved the materials we have seen so far.)

As you’re checking these out, go through your questionnaire and consider how that curriculum might work for your family. Some items are deal breakers while others may not be.

Shortcut #2

Go to homeschool bloggers who are known for doing reviews. The Homeschool Review Crew site is a good place to start, and the veterans who’ve been doing it awhile have many reviews you can peruse (this is my first year so I don’t have a ton yet, but you can find them all here). If you click on any of the reviews on the Crew site, there is a Linky at the bottom where the reviewers link their reviews up. Once you navigate to one of their sites, click around a bit to see what else you find.

Here are some other bloggers who do reviews:

Shortcut #3

I cross reference everything with the master lists for the Common Core Project by the Homeschool Resource Roadmap to be sure we don’t accidentally pick up something that is aligned with Common Core. Tina has taken massive amounts of time to compile this information directly from homeschool publishers.

Even if you don’t care about Common Core, her subject area lists (a paid membership area, but it’s very low cost) can help you quickly find what you’re looking for.

Shortcut #4

Something else you might consider is an online resource like It is one price (paid monthly or yearly) for access to several hundred courses and supplements and you can use it for your whole family. These are not just online classes! We are low tech and this resource has been of great value to us.

We have found a lot of gems on there, including Drive Thru History videos and worksheets, tons of unit studies, art classes, even resources for me. It’s worth a look (maybe try the $5 trial over the summer) and see if you can use it as a spine or your extras.

PIN IT FOR LATER! Continued below….

The Relaxed Homeschooler's Guide to Picking Curriculum - Part of my 5 Days of Homeschool Planning Mini-Series, I discuss some strategies for choosing the right #curriculum for your #homeschool. We relaxed homeschoolers tend to pick and choose, which can make things complicated! #allthehomeschoolthings

Shortcut #5

Facebook groups like the Christian Homeschool Oasis are also great for recommendations if you’re not sure where to start in the vetting process. There is a Facebook group for practically every publisher out there. Join and ask your questions!

Shortcut #6

Carefully think back on past flops and WHY they failed. Use that as a springboard for next year. You don’t want to repeat something that didn’t work, but finding why exactly it didn’t work will be immensely helpful.

There isn’t an easy or quick way to go about this, you just have to put in the work. The shortcuts I’ve mentioned can speed things up at least. You can give yourself a good jumping off point just by knowing your style and the way your kids learn best!

Be diligent in your search. This is the hardest part to wade through in this process! Pray your decision through and God will lead you down the right path.

Today’s homeschool planning resource is a checklist and a prayer to pray over your work here. These are now available (along with each post and ALL the handouts for each day of the series) in my shop – the Plan Your Homeschool in 5 Days e-book!

This post is also included in a blog hop hosted by the Homeschool Review Crew. Use the Linky to hop over to another blog post! I pray this post and the others below are a blessing to your family!

5 replies to The Relaxed Homeschooler’s Guide to Picking Curriculum

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  2. you have laid out a good process for sorting through the buying of curriculum.

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