Finding a Curriculum That’s Effective and Fun by Lee Binz, The HomeScholar

Lee Binz TheHomeScholar 600There are SO many curriculum choices available! It’s hard to sift through them all and choose what you need – your friends all recommend different ones and they all look so good! How do you choose and where do you start? Here are just a few tips to help you find a curriculum that’s both effective and fun!

Use a Homeschool Curriculum

It might be tempting to pick up used school textbooks – you may even be able to get a hold of them free. But school textbooks assume you are an accredited teacher who knows the subject matter inside and out. You may look at the first lesson and not even understand what the textbook is talking about!

A homeschool curriculum assumes you know nothing and are learning along with your child – or allowing your child to learn independently. I didn’t know anything about Latin when I started teaching my children the language and they learned very well (if I do say so myself), using a homeschool curriculum.

A curriculum designed for the school system also assumes there is a teacher standing at the front of a classroom full of kids, teaching and explaining concepts to them every day. As your child gets older, you want them to start being able to teach themselves. A self-teaching, homeschool curriculum is an excellent choice for teens. This will prepare them well for learning and excelling in college – taking notes on their own and researching topics.

The best places to find a curriculum is always at your local homeschool convention. There you can touch, peruse, and compare curriculum. Nothing can compare to seeing it with your own eyes.

Focus on Tried and True

Watch for curriculum that is proven to be successful. You can’t beat a tried and true curriculum that has been used and reviewed by many homeschoolers over the years. Don’t get caught up in the shiny new curriculum trap that may not be ready for broad distribution. Homeschool curriculum that’s been around awhile has a better chance of working for your child. It’s already been tested, reviewed, and revised. Your child doesn’t have to be the guinea pig who discovers all the errors and glitches. Stick with what works, so you don’t end up with a bookcase full of costly, unused curriculum. You can avoid your own “hall of shame” by sticking to the tried and If you are looking at a newer curriculum, do your research. Ask homeschoolers what their favorite curriculum is and why. Read reviews online. My favorite source of good reviews is Cathy Duffy’s book, 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

Invest in Your Weaknesses

What subject is your weak area? Maybe it’s the subject you dread or put off teaching. What subject is your child’s weak area? It could be the subject area your child whines about the most. Put those weak areas first every day. The weak areas should be the subjects you start with every morning. This way you won’t put them off or run out of time to get to them before the homeschool day is over. If you don’t do this, you and your child could be panicking in a few months because you’re behind!

Put your weaknesses first when shopping for curriculum. Buy curriculum for yours and your child’s weak areas first. If math is one of your weaknesses, put it first in your budget and buy a math curriculum first; make it your priority. If you end up with a curriculum mismatch and that math curriculum isn’t working, give yourself permission to re-purchase curriculum in that weak area. You need a curriculum that works well for you and your child, especially in those weak areas. If your weak area is fear of high school, invest in supportive book that will help you do that job with confidence.

Find a Technology Balance

In this day and age it’s all too easy to pick up a DVD or online curriculum for every subject. This kind of curriculum can be a lot of fun for the kids, but there has to be a limit. It’s important to find a balance between old-fashioned book work with hands-on learning and the newer resources using technology. According to a technology use guidelines chart from the American Academy of Pediatrics, daily use of technology needs to be limited for children. Children age 6 to 12 should only spend up to two hours per day with watching non-violent technology, but shouldn’t be using handheld devices at all. These are the school years – no handheld devices, and only two hours a day, including schoolwork. And for teenagers age 13 to 18, their technology should be limited as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends they spend no more than two hours per day on personal technology use and can start using handheld devices. Video games for them should be limited to 30 minutes per day, with no violent games, which leaves just 1-1/2 hour for technology-based classes in your home.

Excessive use of technology in the homeschool can add up far more technology exposure than is recommended. The solution is simple – use as many real, paper books in your homeschool as you can. Add hands-on projects, move during educational time, and go outside to study. Judicious use of technology for homeschool work is important so that overall daily use can stay within these guidelines.

Enjoy curriculum shopping for the coming year! I hope you find these tips helpful. For all the ins and outs of choosing a curriculum, including my favorite curriculum options, come to my talk, “Finding Curriculum That’s Effective & Fun” at the WHO Convention on Friday, June 12th from 12:30 – 1:30pm. Wishing you were at the convention? Grab the book from Amazon! Homeschool Curriculum That’s Effective and Fun: Avoid the Crummy Curriculum Hall of Shame! (The HomeScholar Coffee Break Book Series #25)

Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, is a dynamic homeschool speaker and author. She is an expert on how to craft a winning homeschool transcript. Lee’s mission is to encourage and equip parents to homeschool through high school. You can find her at booth #402 and online at or on Facebook