It's that time of year! Everyone who is already homeschooling is deciding whether they should stick with the curriculum they have chosen and those who are considering homeschool for next year are feeling overwhelmed with their options. Feelings of excitement, worry, anxiety, and confusion abound!
We were blessed to find our core curriculum home from the beginning with Heart of Dakota. I didn't know much about homeschooling when I decided to look for a preschool program for my 2-year-old daughter and a quick search at Christianbook.com brought Little Hands to Heaven to the top of the list. I liked what I saw. My husband liked what he saw. I clicked a button, and we were on our way!
I have found out I am fairly unique to have discovered our curriculum home so early on in our journey. I didn't know to search for opinions about the curriculum. I had never heard of a forum before. So how did I know this was the direction to head?
1. Prayer - As with every major decision in our family we prayed about what to do with our oldest daughter. My husband and I both strongly felt preschool was not a direction we wanted to head. The reasons for this are best left for another time! However prayer was an integral part of the decision as well as whether to go with a formal curriculum or not. I knew little of what was expected to be taught in preschool, but I knew if I had a plan I could follow it.
Lesson: Seriously pray about your curriculum decisions. God cares about every aspect of our lives including, maybe even especially, about the education of our children. It is great to ask for advice from others, but seeking God's wisdom is best.
Bible, letter recognition, interaction, music, math, activity, clear instructions for the teacher, and all in one place! I was also pleased with what I saw for older children as well, even though at the time we had no intention to homeschool for grade school.
Lesson: Make a list of deal-breaker qualities you are looking for in a curriculum...the things which are so important to you that you cannot imagine teaching without them. For some this includes lots of hands-on material, for others it will mean computer based. The only thing I knew was it had to be Christ-centered. Also make a list of it-would-be-nice items.
3. It Fit Our Price Range - Compared to the other programs I saw at Christianbook.com this was very inexpensive. When I figured I would reuse it for any future kids, it seemed even more excellent. I budget $300 for the year because we have chosen a mostly non-consumable curriculum and I shop for used books to go along with our new guides. This is definitely on the low end of what many families spend and realistically I know it will increase as my daughters get older.
Lesson: Discuss with your spouse how much you can spend. This can keep your expectations within reality as well as keep you from overspending!
4. We Tried It...And It Worked - I loved how things went for preschool with my daughter. Even now all three of my girls are enjoying school...and so am I! In the back of my mind...even though I didn't think I wanted to homeschool...I knew I'd come back to Heart of Dakota if homeschooling ever became our path. Once we did choose to homeschool most things went smoothly. The only areas I added to were those my daughter asked about at first. Then when it became clear my daughter needed rules for spelling and she was not doing well with the abstract thinking of our math program, I sought out something else did work - All About Spelling and Rod and Staff. I didn't throw the entire program out just because an area or two weren't working quite like they should.
Lesson: If it's working, stay with it. If not, figure out why so you know what you are looking for in a new curriculum. Don't simply change because you have heard about a new trendy curriculum or all of your friends are doing something different. Curriculum usually has individually specific scopes and sequences especially for history and science. Jumping around could potentially leave major gaps in your child's education.
Also, give it a chance. Just because the first two or three weeks aren't what you imagined doesn't mean it is time to throw it out. It takes time to adjust to homeschooling and time to adjust to a new curriculum. Give yourself grace and time to make those adjustments and search out the reasons behind the days not going well. It may have nothing to do with the curriculum and have more to do with a rebellious child or disorganized day.
5. Go Forward With Confidence - Nothing will ruin a curriculum faster than a teacher who cannot confidently teach it. I felt completely inadequate in the beginning, but I didn't let my daughter see those feelings. I needed her to feel confident in my ability to teach her because I wanted her to be confident she could learn. Sometimes I'm not completely sure about something...and I'll tell her this...but I try to exhibit confidence in my ability to find the answer. Scripted lessons have been a huge part of building my confidence in teaching. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and All About Spelling are both scripted and I feel very confident in both of those areas now!
Lesson: Whatever your choice is, move forward with confidence in your choice and your ability to teach it...even if you have to fake it! Rest in the knowledge that you do have the ability to teach and you'll give your child confidence in what their ability to learn as well!