This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for details.
Five important questions to ask yourself when you’re shopping for curriculum. Advice from a former homeschool curriculum burnout.
For a full list of your secular homeschool curriculum options, see our Secular Homeschool Curriculum Guide.
Creating Your Own Homeschool Curriculum
I’ve always been a DIY activities sorta girl. When I was teaching, I would scoff at spending my precious $120 annual allowance on something I could make myself for $3.
Give me construction paper, a glue stick, markers and a laminator, and I can create anything. When we started homeschooling, I was the same way.
When I put together my kindergarten materials I looked for curriculum for a few subjects, but I wanted to create the rest myself. My vision was a child-led homeschool, and I didn’t mind scouring Pinterest for creative ideas about art, music, and science – or coming up with my own.
I found some pitfalls, though. Creating my own curriculum was
- very time consuming (expected)
- we missed a lot of subjects because my son just wasn’t all that interested (not expected
- it was hard for me to follow through with creating units and lessons – especially toward the end of the year when I felt like I was just D-O-N-E (completely unexpected).
I burnt out.
After a humbling end of kindergarten, I realized that I need to give myself a break. As a work-at-home, homeschool mom of three, I just don’t have time to do-it-all and make-it-all.
However, as much as I’d like to have the huge, fun box delivered right to my door, I know the opposite (and expensive) extreme won’t work for us, either.
There is no single program customizable enough that will allow for the flexibility in levels and interest-led studies that my son needs.
Time to Go Curriculum shopping!
Choosing curriculum is even more fun than shopping for purses. I swear.
I am over the moon about our choices. I want to share a few tips with you so you can be as excited about your new materials as I am.
The following questions are what I ask myself when I’m looking at a program. They’re in no particular order. Each carries weight in my decision. I hope these questions help guide you to the very best choices for your homeschool!
5 Questions to Ask When You’re Curriculum Shopping
1) What topics excite my child?
Creating a child-led homeschool is a priority, but we are talking about picking curriculum. How can I have both?
I like to describe our homeschool as child-led and curriculum-supported. We begin with his interests and I find curriculum and materials to fit his needs.
Each summer since preschool, my son and I have sat down and made a list of all the things he wants to learn in the upcoming year. This is not the end-all, be-all of lists. His interests shift over the course of a year as he discovers new ideas and we follow rabbit trails away from our main topics.
Simply asking what he’d like to learn gives me a sense of direction.
No matter how well I think I know this child, no matter how involved with homeschool I am, no matter how much time we spend together (24/7), every year he surprises me with his answers. I really encourage you to just ASK. Ask your child what he wants to learn. What is he excited about?
Related post>>> Child Led Learning is Learning to TRUST
2) What am I excited to teach?
The biggest carry over from public school teaching to homeschool: It’s all about how you spin it. You can make anything interesting if you are excited about teaching it. Your enthusiasm is contagious!
What do YOU want to teach this year? What is something YOU are passionate about?
3) What is working?
There has been plenty of time to reflect on our homeschool year this summer. It’s one of the reasons I like to take a nice long summer break. Well, that and to shake off the feeling of burnout…
I’ve had time to reflect on what worked and what flopped in kindergarten – for my kids and for me. If you can’t really pin point what worked for you, start with what did not work.
- Were there times that you felt stuck?
- Activities that you swore you would never do again?
- What were the best parts of last year?
- What do you want to repeat?
- What would you eliminate if you could?
4) How will this fit into our schedule?
Homeschool moms are busy moms. It’s a full time job. Plus many of us throw in more kids who have to be clothed and fed… every day, and some of us have a job on top of our main homeschool gig.
How are you going to fit in instruction for every subject?
Do you need short lessons to teach each day?
Do you prefer longer units interspersed throughout the year?
What’s a good balance of independent and guided work?
How much media or computer time do you want to integrate into your daily routines, if any?
How much instruction do you want to outsource?
If my energy was unlimited I would continue making custom units for every subject. However, my energy is not unlimited. I realized that too late last year. Around mid-year I reflected on our homeschool adventures; we were chugging along splendidly. The following is an excerpt from December:
“Last week I asked him a few questions about how he felt kindergarten was going…
What do you want to do more of? Everything. What do you want to do less of? Nothing. Do you like it when we learn together at home? Yes, let’s do more of that. Do you like taking classes with other kids? Yes, let’s do more of that. …and on it went.
In his own true style, he just wants MORE. More activities. More math. More reading. More science. More geography. More art. More field trips. The kid has an insatiable urge to learn.“
Insatiable urge to learn. At the time I was so pleased. Come March I’d had it.
Fast forward to our conversation about what he wants to learn in 1st grade. He tells me he wants to learn 12 languages and how to play the violin… I nodded and smiled. Inside I felt exhausted.
At times homeschool is straight up exhausting. I need a curriculum to lean on to relieve the pressure to create and teach yet another subject.
5) What is my budget?
Perhaps this should have been my top question. For many of us, budget is the determining factor for what we can and can’t purchase. For others it is more important to balance time and money. Either way, you are spending something.
I cannot stress it enough: If you are on a budget, use your library as as your main resource for child led learning. I bought too many books last year. I bought a year of math curriculum and only used the first half – grudgingly at that.
Do the free trials. Find what you love and what your child loves by trying it out first.
Related Post>>> Where to Save BIG on Homeschool Math Curriculum
I’m also a little more careful about purchasing consumable products. I would rather purchase a curriculum that can be used later for my younger children than one that will need to be purchased in its entirety again.
This year, I am making more purposeful purchases and using our library to try out the rest. Ask your librarian about other free resources and curricula offered at the library:
- Printables or copy-friendly activity books
- Learn-to-Read programs like Hooked on Phonics and Bob Books
- Math Literature and Activity Books
- Activities by subject by Janice VanCleave
More homeschool curriculum on the Resource Room:
- Build Your Library Kindergarten Updated Review and Reflection
- Tips for Choosing an Eclectic Kindergarten Curriculum for Your Homeschool
- First Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices!
- Math Activities Basket: Creating an Individualized Math Curriculum for Kids
- Don’t Buy Science Curriculum Without Answering These 3 Questions!
And don’t miss our homeschool curriculum and supplement reviews!
Ashley helps parents who want to homeschool find the resources they need to successfully teach their children. Ashley is a former teacher, current homeschooler, published author, and designer behind Circle Time with Miss Fox printables as well as the creator of this website, The Homeschool Resource Room.