Curriculum. That word can make you soar with happiness or strike you with dreaded fear.
Some of us like to pour over different curriculum, scope and sequences, grade levels, all of it. We love the way it fits together just so, creating a whole system of education for our children, one that will light just the right bulb for them.
It’s addicting, really, this homeschooling thing. Watching your children spark with interest, watching them explore the world in a whole new way. No matter which curriculum we choose, this is a goal for all of us: to light up our children with learning.
Yes, a boxed, all in one curriculum can do this and some of them do it very well. However, these types of curricula can be expensive, cumbersome, and overwhelming.
What if you take a new approach and start piecing together homeschool curriculum?
And like I mentioned in my curriculum post, if the curriculum doesn’t fit you, then it’s not a good curriculum, no matter how expensive it is or how high the ratings are.
So what are the other options? What about those of us who don’t like to pour over different curriculum?
Most of us are trying to figure this out on one income, so what are other inexpensive options?
Well, fellow mama, I am here to tell you that you can do this! You can pull together a learning program for your child and not spend a lot of money on that curriculum set. I have some simple tips to help free you from the boxed curriculum!
Tips for Piecing Together Homeschool Curriculum
What’s Out There?
The first thing you need to know is what’s out there. If you’re a new homeschooler, you might not be very familiar with all of the different names and publishers that are offered to homeschoolers. That’s ok! We’re going to go over some of them here.
If you’ve been around for a while, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the homeschool curriculum world. I’m just going to stick with the big ones for the purposes of this article.
Like Rachel Ray always says, I’m going to teach you a method, not a recipe, so you can use your own ingredients! But it is good to know what’s out there. A quick Google search of your subject will yield tons of results. I’m going to lay out a quick and easy game plan of the major curricula in each subject. Of course, feel free to add your own favorites to this list!
- Math U See
- Christian Light Publications
- Teaching Textbooks
- Life of Fred
- Rod and Staff
- RightStart Math
- CTC Math
- Math Mammoth
- Story of the World
- All Through the Ages
- Pandia Press
- Geography Matters
- Spelling U See
- All About Reading
- All About Spelling
- How to Teach your Child to Read In 100 Easy Lessons
- Handwriting Without Tears
- Italic Handwriting
- Well Trained Mind
- Reasons for Handwriting
- Answers in Genesis
- Notgrass (History resources but coming out with a new science curriculum)
- Rosetta Stone
- Henle Latin
If you’re still having some trouble, think about your kiddos—what are their strengths and weaknesses? What do they like? What are their bents? Asking yourself questions like these will go a long way in helping you figure this out.
This is a lot of trouble, it seems. Wouldn’t it just be easier to pick a company, say My Father’s World, and just go with that? And, to be honest, on some level it would be easier to have it all done and wrapped up for you.
But before we give up too soon, let’s explore some of the benefits of piecing together your own curriculum.
Moving Your Children Around Is Easier
Sometimes our children surprise us. We are pretty sure we know exactly what level they’re on, what they are good at and not so good and then they go and surprise us by not being where we thought they were. Or they move through the books quicker, or slower than we anticipated.
Whatever the situation is, we must face the idea that our children will not perform exactly the way we thought they would. Moving them to the next level or putting them in a lower level is sometimes necessary for everyone’s sanity.
When you have a curriculum that is pieced together, you can do this much easier! A lot of times, boxed curriculum is structured in such a way that all of the subject areas fit together, like puzzle pieces.
So you’re reading a literature book, but there are similar concepts, characters, situations mentioned in history. Without the context of the literature book, the history portion doesn’t have the same value.
But when you have everything independent of each other, this doesn’t happen, which is a benefit in this case. The good news is that if you have to move your child to another level, it won’t affect the other areas.
Sometimes our children can do the 4th-grade history but need to be in 3rd-grade math. This is quite common and when you use stand-alone books, you can move them around much easier, without affecting the entire curriculum plan or needing to buy an entirely new set.
Combine Children On Your Terms
Often times homeschooling families will combine similar aged children into the same subjects. History, read alouds, science and sometimes even spelling and writing can be combined. This takes a huge load off of you and it can be fun for your children to do science experiments or talk about history together.
If you’re using a boxed curriculum, usually you need to do what the curriculum tells you when it comes to this, since they have a flow and a goal in mind. However, their ideas may not match up with your goals or family dynamics, making it difficult to use the curriculum the way it’s intended.
If you’re going to spend all that money on curriculum, don’t you want to be able to use it to its full extent?
When you use stand-alone books, you can combine your children on your terms, according to your own family’s individual needs. You are dictating how your family learns, not a curriculum.
Without a teacher’s guide holding you hostage and making you feel guilty, you are free to do whatever you want! If you have children that love history, you can do it every day instead of once per week as a teacher’s guide might suggest.
You really don’t like science but you need to get it in, just schedule it once per week instead of 3 times per week as another guide might tell you to do. Maybe you want one child to do modern history and one to do ancient history.
You have complete control over your schedule, how much and what type of school needs to get done, how fast you move through the curriculum, and how much time is spent. There is no need to feel guilty or stressed because you’re not moving at the pace the guide suggests. You can do what you and your family needs!
Speaking of freedom, by using a piece-meal approach, you can also combine the best of the different homeschooling methods. Should you do classical, Charlotte Mason, or unschooling? If you’re putting your own books together, you can do all 3!
You can use Well Trained Mind’s writing program (Classical) and Math U See’s math program (mastery/Charolette Mason). Or you can follow an unschooling or delight-directed approach for science and history and still teach Latin (Classical).
Whatever your goals are for your children, you can achieve them much easier most of the time by putting together your own learning program. You can take the best of all of the methods and combine them into one fantastic school experience! Anything you can dream up, you can do!
If you think you need to create lesson plans, you don’t. Most of the stand-alone curriculum either has a guide or a suggested amount of time you should spend. Sometimes you can find “aftermarket” lesson plans that others have put together, like this one we use for our Apologia Science curriculum.
Look for books on Gutenberg, Amazon sellers, and Facebook marketplace. You can find free and very inexpensive curricula in these places, too. Even if it’s used, most of the time it’s in pretty good condition. Most homeschoolers intend to sell their curriculum, so they take good care of it.
Don’t be afraid to just jump in and try this. You can do this! Even if it doesn’t work out and you want to go back to the boxed curriculum, you won’t mess up your children by doing that. It’ll be OK and I’ve found that God fills in the gaps pretty well.
I have used every single one of the curricula I listed above. They all have their own pros and cons but are all ones I would recommend to anyone, veteran or newbie.
I sincerely hope that I have helped you today in some way, whether it’s given you some confidence or just a couple of new ideas to try. I am honored to be here with you in this space.
Please reach out if you have any other questions.
I also have a toolkit that is available to help you with any scheduling needs you have, no matter what type of curriculum you’re using. Check out my Homeschool Scheduling Toolkit page and see if it’s something that might work for you.
Please know that I am so excited to help you succeed in your homeschooling journey!
This post was written by….
Amber Stephens is a homeschooling mama, entering into her 19th year of home education with her active duty husband. They have 5 daughters and 1 son, but a few have wandered into adulthood, leaving only a couple left. Some are adopted and some are bio, but all are loved. Together, with her husband, they run their little homestead that consists of goats, chickens and a beloved horse.
This article is a part of our How We Homeschool Series; a collection of content from full-time, veteran homeschoolers sharing their own experiences on the versatility and diversity of homeschooling. You can read more about the series, and see all of the content, by clicking the image below.