Homeschooling can be a challenging yet rewarding journey. The pressure of knowing your children’s education is on your shoulders may weigh heavily on you. But you also enjoy the benefits of having maximum time building a heart connection with them.
Thankfully, in recent years homeschooling has become easier with easier access to more information.
Decades ago, homeschooling parents were limited to materials they can buy from bookstores or homeschool conventions; now, with a click of a button, we can easily download a guide or worksheet that we need.
What Is a Homeschool Curriculum?
A curriculum is a detailed plan of lessons that you intend to cover throughout the school year. Teachers in public and private schools follow a set curriculum, and as a homeschooling family, having a curriculum helps ensure that you cover everything you need.
Do You Need a Curriculum to Homeschool?
Not all homeschoolers use a curriculum. The need for one depends heavily on the kind of approach you choose to use in your homeschool.
Some of the most common homeschool methods include:
- Unit studies
- Classical Education
- Charlotte Mason
- Eclectic approach
You can read more about each method in our guide on how to homeschool.
Among these popular homeschool approaches or methods, school-at-home and unschooling generally do not use a curriculum.
For school-at-home, families will typically just buy a set of books corresponding to the child’s year or skill level, and all they have to do is work through the book one page at a time.
If you happen to be one who opts for doing school-at-home, these are the most popular publishers of textbooks that work best for homeschoolers:
- Alpha Omega Publications – AOP is the award-winning publisher of time-tested products including Lifepac, Monarch, Switched-On Schoolhouse, Horizons, and Weaver
- BJU Press – Founded in 1973, BJU Press publishes textbooks not just for homeschool but also for Christian schools.
- Abeka – Affiliated with Pensacola Christian College, Abeka began in 1972 and has since been publishing textbooks for Christian schools and homeschoolers worldwide.
- ACE Ministries – This publisher created the Packet of Accelerated Christian Education (PACE), modules that highlight individualized, self-instructional, and mastery-based learning
- Christian Liberty Press – CLP is the publishing arm of Christian Liberty Academy
For unschooling, you will generally be researching things as you go along, based on your child’s interest. In this case, your best help would be a stable Internet connection for researching information.
What is a Good Homeschool Curriculum?
In choosing a homeschool curriculum, you need to consider the following things:
1. Is it a good match for your family dynamics?
An important consideration when picking a homeschool curriculum is your current family dynamics. For example, are both you and your spouse working? If so, that will mean you will need a curriculum that is not as time-intensive for you as the parent.
Are you a frequently-traveling family? That may mean a curriculum full of hardcopy books to lug around is out of the question. If you are open to using e-books, this may still work for you.
2. Is it within your budget?
Many of the boxed curricula available come with a hefty price tag. Make a careful check of your family’s budget and don’t be forced to buy something you can’t afford. If you really like a particular curriculum, shop around for secondhand options. If it still won’t work, consider checking out your second choice.
3. Does it help your child learn?
One temptation for homeschoolers is to buy a boxed curriculum because of its rave reviews—only to find that for some reason, your child does not respond well to it. As a homeschooling parent, your main responsibility is to check what works best for your child.
4. Does it match your family worldview?
While it may not be possible to find a curriculum that you agree 100% with, some general beliefs may play into your decision.
For example, if you are a freethinking family, how do you feel about using a Christian curriculum? Or if you are a devout Catholic, how would using an evangelical curriculum affect the things your children learn?
In this case, it may be good to lay down your non-negotiables, and pit your choices against this list.
Once you have decided on your approach and the non-negotiables for your curriculum, you can then proceed to choosing your curriculum.
You have the following options:
- buying a boxed curriculum
- using an online curriculum
- mixing and matching curricula for different subjects
- creating your own
Buying a Boxed Curriculum
A boxed curriculum means that you purchase a whole year’s worth of lessons all laid out for you. They also include the books that you will need for the whole school year. (Some of them include math, while others don’t, so you may have to look at our list of math curricula as well.)
