I remember the excitement and worry I felt when we decided to homeschool our children. I found a local homeschool group and talked to them about methods and curriculum choices. We chose to use a mixed method and curriculum. I discovered that homeschooling wasn't just about doing book work and essays at home. It was seeing and using our world as part of our lesson plans. These five steps will help you choose your family's homeschool curriculum.

Choose your homeschooling method

Choosing your family's homeschooling method will be easier if you know your child's learning style, strengths and weaknesses. Many methods have their own type and style of curriculum so knowing your homeschooling method will narrow down your choices. Here's a good source for understanding and helping you choose your method, Choosing A Homeschooling Method: Which One is Right for You?

Know your children's learning styles

Your children's learning styles will help you concentrate on a curriculum that leads to their growth. Will your child benefit from a curriculum based on reading, drama, visits to local museums, historic places, parks, textbooks, workbooks or the combination of two or more? Does your child need structure or can you allow him or her to study independently?

When you know their strengths and weaknesses, you'll be able to look for curriculum that builds on their strengths. Our daughter hated her third-grade writing book. So I quit using it and added story writing to her vocabulary studies. She did very well. A few years later, I put her and the other children in a creative writing course. The instructor told me she was writing at a college level and attributed it to her reading habits. I felt guilty that I hadn't realized she didn't need the writing course.

Know your homeschooling goals

What do you want your children to learn? How do you want them to learn? What curriculum will you use with the method you chose? Is religion going to take part in your family's homeschool program?

We wanted our children to learn respect and independence. We wanted them to know how to find answers when they didn't know. We use a mixed teaching method and curriculum. I love the flexibility we have. When our children find something interesting, we don't feel guilty about altering our lesson plans.

Our first home in Florida was in North Miami Beach. We were very close to the ocean. I took the children to the beach two to three times a week and we studied beach life, culture and the environment. We did the same with the ocean. We incorporated science, history, geography, physical education, creative and essay writing and art. They learned respect for the environment and, since they understood our family's homeschool program, they knew how to report about their visits.

Finances and time

How much money do you have to put into your family's homeschool program? How much time do you have for preparation? The answers to these questions will guide your curriculum choices. Honesty is important. New homeschoolers may find themselves frustrated with their curriculum choices if they cost and/or take more time than they have available.

It's important to work within your budget. This and your available time will aid in your final decisions for your curriculum choices. You may find a used curriculum that could better fit your budget. I have used the following to buy used curriculums, HomeSchool Talk and Swap page of vegsource.com, eBay, amazon and half.com.

If you don't have the needed amount of time for a certain curriculum, is your child ready to take some of the slack? If not, he or she may not complete important lessons if you aren't checking up. If they are able to work effectively on their own, they're well on their way to independence.

Research different curriculums

One of the easiest curriculum choices comes as a complete package. Your responsibility is to make sure your child does the work. Teachers correct and grade their program, supply transcripts and sometimes provide a diploma. See the familyeducationwebsite for different packages and costs.

A mixed curriculum is another option. Many companies that have packages allow you to buy separate subjects. I liked this because I was able to consider each child's needs as I studied curriculum choices. It's also easier to buy separate subjects since most used curriculums don't include the complete package.

Some methods want you to create your own lessons, such as unit studies and unschooling. If you've chosen one of these, or one similar, listen to your child. As you follow their ideas and give guidance and support, your family will be able to meet the lesson requirements.

HomeSchool Reviews is a website that provides curriculum reviews and recommendations from other homeschooling families and a book, 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, which may help with your curriculum decisions.

One of the most important things you need to remember when choosing your family's homeschool curriculum is you can change your mind. You may make wrong choices. Look past the disappointment. Sell or change the wrong curriculum and try another. Sometimes that's the only method that works for finding your child's learning style.

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