Thursday, March 21, 2013

Curriculum: TOO Many Choices!

What curriculum should I use? Which 5th grade curriculum do you like best?

These are the questions asked dozens of times each day by homeschoolers. Some of them are just jumping in to homeschool while plenty of others are still searching for the "just right" curriculum. The great news is that there are so many options for homeschool curriculum now. But it is impossible to know where to begin, so we ask other homeschoolers for their recommendations. 

Recommendations are empty if you haven't done the background work first.

You can get recommendations pelted at you like a Texas hail storm, but they won't be worth anything if you have failed to figure out the basic information first.

What's the basic information?
1. What are your goals for homeschooling? 
2. What kind of homeschooler are you or do you wish to be?
3. What kind of learner is your child?
4. What kind of teacher are you?

I HIGHLY recommend reading Cathy Duffy's book, 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. And I must tell you, do not buy it in e-book form. You will want to write on the pages and refer back to your notes constantly over the years. I first purchased the book for my Kindle and then had to re-buy it in actual book form. But, the information is so valuable, it was worth buying it twice.

Cathy Duffy's book helps you narrow down the choices. Then and only then can you truly glean any insight from recommendations. 

Take a look at these 2 scenarios and tell me which one you want to be:

1) I want to homeschool my 5th grade daughter. I do a Google search for homeschool curriculum. After reading a few descriptions, I am seriously considering XYZ. It looks like it covers all the subjects and the cost is great. I then go in search of some reviews of XYZ. Looking around, I find mixed reviews but I am beginning to think that the bad reviews are from people who just didn't use it right. I join a Facebook group for homeschoolers and I ask them if anyone has used XYZ. There are many replies singing the praises of XYZ. Well, that settles it. I am sold on XYZ so I hop on over to the website and order it. A few weeks later, XYZ arrives and it looks amazing with colorful pictures, a science book filled with experiments, a few novels, and more.
When our school year begins in August, we dive right into XYZ. It doesn't take us but a month to figure out that this curriculum is not a good fit. So back to Google I go, frustrated and broke.

2) I want to homeschool my 5th grade daughter. Not knowing where to begin, I order a copy of Cathy Duffy's book. The book is about half the size of a phone book! My friend told me that it's worth the time and money to work my way through the book. She uses XYZ with her son and he's about the same age as my daughter. I thought about just going with XYZ since that's what she uses and it seems to be great. But, instead I am going to work my way through this book. When I am done figuring out what kind of learner my daughter is, what kind of teacher I am and what my actual homeschooling goals are, I move on to the pages of spreadsheets explaining curriculum. Oh boy, this is going to take awhile. Soon I discover that my homeschool is so different from my friends. She must have a different kind of kid and different goals! According to the Duffy book, XYZ would be a waste of time and poor fit for us. Based on my information, the best curriculum for us would be either QRS or JKL. I go in search of reviews, compare kit components, and evaluate placement tests. I settle on JKL. My friend is surprised because she thinks XYZ is the best curriculum on the planet.
When our school year begins in August, we jump into our JKL lessons. It takes us awhile to find our stride, which I am told is normal, but my daughter seems to be learning and enjoying school. 

I know I want to be in scenario #2! I urge you to read Cathy Duffy's book. She really breaks it down and helps you weed out things that simply will not fit. The book won't narrow your choices down to one curriculum. Instead, it will just give you a narrow focus and show you a few options that will work best for your family. It is so great, almost freeing, to hear someone speaking highly of XYZ and know that while it might be a great curriculum, it doesn't fit you. 

Good luck in your search!

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