Because many of the boxed curricula available combine elements from the different homeschool approaches, we have compiled them in one list for you:
- Sonlight Christian Homeschool Curriculum: a literature-intensive curriculum that exposes children to a Biblical worldview
- Five-in-a-Row (FIAR): a unit-study curriculum teaching different subjects using a literature selection as the basis for a weekly unit study
- Simply Charlotte Mason: a Charlotte Mason curriculum with a history rotation as the spine
- Heart of Dakota Publishing: a literature-based open-and-go curriculum that takes into account different learning styles and offers booklists in a package
- My Father’s World: combines different elements from classical education, Charlotte Mason, and unit studies
- Winter Promise: a unit-study inspired literature-rich curriculum
- Logos Press – a classical education curriculum using the best books
- Build Your Library: a secular Charlotte Mason open-and-go curriculum
- Weaver: a unit-study Christian curriculum by Alpha Omega Publications
Meanwhile, the following curricula are available for less cost, with some using a combination of purchased and free materials online.
Free or Inexpensive Curricula
- Ambleside Online Charlotte Mason Curriculum: Ambleside Online offers a fully free Charlotte Mason curriculum, using many books free online. Some recommended books need to be purchased, but options are available for substituting most of them with free e-books.
- Mater Amabilis: With most Charlotte Mason curricula coming from an evangelical Christian worldview, Mater Amabilis offers a Catholic-centric Charlotte Mason curriculum.
- Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum: Dr. Robinson developed this curriculum to train his children to learn on their own. The curriculum comes with a collection of e-books for easy printing.
Using an Online Curriculum
Alternatively, you may want to check out online curriculum for your children to do right on the computer.
- Time4Learning – Time4Learning is an award-winning online curriculum enjoyed by homeschoolers and after-school users alike
- Connections Academy: Connections Academy offers virtual public school learning for K-12
- Power Homeschool: Power Homeschool offers interactive courses that students can study at their own pace.
- Monarch by Alpha Omega Publications: This Christian online homeschool curriculum is available for Grades 3-12 and offers automatic record-keeping and grading.
Free Online Curricula
- Easy-Peasy All-in-One Homeschool: Easy-Peasy is a free online curriculum for those homeschooling on a budget.
- Khan Academy: The website offers content created by experts on every subject needed for school.
Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum
For families opting for an eclectic approach, where you mix and match, here are some of the top picks for language arts curricula:
Math Homeschool Curriculum
Math is one area that many homeschooling parents are nervous about. But the good news is, many of these curricula come with teachers’ guides or even video teachings:
- Math-U-See: Math-U-See is a K-12 curriculum that uses multi-sensory tools.
- Teaching Textbooks: Teaching Textbooks features video lessons and a 3.0 version that allows students to view the lessons online.
- Math Mammoth: Math Mammoth is a set of quality textbooks and workbooks for elementary and middle school.
- RightStart Math: This complete elementary and middle school math curriculum emphasizes visualization of quantities and uses games and strategies for learning math facts. It comes with a two-sided abacus to help visual and kinesthetic learners.
- Singapore Math: Using the national math curriculum that put them on the map, the Singapore Math curriculum instills a deep understanding of math concepts by moving from concrete to pictorial and finally to abstract thought.
- Saxon Math: This complete math curriculum from K-12 uses an integrated approach to math.
Free Math Curricula
- Homeschool Math: This website offers free math worksheets, ebooks, and lessons for Grades 1 to 7.
- Miniature Masterminds: Miniature Masterminds offers free printables of activities and worksheets for K-2.
- Mathematics Enhancement Programme: The MEP is funded by charity and offers printable lessons and worksheets, as well as interactive material for for K-9.
- Master Math: This website offers free video math lessons, downloadable worksheets, and online quizzes for middle school students.
- Flipped Math: Flipped Math offers videos and practice work for 8th to 12th graders.
Science Homeschool Curriculum
- Apologia: This bestselling K-12 science curriculum uses a conversational tone to help students learn difficult science concepts more easily.
- Exploring the World Series by John Hudson Tiner: Former math and science teacher John Hudson Tiner writes several books in his Exploring the World Series.
Creating Your Own Curriculum
If you decide to create your own curriculum, you will need to research your chosen approach thoroughly. You will also need to discuss your overall goals for your children’s education with your spouse, so that you are both on the same page for everything that you plan for the school year.
For the Charlotte Mason approach, Sonya Shafer gives an excellent step-by-step process to help you.
For unit studies, The Proverbial Homemaker also gives a step-by-step guide to help you create your own curriculum.
In the end, remember that the homeschool curriculum, while a helpful tool, does not guarantee success or failure. The power of homeschooling lies in the relationships that the parents form with the children, so make sure your homeschool curriculum supports that goal.
While this is clearly not an exhaustive list, we hope it has helped you get started in your homeschool planning, or help tide you over while homeschooling during the covid-19 pandemic community quarantine.
Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!