As we begin to say goodbye to summer, the realization that fall is right around the corner can be overwhelming. But, getting ready for a new homeschool year can be exciting! We at LetsHomeschoolHighSchool.com have seen more “back to homeschool” years than we care to admit, but the best advice is to embrace preparation!
While you get ready for a new school year, one of the first things on the agenda is to figure out what curriculum you’ll need. Before you can choose a homeschool curriculum, you’ll need to know what subjects to teach your students. The best way to arrive at a decision is to work backward, starting with graduation. If your students have a good idea of what they want to do when they finish school, that makes this process a little easier. If they don’t, you’ll have to play the “just in case” game for a little while as you figure out what they want to do. That is, you may have to teach certain subjects “just in case” they need them for graduation and college acceptance. Of course, you’ll want to keep those to a minimum.
Working backward, you may want to research the requirements for a public school diploma in your state. Although you’re homeschooling, you still want your students to have an academic advantage. Colleges will compare your students to other applicants, and you don’t want there to be any glaring weaknesses. Begin by researching what a student in public school needs for graduation in your state and make sure your students have at least those same courses on their homeschool transcript. For instance, you may discover that students in your state need three credits of science at a high school level with at least two of the courses being a lab-based course. If that’s the case, decide what you should teach each year to ensure your students have those three credits by the time they graduate.
Pulling It All Together
This back to school season, you can pull your curriculum for fall together in a step-by-step manner that makes it super easy and less overwhelming!
Step 1: Plan your curriculum. You’ll do this by figuring out what you’ll be teaching each year. It helps if you look at this step from a “grand scheme” point of view. Instead of just looking at one year at a time, it’s helpful to look at the bigger picture – all four years of high school – so you can see when you’ll need to teach certain subjects. This also helps in situations where there are prerequisites. By planning in advance, you can schedule in the prerequisite courses as well.
Step 2: Ask Around. Once you know what subjects you’re going to teach, you’ll need materials to teach those courses. Word of mouth is a fantastic resource for determining what to use. Other homeschooling families may have experience with the resources you’re considering and can offer helpful advice. Every year, Homeschool.com issues the Back to Homeschool Curriculum Awards to several companies, making it very easy to be sure you’re choosing quality resources.
Step 3: Narrow it down. If you’ve done curriculum shopping in the past, you may have noticed that you felt overwhelmed with all of the options available. The best thing to do is put on some “blinders” and allow yourself to only view a certain amount of options. It’s great advice to only view options that line up with your chosen homeschooling style.
Choosing a Curriculum
So, you’ve mapped out the subjects you’ll teach each year, you’ve asked around for others’ opinions, and you’ve narrowed it down to a select few. Now what? Here comes the fun part: actually choosing a curriculum. By the time you reach this step, you might feel like the ones you’ve narrowed it down to are equally just as great. And, they probably are. But, there will be differences that may be deal breakers for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Teacher involvement. Since you’re teaching an older student, you shouldn’t need to “spoon feed” everything to your students. Some curriculum programs, however, are set up so that you have to do just that. If that’s not your cup of tea (and we don’t blame you!), you may want to choose a different program. From what we’ve observed, the publishers that create materials for classroom AND homeschool use tend to create teacher-heavy lesson plan guides.. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum are lesson plan guides that don’t have enough teacher resources. Be sure to look for resources that meet your needs.
Time. If you have a teacher-intensive program on your list, carefully think about whether you can commit to following a program that requires you to do the teaching every day. Think about whether you have the time available for what is necessary to succeed in the program. Granted, you don’t have to follow the curriculum guide to a “T”; you are totally at liberty to use the program in whatever way suits you best. But then, if you’re going to tweak it completely, maybe there’s a less expensive option out there that you can use instead of spending money on something you can’t use as-is.
Cost. For some families, this will be the very first thing to consider – and understandably so! Assuming nothing out of your budget made it to your list of final choices, consider whether the cost outweighs everything else. Two other things to take into consideration related to cost are A) resale value and B) reusability. Some families decide it’s worth it to splurge a little on a program because they’ll be able to recover most of the money the following year when they sell it. This can be true, but it can also be a risk if you’re counting on it. Another thing to consider is whether you can reuse the materials with younger siblings in years to come. If so, that lessens the cost per child per year and may justify a more costly upfront investment.
As you’re working to figure things out for the fall, curriculum options will be at the top of the list. The process of choosing programs doesn’t have to overwhelm you. Following a few simple steps, you’ll be able to fine-tune your list to a few options and choose from those that will fit your needs best!
Tasha has been writing for over a decade now and enjoys blogging about various topics, from kids crafts to homeschooling in general. She’s been homeschooling for over 14 years and has used every style of homeschooling out there, from unschooling to traditional textbooks and everything in between. She serves as a mentor to other homeschooling moms and works hard to juggle working from home, homeschooling, and part-time work outside the home. She’s a mom to 5 and feels like she’s got this multitasking thing down pat.