the CHOC Board
a Christian Home School Resource Directory for the extended Portland Oregon metro area
Getting Started: Why and How
Know the Law
Deciding What to Teach
Deciding Which Curriculum
Planning Your Homeschool
Real World Solutions
Teaching the Three R's
Pitfalls to Avoid
Deciding Which Curriculum

Homeschool 101


HOW DO I CHOOSE CURRICULUM?


 

 
Marketed curriculum will stress the scope and sequence based upon whatever the publishing company's or writer's educational philosophy is. 
 
For a discussion of educational philosophies, please see our section Deciding What to Teach. 
 
Traditional Style Curriculum
Generally, if you are following a more traditional curriculum from publishers like Bob Jones or Abeka or Alpha Omega, you will cover what is generally considered standard for any given grade just by following their grade-level subject suggestions in their curriculum catalogs.  Keep in mind that these companies cater largely to private schools which generally have a stronger and faster scope--subject coverage--than most public schools--Abeka is scoped about 2 years faster, Bob Jones about 6 months to 1 year faster, and Alpha Omega generally meets or exceeds the average public school scoping pace. 
 
Just looking online at these companies' curriculum suggestions and their curriculum scope and sequence for each subject at each grade level will give you a good feel for what is pretty traditional fair for each grade.  You can also download or purchase their curriculum scopes which list in detail what each subject covers in each grade which is one way to decide what to do when if you are a more eclectic  homeschooler--not rigidly following any one publisher's total curriculum scope but rather picking and choosing from various publishers--many homeschoolers like to pick and choose according to their family's vision and needs, especially as they gain more experience.
 
Links to traditional publishers and programs can be found in our Curriculum Publishers Section either listed individually or within Exodus Provisions bookstore.
 
Classical Style Curriculum 
Classical homeschoolers generally follow the suggested scope and pacing presented in books such as the "Well Trained Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer. Well Trained Mind also offers a website with supports and resources in how to use the material.
 
The Charlotte Mason approach shares the classical philosophy that "education is learning to learn" but desires to be more child friendly. For discussion of the Charlotte Mason approach, go to Ambleside Online  or  SimplyCharlotteMason's sites.  Commonly the Charlotte Mason 6-volume series or Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's updated "For the Children's Sake" is used for scoping with the Charlotte Mason approach.  We personally found Karen Andreola's "Charlotte Mason Companion" to be a useful and gentle introduction.
 
Many classical programs are scoped very strongly and geared to a more private/prep school audience with strong emphasis on classical literature, languages, and critical thinking skills. See Veritas Press Publishers, Greenleaf, and Tapestry of Grace for classical type publishers. 
 
Links to classical publishers and programs can be found in our Curriculum Publishers Section either listed individually or within Exodus Provisions bookstore.
and in English Literature and Literature Based History on our Handy Links page.
 
Unit Study Curriculum
There are several companies who produce Unit Studies that integrate literature, writing composition, history and science into one cohesive thread (math and phonics are taught separately). 
 
Konos and the Weaver Company are well known for producing unit studies.  Tapestry of Grace also uses a Unit Study approach, with a classical flavor. 
 
Several companies integrate only history, literature and writing composition but do not cover science, math, and grammar.  Beautiful Feet and Notgrass History are examples of those types of programs. 
 
Links to unit study publishers and free unit study programs can be found on our Unit Studies section and in English Literature and Literature Based History on our Handy Links page.
 
Delight Directed and Eclectic Styles
If you prefer to launch off your child's "delight directed" interests using  "living books" (literature style biographies and fact books), encylopedias, and reference guides, or do not wish to be locked into one publishers traditional or classical scope, there are some guides available to help you set some overall academic goals as you chart your own courses. 
 
Robin Scarlata's book "What Your Child Needs to Know When, An Evaluation Check List for Grades K-8" and E. D. Hirsch's series "What Your ### Grade Child Should Know (insert whatever grade #) are tools which give a good overview of common expectations at each grade level from kindergarten through 8th. 
 
