Whether your homeschooling journey is just starting, has yet to begin, or needs a new direction, finding the best tools and resources to support you is essential.
While parents and kids are at the heart of homeschooling, curriculum might be the backbone. As parents, it is possible to find the correct instructional school courses and substitute that with an online curriculum. There are lots of options to select from. So how do you find the ideal method of study for you and your learners?
What is Homeschooling?
Homeschool is precisely what the name suggests: a family educating their child(ren) at home. It’s a broad term that implies no specific teaching or learning style. It extends all the way from preschool through a student’s high school graduation. Each with individualized lesson plans and grading.
The U.S. experienced a rise in homeschooling in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as many families opted not to send their children back into public schools.
Several factors contributed to this trend, including parents’ desire for more influence over curriculum choices. Choosing a curriculum that supports your family’s unique needs and preferences is a critical piece that sets the tone for learners and their environment.
Types of Homeschool Curriculum
Homeschool doesn’t have to look like school at home, but it might. You might be a traditional homeschooler if you envision something like a public school curriculum but in a more relaxed, intimate setting.
You’re looking to cover the basics (Math, Science, Social Studies, and English Language Arts) in a familiar way. You’ll find suggestions for this type of curriculum further down the page.
Unit studies curriculum
Finland makes headlines for the quality and outcomes of their public school system more than any other country. In 2017, they famously “got rid of” all school subjects, taking an interdisciplinary approach instead.
If that interests you, consider a unit studies curriculum. Unit studies revolve around a central topic, covering everything from literacy to mathematics within the context of a shared theme and related experiences.
Charlotte Mason curriculum
One core feature of a Charlotte Mason curriculum is the absence of worksheets and textbooks. Students learn through authentic exploration, habit training, and high-quality texts (not textbooks). Mason believed in educating the whole child to shape her life and ideas rather than filling her brain with facts and information.
At its core, the Charlotte Mason curriculum centers around “living books” – books written in a narrative style that engage the reader’s emotions and imagination. She believed children should be outside more, exploring, camping, and backpacking in the woods.
Notably, a Mason curriculum is teacher-led. It could be a good fit if you strongly believe in what, when, and how growing children should learn. Today, Charlotte Mason is more known as a Christian homeschool program.
This approach is designed to cultivate students’ love of learning and curiosity as they explore various topics across the humanities, sciences, and arts. There are no standardized tests here with this homeschooled method. Additionally, the Charlotte Mason curriculum strongly emphasizes character education and the development of good habits, such as attention, truthfulness, and perseverance.
Montessori learning is highly practical and involves specific, minimalist learning materials. The tactile activities are designed to prepare learners for the work of everyday life.
Unlike Mason, this model is child-centered and meant to progress at whatever pace is right for each learner. Children are encouraged to explore their interests and curiosities and become more independent.
For older kids and teens that might need to be nudged in the right direction from time to time, you can find educational subscription boxes for teens as a great supplement. Teens learn and have fun, so expanding their education won’t feel like a chore.
“Unschooling curriculum” is a bit of an oxymoron, as the hallmark of an unschooling lifestyle is the lack of curriculum!
Unschooled children learn entirely at their own pace, based on their own interests. They may never specifically study a discrete subject (like math), but they will encounter it in their daily lives, from budgeting to playing games. It’s the parent’s job to offer enriching opportunities and materials, engage in meaningful conversation, and make a note of what their child’s learning looks like.
A recent nationwide social media poll suggests that a large percentage of homeschoolers unschool— perhaps even a slight majority.
Factors to Consider when Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum
With all these options, how do you choose what’s right for you?
As you weigh the choices, you’ll want to consider logistics such as resources, cost, and time involved (yours and your children’s). Consider something that fits into your life. Are you working full or part-time? Where is your child during the day? How much room do you have in your budget for homeschooling resources, curriculum, and supplies?
It would help if you also considered your personal beliefs and preferences and your child’s needs and preferences. Do you believe all children should learn a fixed set of subjects or skills? Do you think that children should direct their learning? What role should an adult play in a child’s learning and development? Does your child crave structure? What kinds of activities do they enjoy, and what/how can they learn from them?
