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Buying a Curriculum

This article, written by an experienced homeschool parent, aptly outlines the reasons someone might purchase a curriculum. The author describes a common experience; as we become more experienced, we learn to pick and choose from the curriculum. There seems to be something transformative about the process of homeschooling; as we assume the responsibility for our children's education, we also develop into discerning evaluators of what works best for our families.

Written by Carla Suzanne Spearman Reily

(Reprinted with permission from the newsletter of AOL's Homeschool Connection.)

OK, I admit it. I have used a boxed curriculum. In fact, I have used several. Even though now I am much more eclectic and relaxed in my approach in home learning, there are some good reasons to purchase a curriculum.

When we first started out, we used a very strict homeschool program with all the bells and whistles. You could even spend even more money to have a teacher at the "school" be your advisor. Though we did not use the advisor, I did feel much more comfortable with our decision to homeschool. I had all my books, all my plans laid out in a day-to-day program and I felt very comfortable that I was doing what was right for my child.

Even though I am now much more eclectic and relaxed in my approach in home learning, there are good reasons to purchase a curriculum. Don't let anyone condemn you if you choose this route. We all have to do what we think is best for our family.

Many first time homeschoolers feel more comfortable with a full-blown curriculum. When you are trying to decide whether to homeschool or not one of your fears could be "Can I do this?" or "Will I be doing enough?" Using a boxed curriculum may help to alleviate those fears. Many of us started that way, then stayed with structure or went to more relaxed methods. We all have to deal with our own comfort zone.

Another reason may be that there are some homeschoolers that live in states that have very difficult laws pertaining to homeschooling. There are very strict rules and they have to present lesson plans and other "proofs" of homeschooling. There are always ways to abide by the laws and still do your own thing, but many find it easier to comply to the letter of the law. Others have to use cover schools or teacher evaluators that have standards that may be easier to comply with under a set curriculum.

We are a military family and I have come across many families overseas that buy the whole package. Many reasons exist but the main one is the non-availability of books or other materials. Libraries can be inadequate on many military bases and when the public library only has books in Spanish or German you might find it difficult to read Dickens until you have learned the language. Many others that are living overseas find it easier to do an all inclusive curriculum. Missionaries, those whose jobs take them overseas and many that have made another country their home may find that a curriculum works best for them.

Some homeschool families feel a bit daunted by familial intervention, or in other words, the family of the homeschoolers keep butting their noses into the homeschool family's business. Using a curriculum may help ease family tensions. Though many of us don't worry about what our family may think or say, others have a terrible time and find it easier to give a bit and get a curriculum that is academically challenging or "acceptable" by all. The best way we homeschooled was five thousand miles from either set of relatives.

I know that in our family, my husband was, initially, not too keen on homeschooling. When he finally agreed to it, he insisted on a 'curriculum' and to see daily progress, etc. Now that we have been homeschooling awhile, he has loosened up quite a bit and is now a whole hearted advocate of a more eclectic style. We are using a curriculum this year but we are not married to it and are using the bits and pieces we like and winging the rest of it.

There are some important things to consider when looking at buying a curriculum.

First, when you go to a homeschool fair, leave your credit card and/or checkbook at home or at least in the car. It is so easy to get carried away when you see the pretty pictures and fancy shmancy covers. Please, take my advice, from experience, do not buy unless you know prior to going what you want. Even though in our first year we used an all inclusive curriculum, I still found much much more that I just HAD to have. I don't even want to think of how much I spent that first year or what is still laying unopened or unused in a closet somewhere in this house, four years later.

Don't buy something because your best friend uses it. What works for one family may not work for yours. What works for one child may not work for another. Don't let people tell you that you must use this or that. Look it all over, ask many different folks. Remember, this is a big investment.

Consider what your child wants or needs. Does your child love to read? Then you might want to consider a literature-based curriculum. Does your child like to tinker with things? Maybe a more tactile approach would be good. Some children love workbooks, some are daunted. Some children like pictures and such while others are easily distracted by them.

After you have made a choice, is there a way to reduce your cost? Can you find some textbooks at used curriculum stores or on the internet? Does the library carry some of them? Do you have friends that are willing to lend books to you? Remember, just because you want to have a set curriculum you do not always have to BUY the whole thing. Check out the individual programs to find out more. Some curriculum providers will let you buy some of the program or just the teacher's manuals, etc. Check out various programs and see if you can do this.

Some curriculum providers are good about a return policy. As long as you take care of the unused books and keep them in pristine condition, you can return them for either an exchange or your money back. Be sure to check with the individual curriculum providers to find out their policies.

Everyone must decide for themselves what will work best for them. Take your time to evaluate your family and your style. Talk to people, research the learning styles and materials on your own and find out what works best for you. Believe me you will find it to be a rewarding experience no matter what you use.

Massachusetts Home Learning Association

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