Home-School: Choosing a Curriculum - Or Not

By Annette Walters November 19, 2020

Every year I go through a phase where I want to buy ALL the bright and shiny new curriculum. Then every year I rediscover my eclecticism and realize what a waste spending all that money would be. This year I almost spent $70 on a reading curriculum for my daughter who is reaching school age. Then I decided to have confidence in my ability to do it myself. Last year, I bought some plain wooden letters from Amazon and we painted them together. I let her choose two colors, one for consonants, one for vowels. A friend gave me a couple of dollar store trays and I had some leftover play sand from setting up our hermit crab habitat. I also found a copy of McGuffy’s First Eclectic Reader for a couple of dollars at a used book store. When teaching a letter, I pull out a wooden letter then have her write it in the sand in one of the trays. My daughter taught herself to write using those wooden letters. She just picked up a pencil one day and started copying the letters. She would ask me how to spell a word and I would spell it out with the wooden letters and she would copy down whole sentences. Now we are slowing down and learning the sound of each letter and putting them together to help her sound out words. One of my other students is using the McGuffy’s reader to practice reading and also to learn writing in cursive. My biggest hurdle was teaching my dyslexic son to read and we shed many tears over all that curriculum I’d insisted on using back then. In the end, it wasn’t any particular curriculum he needed at all, he just needed to slow way down and practice each letter until it was written well. The key here is to never spend too long on a lesson, 5-10 minutes is good but never more than 20 and any time a child is showing me they are getting frustrated, we put it aside and come back to it another day. While my daughter is learning to read and write at age 5, my son did not master it until he was 9. He reads and writes very well now and I never regret tossing the curriculum and slowing down to meet him where he was. Every child is different. I can’t tell you how much I’ve panicked at times, wondering if I’m doing enough, teaching enough, if they’ll grow up and be prepared for college or whatever route they choose. Every homeschooler I know has gone through this, even the most seasoned of us. Learning to trust ourselves and our students and watching the fruits of our work as they unfold makes it all worth it. 

If you do still prefer to use a curriculum, I know how overwhelming it can get to choose one. There are a plethora of options out there. There are numerous methods as well. Some methods include Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Classical, and radical unschooling like we do. If you want to explore curriculum options, check out where you’ll find reviews of a majority of curriculum available. If you’re interested in exploring the methods mentioned, I can recommend several books. For Montessori: The Absorbant Mind by Maria Montessori, Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard, and Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner. Charlotte Mason: For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer McCaulay, A Charlotte Mason Companion, and the collection of books written by Charlotte Mason herself starting with Home Education. Classical: The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. Unschooling: Learning All the Time and Teach Your Own by John Holt (and anything else by him), anything by Alfie Kohn but my favorites are Unconditional Parenting, The Homework Myth, and Schooling Beyond Measure; Free to Learn by Peter Grey, and Dumbing Us Down John Taylor Gatto. Other books I’ve heard recommended often but haven’t read yet include: The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart and The Call of the Wild and Free by Ainsley Armant.

About Annette: 

I’m a homeschool mom of two, ages 11 and 5. We’ve been homeschooling from the beginning for 6 years and our preferred method is unschooling with a Charlotte Mason twist. I love homeschooling for the freedom it gives us and because I enjoy learning alongside my kids. Our favorite ways to indulge our interests are by exploring the world around us, doing experiments and activities, talking to people who are passionate about their fields, and reading well written books. I believe so much in what we do, I’ve kept it through divorce and now working full time from home. It’s my hope to continue our journey until college or whatever next step my kids choose to take. 

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