Let’s talk Curricula
Let’s stop here and take a deep breath. Deschooling is going to be very helpful as you approach this task. Curriculum is overwhelming. You have hundreds of options and there is more being cranked out every time you turn around. Just like with homeschool styles, you don’t have to pick one type or brand and stick to it.
Hear me when I say this - You will buy curricula that you don’t use or that you absolutely hate. It is going to happen. If it doesn’t, I think you're probably eligible for some kind of homeschool medal. Your best option is to go into this slowly, explore your options, and know your homeschooling goals. What are you really hoping to accomplish in your family through homeschooling? Give yourself grace. If something you have chosen isn’t working, scrap it and try something different. It’s okay.
Don’t do what I did and torture yourself and your family by locking yourself into something that isn’t working. Just because it works for some, doesn’t mean it will work for your family or even all of your children for that matter. Also, remember that you don’t necessarily have to use formal or store-bought curriculum. It all depends on what homeschool approach(es) you have chosen.
Your homeschool is just that - YOUR homeschool. There is no best homeschool curriculum. That’s not what we need to be looking for. We are each looking for the curriculum that is the best fit for our family. You’ll need to consider your goals, your individual learners, yourself and level of involvement, and your situation. When looking at curriculum, think about what is being taught, what learning or homeschooling style is being implemented, and how the information is delivered. One more deep breath and we will jump in...
When looking at curriculum, you will typically run into about four basic types. Subject level curricula, grade level packages, unit studies, and all-in-one programs.
I also recommend attending a homeschool curriculum fair. This is worth the time even if you have to travel to attend. You can read about our life-changing convention experience here.
Subject Level: This one is pretty self-explanatory. You choose the curriculum that you like best in each subject area. This allows more diversity and is a great option if you implement a variety of homeschool styles like we do.
Grade Level: All of what you will need for a specific grade level will be in one bundle and will include all basic subjects. I gravitated to this when we first started (remember I skipped deschooling) because it aligns most closely to what I was used to. Now I hate when I (or my kids) get asked about grade levels because we really don’t know and it varies by child and subject.
Unit Studies: Unit studies may be comprehensive or limited in scope. Comprehensive unit studies choose a central theme or topic and integrate most or all basic subjects. Limited unit studies are usually narrower in scope and may be shorter in duration, though they do cover, or at least touch on, a variety of subjects. Oftentimes, you can find unit studies that include all or several academic levels in one bundle. You can also create your own unit studies, which is a great way to explore your child’s interests and teach multiple learning levels with one set of materials.
All-In-One: This option, also called boxed curriculum, is a bit like unit studies but it does not maintain a unifying theme or topic. This is a great option if you plan to use lesson plans that are all spelled out across every subject and if you plan to have a fairly rigidly set schedule that you don’t plan to deviate from very often. All-In-One programs may be chosen at age, grade, or skill level and provide the materials you need for the school year or grade level.
My family almost suffered death-by-Sonlight (an all-in-one) our first year. The company is honest and transparent. They even give you a list of reasons why you shouldn’t choose Sonlight. Number 8 says “You expect the Instructor’s Guide to be a taskmaster and not a guide.” Whoops! I must have missed that one. My type-A, check-listing self could not function without completing ALL the suggested assignments… and all the suggested supplemental materials. It was terrible, through no fault of Sonlight’s. They tried to tell me. It did teach me a whole lot about myself and how I wanted to homeschool.
That said, I have several friends with awesome kids and they love boxed curriculum. It is an amazing option for many families, just not the Wests; not for now anyway.