Scarlata would follow a strong but pretty traditional path, E. D. Hirsch's books follow what would be considered a more aggressive "prep" school or classical path. 
 
You could also simply google "scope and sequence" and follow some school district's or private school's suggestions as to what might be a reasonable expectation of academic coverage for each grade level.
 
Our Handy Links page includes lots of resources for free material and references.  New Leaf Press and Master Books, listed in our Reference section, in particular provides a number of high quality resource books for the Christian homeschool.
 
 
 
Simpler is often best.  Ruth Beechik says in her books "All curriculum works, if the teacher does."  We would add to that--use your commonsense to work smart!  Overly complicated or labor intensive programs usually end up being discarded.   Yes, all learning and teaching takes work--but you and your child should not be exhausted by it.  
 
Take time before purchasing any curriculum to see if its implementation makes sense to you.  Choose curriculum that makes sense to you as teacher and is reasonably easy to implement for the family. If you can't make "hide nor hair" out of it nor feel personally comfortable with it in a reasonably short amount of time, it's probably not the curriculum for you no matter how good it may be or how awesome other families find it.  If it is a curriculum in which the publisher states you need to spend a substantial amount of time to learn how to use, make sure there is an excellent refund policy if you cannot preview it adequately before purchasing.  However, we tended to shy away from that type of curriculum because it was usually unneccessarily complicated or poorly organized.
 
Amazingly, much of teaching and learning is being diligent to do what is next.  Really.  (If in doubt, read Ruth Beechik's books).  Creativity is fun, intense study can be exhilarating, but it is consistency that carries the days!  Choose curriculum that you can be consistent with.  After that, you can add things to spice it up or stretch your topics in areas needed.
 
Observe your child closely for connection with the curriculum.  Children engage when they are learning and give lots of clues when they are processing information and storing it in their brain cells.  Does your child bubble along at the task or exhibit an intense resolve? If so, you can be assured the curriculum has "clicked" with them.
 
Watch how your child interacts with their world to see their learning style.
Kinesthetic/Hands-on learners will want to investigate with their hands and body movement.  They'll want to become part of what they are learning. 
 
Visual learners will want to see what you are teaching them, draw it, read it over your shoulder. They may even close their eyes to visualize what you have just read when asked a question about it. 
 
Auditory learners will repeat it to themselves, sing it, talk out the problem to you. They will restate to you what they've learned in numerous different ways. 
 
Learn to read your child's body language.  You will gain insight to your child's learning style which will help you choose appropriate curriculum or adapt any curriculum to your child's learning needs.
 
Cathy Duffy's curriculum guide books discuss the different learning styles, so does Cynthia Tobia's "The Way They Learn."
 
Curriculum is listed by learning style on our Handy Links:Curriculum Publishers page.
 
If you are just starting your schooling path with young children, focus on the basics first (reading, writing, and arithmetic).  It doesn't take a lot of day or curriculum to do that.  Short, sweet, consistent...and make a point to add in some fun! 
 
Talk with others. Comments from others can help in your curriculum search--to a point as each family will have a unique experience.   Exodus Books has user feedback reviews on the curriculum they sell (Click on the title of an item in their catalog, a link to customer reviews will be at the bottom.)  Also, Homeschool Reviews offers user feedback reviews on various curriculum on the market.
 
A good curriculum choice will give a sense of enjoyment and regular accomplishment toward your goals for both parent and child.
 
 
Oceanetwork has a good article entitled "
" for the homeschool novice which includes schooling methods and curriculum publishers. (You will need Adobe Reader first).
 
The local homeschool store, Exodus Books, also has a very helpful article on their site entitled "Approaches to Homeschooling" that discusses the various approaches and curriculums and also includes links to that curriculum which they carry in the store.
 
 Cathy Duffy's guides and Mary Pride's guides have sections which cover curriculum reviews, learning styles and schooling approaches. 
 
For ideas of scope and sequence in the high school years, go to our "Homeschooling High School."
 
 
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(Permission is given to print this article for personal use if credit is given to the CHOC Board and our website address is included.)