Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How I Choose Curriculum

I have been asked to share more about the homeschool curriculum we use and how it's working for us.  I will break this up into lots of small posts and I will start with a post that explains how I choose my curriculum.   

Choosing homeschool curriculum can be extremely overwhelming.   There are so many options out there, and if you're like me, money is precious.  So you want to get it as right as possible from the beginning.  
And since you usually have to order it online, this is very tricky.   

There are a lot of good ways to do this but over the years I have kind of settled into a way that works for me.  

There are two main homeschool supply websites that I use: Rainbow Resource and Timberdoodle.   I know there are other good sites out there but these work for me.  

Rainbow Resource has just about Everything.  And they usually have the lowest prices.  But if you're starting from scratch, they are totally overwhelming because they have everything.  Their print catalog is the size of a big city phone book.  If you want to select, say, a math curriculum for your second grader, you will be reading reviews for hours and you will overwhelmed with all your options.  

This is why I like Timberdoodle.  They are a small, family-owned company and they go through everything out there and pick out what they feel are the best products.  So if you go looking for a math program, you can read in detail about a small handful of choices, each of which will probably be better for a different type of learner.  

Even better, Timberdoodle does these wonderful all-inclusive curriculum kits.  They pick out what they feel are the best things for each grade and put them together for you.  There are many companies out there that do complete packages (Abeka, Sonlight, etc.) but Timberdoodle's are different because they choose the best of what others are publishing instead of self-publishing everything, their kits are more affordable, and you can customize stuff.  I also like the way Timberdoodle always includes some fun stuff: logic games and puzzles and manipulatives. 

I always start my curriculum planning with a look at what Timberdoodle has in their kits this year.  I will read through their descriptions of everything and see what interests me and what sounds like it would work for my kids.  I find this to be a lot of fun.  I go through everything with the kids too; Bean in particular does better when he is shown a set of books and I tell him "this is what these homeschool experts say will give you a good education for your next grade."  For some reason if he sees that he will more readily accept things he may otherwise balk at, such as grammar.  

Next I make a spreadsheet with everything I am hoping to do with each child.  Some are things from the Timberdoodle list, some are things I already have, and some are things I have heard about elsewhere (like Convention) that I want to use.   (Timberdoodle does not have the monopoly on everything wonderful for homeschool, of course, though I have scarcely gone wrong with what they recommend and thus can say that if you don't have a lot of time for research you would be in really good shape if you just bought one of their kits.)  

At that point I go through and comparison-shop for the best price.  I check Rainbow Resource and Amazon.  Amazon is not usually the best place to buy homeschool stuff, but I always check.  I make a note in the spreadsheet of where the cheapest price is and what that is, and then I can budget accordingly. 

As the school year approaches I usually end up doing a big order from Rainbow Resource, a big order from Timberdoodle, and some small purchases from Amazon. 

So that is how I pick the majority of my curriculum these days.  I know there are other wonderful resources and I have used some in the past, such as Cathy Duffy's Top Picks for homeschooling, but as the pace of my life accelerates and I have less time to research things, I find it easiest to turn to a trusted source that has done a lot of the legwork for me.  

I am just about to start planning for next year... grades 8, 6, 4, 2, and pre-K.  I am excited!

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