Reflect on these questions at the outset and as you go along. Be prepared because you may end up choosing your curriculum more than once!
Top Homeschool Curriculum Options
One of the most widely used homeschool curriculum options is Time4Learning. Time4Learning is standards-based (common core) and covers all the fundamental subject areas — a plus for traditional homeschoolers. The schedule is entirely customizable and learner-paced.
This option allows you to easily track progress and collect ample evidence you may need to submit to your local school district. Parents tend to appreciate the lower effort on their part.
That being said, some families have stated that the science and history lessons are “dry” and the time on-screen is a bit excessive.
Time4Learning is 100% online, so in addition to the lengthy screen time for your child, it requires a stable internet connection. It costs about $25-$35/month, depending on your student’s age.
Oak Meadow offers two options: independent curriculum use or school enrollment. You can enroll your learner in their virtual school and let Oak Meadow teachers guide them through the learning, or you can purchase the curriculum and implement it on your own. The option provides some flexibility depending on your availability and your kids’ different learning styles.
Oak Meadow is an experiential curriculum that relies on hands-on projects and authentic learning experiences for real life, focusing on sustainability. Parents and kids who love this program tend to be outdoorsy, peaceful, and creative. One mom shared in an online forum, “They’re very Waldorf, Beatrix Potter, pretty feeling. My kids are like Transformers — loud, bright, and breaking things.” Which sounds more like you?
School enrollment is a financial investment, while curriculum purchase requires more time commitment. Browse Oak Meadow’s offerings online to see what’s right for you.
The Good and the Beautiful
For those who choose to incorporate Christianity into their lessons, The Good and the Beautiful is popular. Families can purchase a full homeschooling curriculum, specific subjects, or supplemental lessons that support public schooling. All the major subject areas are covered, as well as some electives.
The Good and the Beautiful emphasizes “family, God, high character, nature, and wholesome literature,” giving it a notably Charlotte Mason feel. The publisher allows free trials before you decide to invest.
If you’re interested in a Christian curriculum but this one feels like a bad fit, Sonlight is another popular option.
Based on an informal Facebook poll, a piecemeal selection of curricula from various sources is the most common choice for homeschoolers who choose to use a curriculum. This style is often called eclectic homeschooling. Parents recommend a “trial and error” approach to finding what works for each family, making changes as needed, and using different paths for different subject areas.
A few popular content and curriculum sources used by eclectic homeschoolers include those mentioned above, as well as IXL, Beast Academy, Blossom, and Root, and Exploring the World Through Story.
Piecing together various resources allows you to make tailored decisions concerning your time, budget, preferences, and overall needs. This works out well for online homeschool, Christian homeschooling, and kids of all school years looking for an education program.
DIY Homeschool Curriculum Resources
An eclectic homeschool style is one kind of DIY option. Some very dedicated, creative parents go so far as to create their own curriculum from scratch! This might be due to personal preference or a real need if nothing out there covers your child’s interests at the appropriate level.
Some tips for designing your own curriculum:
- Plan backward — start with your goals in mind, then figure out how to move toward them.
- Build around resources, activities, and topics that your learners enjoy. For record-keeping, document all extra work, transcripts, field trips, tutoring, and coursework in a homeschool planner. Documentation will also be useful in a support group to share your learning experience and scope and sequence.
- Look for resources from educational sites like STEM Education Guide. They have hands-on reviews, a great resource guide on homeschooling subscription boxes, and science curricula for school-aged kids.
- For a wonderful, hard-copy guide that includes copious text and resource suggestions, I recommend the book Home Learning Year by Year.
One of the most attractive and impactful features of homeschooling is the ability to make your own informed choices and follow a plan that works for you. Take some time to reflect and clarify your goals and values before you dive in. Check out all the homeschool resources, parenting guides, and homeschool programs for homeschooling parents in our resource section.
Remember, it’s okay to make adjustments as you go — in fact, you can plan on it.
This article originally appeared on Hello Sensible.