Thursday, October 29, 2009

Curriculum – what to choose and what to stay away from?

There is not an easy answer to this one. But I will put a few tips here that might help wade the deep and sometimes rough waters of finding your tools.

Curriculum always drove me crazy. It did not help that, at first, I insisted on going to the homeschool fairs to do all my research. A few words of advice I got on the fairs a little too late:
1. Leave your checkbook at home. You can always go home, think about it and then order the items you want. In the end it might end up cost a little more (not always) but spending a little extra on shipping is still better then going home with the wrong fit.
2. Don’t take your kiddies, it is a distraction to you AND to the other attendees. Most of the fairs are very kid friendly but when you have your littles tugging at your legs while you’re trying to listen to a speaker, or listen to one of the vendors tell you why their curriculum will solve all your problems, you tend to make rash decisions. The exception to this would be the high school years. There are usually speakers and activities directed toward the high school students. It also is very good for them to hear how much work is involved in getting transcripts together, thinking about collage applications and or career choices.
3. Take notes and brochures and put notes on your brochures and if you have a camera on your cell phone – take a picture of the vendor with a piece of their curriculum. You’ll never remember all of that information, no matter how much they impressed you.
4. Take an extra bag for all the brochures, samples and that one or two items you just can’t leave without. Even though I warned you to leave your checkbook at home…

Also, I have found that just because a curriculum works for one kid does not mean you’ll be able to use it for all of them. Saxon math is a good example of this. I love Saxon math, well I love it AFTER you get into the 54 book. I used Saxon with the first, after struggling through others of course, and I used it for the second too, BUT we had to take a break from Saxon and used Math-U-See instead. Now the first used Math-U-See once too, but it just did not work for him. It can be trial and error, and it can be that for each and every child or you can get lucky and find one that works for multiple kids.

The point is curriculum is a funny thing. I’ve only found a few things that I was thrilled with and each of them had their draw backs, and I have not found one thing yet that really, truly worked for all the kids. Some of them only needed a tweak rather than a complete change, which was nice. Some people have had the “perfect” curriculum or program, so it isn’t that you should give up all together, just don’t be disappointed if the first thing you try just doesn’t do all you thought it would.

One more suggestion I have for curriculum, borrow, borrow, borrow… get with a homeschool group and ask if you can look over some of their books. Use some of it for a while, if you really, really like it then go ahead and buy it for yourself. If you find out you hate it – well you’ve just saved yourself some cash, go get yourself a coffee and celebrate.

Remember that the internet is a fantastic resource! There are any number of freebies and even some sites that charge a small fee that are very useful. I’ll have some links in the side bar of my blog, but don’t be afraid to just spend some time with my dear friend Mr. Google. It can be time consuming, but no one site is going to have all the good ones listed.

One more thing: HAVE FUN with this!

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