I get a lot of emails from moms who are just starting out with homeschooling. The theme of these emails is all the same. They are overwhelmed! I know that feeling very well! I am constantly astonished at how many curriculum choices are out there. Homeschooling has become so popular and there really is something for everyone, including developing your own curriculum. Regardless of your individual philosophy, delving into the world of homeschool curriculum can cause even the most dedicated homeschool parent to pull out their hair. If you are like me and struggle with being overwhelmed at all the choices, never fear! You can do this!
My oldest is entering 3rd grade this year and for the first time, I actually had fun picking out our curriculum. I certainly do not consider myself to be a “seasoned” homeschool mom, but I do have a few years under my belt and I feel a lot more equipped than when I started. When I first began homeschooling, I chose one curriculum for all the subjects because I did not know how to cater my choices to the needs of my child. For the last three years we have used Rod and Staff, developed by the Mennonite church and sold by Milestone Books. I still love it for its simplicity, emphasis on Bible knowledge, and how it stresses a country/rural life. Plus, the books are so affordable! But after seeing my son struggle over and over again with certain concepts, as well as wade through the very tedious and writing intensive workbooks, I was ready to try something new. Rod and Staff is great for the self-motivated learner who can keep moving through the questions and problems on each page. I have found that it has not been a good fit for my son, who very quickly loses his attention when his interest is lost. He simply gets bogged down with too many details.
It felt so good for me to choose our curriculum with confidence this year. Maybe you are new to homeschooling and overwhelmed with all the choices, or perhaps you just need the encouragement to ditch a tried (but not true for you) curriculum for something new. Here are my tips for delving into the immense curriculum world and choosing what will work for you and your family. At the bottom of the article, I’ve included the list of my own curriculum choices for our 3rd grade year.
1. Invest some time in learning how your child learns the best.
If you are starting out in Preschool or Kindergarten, consider purchasing a few cheap activity books or workbooks. I’ve found many good ones at the dollar stores and big box stores, as well as online. As you work through these with your child, you will begin to get a good idea of how your child learns and what to look for in future curriculum. Learning how your child learns is so important and will save you money on failed curriculum choices in the future.
2. Choose something you like and are able to teach.
Think about what would work for your child, but don’t forget about yourself. If you enjoy the curriculum, then you will love teaching it and your enthusiasm will rub off on your child. And don’t forget about your time! That’s a big deal for me because I have a lot of other responsibilities. Some curriculum can be very time-consuming for the teacher. Consider the time involved to teach whatever curriculum you choose and how that will fit into your life. If you don’t enjoy teaching your child and can’t find time to do it, homeschool will become a never-ending chore and both of you will want to give up.
3. If you have homeschooling friends, ask them about their favorite curriculum.
Ask if you can visit their home to look at their books. Most homeschool moms are excited to talk about what they use to teach their kids. We are a passionate bunch and love our books! I will give one word of caution. Make sure you find moms that can help you without expecting you to duplicate their choices. Some moms can get offended when you make different decisions. Just remember that not every curriculum works for every family and situation. Choose what will work for you!
4. Take advantage of social media to ask homeschooling questions.
Fill your friend’s list with other homeschoolers. Search for Facebook groups devoted to homeschoolers. If there is a curriculum that you think you might want to use, there is most likely a Facebook page devoted to it. Again, moms love to talk about the books they love!
5. Search for online reviews.
One of the sites that I find myself returning to over and over again is CathyDuffyreviews.com. Cathy does an incredible job of summarizing different curriculum. I especially love that she describes how a curriculum would be good for a specific type of learner, as well as how time consuming the program is for the parent/teacher. This kind of information is so helpful!
6. Visit a homeschool convention.
Many curriculum vendors sell their books at these conventions and they are an excellent place to look through a lot of curriculum. Honestly, I’ve never been to a homeschool convention and I feel like I have been able to homeschool just fine. I get easily overwhelmed with too many choices and I need lots of time to process what I’m seeing before making a decision. However, I know a lot of moms who purchase curriculum at conventions. The best strategy is to do your research before you go and have a list of your top curriculum to look at. We all love to see and touch before we buy and conventions are a great place to do that.
7. Don’t be afraid to make a choice.
But once you do, stick with it! My rule for myself has always been that I will never buy curriculum until I am absolutely sure that it is what I will use. And once I buy it, that’s it. No quitting to start something else during the year. Getting into a homeschool groove can be difficult in the beginning, but it doesn’t mean that your curriculum choice was wrong. Choose to stick with your curriculum until the end of the year and then re-evaluate for next year. It takes time to learn what you and your child need out of a curriculum. Plus, books are just too expensive to try out and discard for new ones.
You can homeschool your children! It takes some time to get started and choose your curriculum, but don’t let that scare you. It can actually be fun. I love thinking about what my son will love when choosing his books. And there is no better feeling than seeing the delight on his face when he is really enjoying what he is learning. It is so worth it!
My 3rd Grade Curriculum Picks
Everything that you see below is what I will be using for 3rd grade. Click on the pictures to see them bigger.
Bob Jones University. I love their thorough approach to math. The stories that go along with each chapter, as well as the age-appropriate content and graphics, keep my struggling math student moving through each lesson.
Joshua is learning cursive over the summer and will continue with it in 3rd grade. For his beginning practice we are using “Beginning Cursive Handwriting” and “Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes and Riddles”. As he gets better, he will do copywork from the Bible, as well as other notable phrases.
Bob Jones University. English was one subject that I had actually been very pleased with in the Rod and Staff program. It was pretty comprehensive, but after seeing the BJU program, I changed my mind. I love Bob Jones’ emphasis on writing. Every other chapter teaches writing composition with lessons on how to write things like a letter, game instructions, and even poetry. It teaches all the important grammar, and it cements it by putting it into practice. I believe that teaching children how to get their thoughts out on paper in a interesting, understandable, and correct way is a very important life skill.
Sequential Spelling. Instead of memorizing a list of spelling words, kids learn how to spell by learning root words and sounds. The parent/teacher dictates a list of words and the student writes them down. Each word is corrected before the student moves on. Children are able to spell completely new words because they are similar to words they have already spelled.
Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension
Wordly Wise. We are not doing a specific reading program this year because Joshua is now reading books on his own. He also has a good amount of reading in his Science and Social Studies lessons. I decided to include the Wordly Wise program because of its focus on vocabulary and learning definitions. There are weekly word lists and a different lesson each day to examine the words. The last lesson gives a story using the words to test a student’s reading comprehension. I like how the workbook is laid out in a more standard school and test layout, which will prepare Joshua for any future standardized tests.
Apologia’s Young Explorer Series. In Joshua’s younger years we did the typical general science lessons for his age. Our curriculum last year was usually pretty boring to him because the lessons focused on things like flowers, animals, and the moon and stars. While these are great things to learn about, he is well familiar with them because of our life on the homestead. This year, I’m excited to delve into human anatomy. I know he will love it! If you have a kids of many ages, Apologia may be for you. Their program allows you to teach Science to many different grade levels.
Topical unit studies. I decided to put together my own Social Studies curriculum this year. We are currently working through a unit on maps and landforms of the world. After this we will move on to American History, beginning with the explorers. We will read library books about historical figures and events, as well as incorporate worksheets found online. There are many free worksheet sources and lapbooking materials available online. One of my favorite sites is teacherspayteachers.com.
How to Draw books by Barbara Soloff Levy. These are great for beginning artists. They offer step by step diagrams and teach kids how to draw by using simple shapes. Kids can learn to draw by drawing their favorite things. Joshua also loves doing crafts. He now has his very own craft table to work on his creations.