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As an experienced homeschool parent, I interact with a lot of other homeschool families, both in person and online.
And there’s one scenario I come across ALL. THE. TIME.
It goes like this: A parent has decided to pull their child from school and start homeschooling. And the first thing they do is to start asking other people for curriculum suggestions.
And I always want to reach out – kindly, of course – and say “Hold on a moment! You are getting way ahead of yourself!”
The truth is that buying curriculum right out of the gate can be a costly mistake that not only wastes money, but also makes you and your child miserable.
Finding the right curriculum is very important. But there are seven things you should do BEFORE you buy your homeschool curriculum to be sure you are selecting the right curriculum for your family.
#1. Determine the legal structure for your homeschool
If you have just decided to homeschool, the first step you should be taking is to ensure that you are complying with all the laws of your state or country.
That last thing you want is to run into trouble with the law because you skipped this step. So do this first.
#2. Shift your mindset
If your child was previously in a public or private school, then your child has undoubtedly been enculturated into a school mindset.
(And if you went to traditional schools, you have also been enculturated into a school mindset.)
Schools have a particular way of doing business. They work according to bell schedules. They give tests and grades. They make all kids learn the same thing at the same time. The regulate when children can eat or go to the bathroom.
If this is all you and your child know about how learning takes place, it’s likely you’ll re-create this setting at home.
But the truth is that homeschooling is NOT public school at home.
You do not have to start at 8:30 am and finish at 3:00. You do not have to sit at a desk all day. You do not have to follow a strict schedule. You do not have to give your kids tests or grades.
Homeschooling gives you the freedom to think outside the box.
Does this blow your mind?
If yes, that means you still need some time to shift your mindset from a school-based mindset to a homeschool-mindset. Spend some time understanding all the possibilities that are now open to you as a homeschooling family. If you make this mindset shift, you may find that what you want in a curriculum shifts as well.
#3: Figure out how your child learns best
All people have ways they like to learn best. Whether it is through reading books, watching documentaries, engaging with hands-on projects, or engaging in dialogue with others, your child has his or her individual learning strengths.
But the question is. . . Do you know what they are?
Before you purchase curriculum, you need to determine how your child likes to learn. This will ensure you purchase a curriculum that teaches your child according to his or her strengths.
#4: Figure out how you’ll balance your dual roles as parent and teacher
If you are stepping into the homeschool parent role for the first time, you also have some self-discovery to go through before you are ready to buy curriculum.
As a new homeschooling parent, you are now in the unique position of having to balance the dual roles of both parent and teacher.
There are some parents who try to separate the two roles of parent and teacher, developing a routine in which they act in the teacher capacity during some times of the day and the parent capacity during other times.
While this may work for some families, most homeschooling families eventually realize that it is better to fully integrate the two roles rather than try to keep them separate. When the roles are integrated, your children always see you as both parent and teacher.
So as you think about how you’ll balance your dual roles, you’ll want to consider what it means to be their teacher. Do you see yourself as the person with knowledge that you will transfer to your child? Or do you see yourself as a learning partner walking this journey side-by-side with your child?
You’ll want to answer to these questions before you make a decision about which curriculum to buy.
#5: Get clear on your vision for your child’s future
Before you purchase curriculum, you should have a clear vision of what you want for your child’s future. Where do you see your child at the end of their homeschooling journey? Ready for college? Joining the family business? Starting their own business as a young entrepreneur? Joining the military?
Get clear on your vision for your child’s future so you can select curriculum that aligns with the future you want to create.
#6: Identify your goals for your homeschool
One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that it looks different for every family. But because the possibilities are so vast, you need to identify your particular goals for your homeschool. Do you want your child to learn from hands-on volunteering work in the community? Do you want to spend time curled up on the couch reading good books together? Do you want to be out in nature as much as possible?
Identify your goals for what your family will do on a daily or weekly basis in your homeschool so you can select curriculum that will fit with the goals you have for how you want to spend your time.
#7: Identify your homeschool style
If you are new to homeschooling, you may not be aware of just how diverse the homeschool community is, and how many different approaches parents take to teaching their children.
As such, you’ll want to identify your homeschool style so you can select a curriculum that aligns with your style. Whether you appreciate the classical approach, the Montessori style, a unit study approach, or something eclectic, there’s a homeschool curriculum out there for you.
Ready to select curriculum?
Have you completed steps 1 to 7? If so, congratulations!
You are now prepared to select homeschool curriculum that will work well for your family’s unique needs.
Because you know how your child likes to learn, you have identified how you like to teach, and you have a clear vision for the future, you are now in an excellent position to select the right homeschool curriculum the first time. . . without spending money on a curriculum your child will hate or that you aren’t likely to use.