At some point, sometimes before you transfer your child to homeschooling and sometimes after, you have to figure out what it is you’re going to do in your homeschooling. There are loads of books and websites and conference sessions that can help you do this.
But especially if you want or need to get going quickly, there is a way to narrow down all the wide range of choices that can result in a better match for your child.
There are three basic steps to this, and two more to carry out your decision.
One: find out your child’s learning style. Two: pick a homeschooling philosophy/method that is good for your child’s learning style. Three: pick a curriculum flows from that philosophy and uses that method (unless you’ve picked unschooling).
The first step: there are many websites you can google for this. Or Cynthia Tobias has written The Way They Learn. Most schools only teach to one learning style via one method: textbook learning. Particularly if your child was having trouble in school, you need to figure out what his learning style/s is. Some kids will have a blend of styles.
The second step: Go to www.thehomeschoollibrary.com. This is a website of forums put together by homeschoolers. One section is on Homeschooling Philosophies and Methods. It’s a series of short descriptions of these. One of the great things they’ve done on these standardized reviews is to include what learning styles each philosophy works with or not.
The third step: On this same website, scroll down to “Complete Curriculum Reviews” (you can move on to individual subject areas later). Again, all the reviews are written in a similar, un-biased (or at least admitting their bias) fashion. They tell which educational philosophy/method each curriculum falls under.
How this looks in practice: You read about learning styles and realize that your child is a hands-on learner (step one). You go to the website and decide that Unit Studies sound like something your child would enjoy and would work for your family (step two). You are thus able to ignore many of the different curricula described there, and narrow it down to a handful of choices quickly (step three). After looking at your possible choices and weighing in various factors like cost, time, prep time etc., you pick Konos.
You can get by without a curriculum; many seasoned homeschoolers will use pieces of one with pieces of another and even blend methods (and unschoolers will be exposing their kids to all kinds of experiences and resources). But the great majority of first-time homeschoolers will be much more comfortable and less-stressed with a well-chosen curriculum, particularly one with a great instructor’s guide. A lot of the fears about “Am I covering all the bases? How do I do this? What do I teach?” and questions from family and spouses about “How can you teach when you don’t know everything?” are reduced by having a packaged curriculum. And less stress for the parent/teacher means a better overall experience for everyone involved.
There also reviews of curricula designed to teach several kids of widely different ages at once.
The fourth step is actually picking the curriculum. The fifth step is deciding how you’re going to get it.
The two big considerations here are money and time. If you have enough money but not much time, then buy your curriculum new–don’t spend too much time bargain-hunting. But if you have plenty of time but not so much money, or don’t need it right away, then you have a number of options.
Every homeschooler should be a member of The Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op, http://www.homeschoolbuyersco-op.org , where they negotiate group buys and discounts for members. Membership is free.
Sometimes you can find a homeschooling friend who will lend curriculum to you, but usually only after they’ve known you awhile. Many states have homeschooling network groups. Check http://homeschooling.about.com/od/supportgroupsbystate/Homeschool_Support_Groups_by_State.htm . Or in Indiana, go to www.ihen.org and find the County Contacts page for your county (click on the map).
You can also try used curriculum sales. Sometimes you’ll find an entire packaged curriculum that a family is done with–often minus any “consumables” like workbooks or science project parts. But you’ll always find lots of books, workbooks, textbooks, CDs, games, science equipment, maps… all kinds of educational resources. Once in awhile you’ll see things that are brand-new. This is usually because Mom or Dad liked it but it didn’t really work for the child they bought it for, or they found something they liked better. There are many used curriculum sales all around the country, usually starting around the end of April and running through early July. I organized one last year for August for those late in deciding to homeschool.
Sometimes you can find things at used bookstores and library sales, particularly if you’ve picked a method that uses a lot of real books.
There are also a number of online resources, such as eBay, VegSource forums, the for sale forum at thehomeschoollibrary.com, and HSLDA’s member forum.
This route to figuring out the practicalities of homeschooling will save you many weeks or even months of research so that you can bring your kids home and begin your homeschooling adventure with confidence.
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