Picking the best curriculum for your family!

Home schooling might look like the best plan ever for your family.  Until you start to look at and for curriculum, then you might start to feel more like a fish out of water than a educator.  There are so many choices out there to pick from, and it can be very overwhelming.
Like many parents  I began to feel out of  my depth with the seemingly endless supply of home schooling resources available. But if you're stepping into the home school arena, you don't have to be intimidated. With a little preparation, you can find the curriculum that is a perfect fit for your family, I did!

Know your Foundation

The best curriculum for your children will be the one that aligns with your family's purpose for home schooling. Perhaps your  key values, political worldview, schedule and expected outcome should play a significant role in your decision. One of the best ways to avoid getting sidetracked from your initial purpose is to write an academic mission statement that you can reference as you're reviewing curriculum.
Don’t like the thought of writing a mission statement scare you! It is  much easier than you may think.  Your mission statement is just a  short statement briefly explain why you and your family has  decided to home school and define your desired outcome. Your outcome is characterized by what a successful home school year looks like to you and your family.   Start simple and then branch out.  Meaning you goal might be for the first year to work and complete a workbook,  that your children maintain grade level and score well on a standardized test.  How you measure success will be used as your main tool as you look and evaluate  curriculum and learning materials.
Then you have to  consider your influencing factors, such as the role your faith will play in your children's curriculum and how you intend to achieve your state's educational standards.  There are some states that  require home school students to adhere to detailed grade-level requirements. Others do not. Contact your state's board of education.  
A final variable in choosing a curriculum is your finances. What's your budget for home school curricula, and how expensive are they? Will you need a computer at home, and can you afford to buy one right now? Are there registration fees in the program, and what do you get for your money? Home school costs can vary depending on your curriculum choices. Figure out how much you intend to spend, and then adjust curriculum to fit your budget.

How will you teach

There are many ways that curriculum is offered — video lectures, computer programs, distance classrooms, books, workbooks and projects — each curriculum rests on the tenets of a single teaching model. To better understand how you want to teach your children,  I have included the six  most popular teaching methods:
Charlotte Mason
British educator Charlotte Mason saw learning as a lifestyle, not a means for passing tests and doing a set amount of assignments. She thought that part of the process should include a realization of who each child is in the world and before God. Instead of being empty sacks that needed to be filled with knowledge, children are seen as capable of contemplating ideas.
Classical Education
Based on a patterned concept called Trivium, the classical model sits on pillars of grammar (early elementary study), logic (middle school study) and rhetoric (high school study). This Socratic method has been used for centuries to raise leaders and includes memorization, training in public speaking and critical thinking.
The eclectic method allows parents to use different teaching models with different subjects. They may prefer one method for English and another for science, mixing and matching the ways subjects are taught to fit a student's unique talents and learning style, often on a set budget.
The Principle Approach
God's Word is at the center of this educational model. Biblical principles are explored in every subject, and a biblical worldview is taught. Research, purpose and reasoning play key roles, and children capture this individualized training in a notebook.
Lectures, reading, memorization, tests and writing are key to the traditional method. Curricula in this model may be self-directed, probably include workbooks, and inevitably strive to meet state and national education standards. In addition, good citizenship and character values are taught.
Unit Studies
Unit studies are lessons that center on a single theme, subject or time in history. Children of different ages can be taught the same lesson at varying degrees of difficulty. This allows parents to teach multiple age groups as they instill the value of learning in the lives of their children.

Understand your family

Curriculum is a tool to help your children gain the knowledge they need to advance to the next grade level. To find one that works for your family, consider these four keys to a home school routine as your base:
1.      How much time will you spend working one-on-one with your children?  If you have more than one child this is an important place to start.  Work out subjects and the hours you will be teaching.

2.      How motivated are you and your children? In subject areas where you are strong or your children are highly motivated, consider purchasing curricula that allow for more interaction. In areas where you are weak or your children don't like the subjects, consider a fuller program that offers self-teaching or video lectures.
3.     How much curriculum will you need to purchase? Most states require a specific number of instructional days and hours in an academic year; confirm your state's requirements. Perhaps you will need 36 weeks of curricula if your state requires 180 days per year. 

Start by creating a daily schedule, budgeting the amount of time necessary for each subject. Review subject programs that contain the necessary hours (per home school week) to complete state requirements, keeping in mind that you can always combine shorter programs if necessary.

Have fun and let it flow, most things will work out on their own. 


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