Homeschooling curriculum is an important decision! This is one of the most valuable pages a parent can read when considering a homeschooling curriculum!
A family may go into homeschooling with the idea of “let’s try it and see how it works”. When things do not turn out quite as planned, often the generalized concept of homeschooling is blamed. However, many parents fail to realize several important considerations are required before choosing how to homeschool! Often, it is just the structure of the homeschooling curriculum that can make it a success or failure. Take a minute to review these vital points below before choosing a homeschooling curriculum. Your decisions today set the foundation for success down the road.
What is your expectation for parent involvement?
Some parents want to be a part of every aspect of homeschooling. On the other hand, some parents want less responsibilities, because they have other tasks that need done at the same time. Some may want to be a full-time teacher. Others may only want to be responsible for supervising the school start and end times, plus check daily quantity and scores. Some desire less parental requirements for a variety of reasons such as a home business, multiple children, or needing to do some household tasks during the day.
Choose A Structure That Allows Flexibility For Parent Involvement:
This may be the most important tip on this page! Even if your goal is to be involved in all aspects of the homeschooling curriculum, you may want to consider a structure that can ensure student progress if you become ill, overextended, or temporarily busy with something unexpected. It happens. Some parents initially over-commit their involvement, because they are excited about the concept of homeschooling. Later on, they become overwhelmed or suffer burnout.
It is good to be involved in all aspects of your child’s training. One factor that is often overlooked initially is the parent still needs to supervise the child outside of homeschooling! It is good for parents to be the ones that supervise their children, but for some that supervision is seven days per week.
If homeschooling burnout happens, it is often because the parent does not have cushion to do other pressing tasks or take personal time. If there is a large amount of parent responsibilities to make homeschooling work, burnout can happen faster. It just depends on the parent and the situation.
Involved as desired:
One secret for success is to use a homeschooling curriculum that offers flexibility for parent involvement. It is prudent to use a structure that allows the parent to be as involved as desired, but can still be successful with less parental involvement! When needing less parental involvement, it still won’t be the same as sending the student out the door to a campus-based school, but will allow the parent to do many other things during school time. Some homeschooling curriculum options do not provide the ability to adjust parent involvement, even temporarily.
Common sources of flexibility:
Several online schools, online Christian schools, and homeschool programs use online homeschooling curriculum. Most of these offer an online curriculum that does most of the teaching, record keeping, testing, and even scoring. However online homeschooling curriculum still requires manual subjective scoring and concept help when needed. Subjective scoring is scoring of the student’s work that a computer cannot automatically do. For example, sentence or phrase answers and essay answers. If a curriculum does not require sentence or essay answers, you should be concerned, because writing skills are an integral area of learning!
Watch out for a program that does not offer any options! Do they only offer the basics or do they only offer higher services that cost more. The best choice is one that offers both and even some options in-between, so you don’t have to change programs or schools if your needs change.
Use the level of benefits that fits your current situation:
You might start with more service in the beginning, so you can safely discover what services you might want to take over. You can downgrade the next year to save some money. Maybe you will want more services all along just for backup, so you can be involved as much as desired depending on the day. Or you might start out with less services then realize you need more services later, so upgrade. It is best to start out with a homeschooling curriculum service that has options, so the student isn’t switching curriculum when you need different services. Concepts don’t line up exactly between different curriculums, so there is a risk of missing concepts or duplicating concepts when switching. There is also extra work for the parent to switch sources, such as learning new curriculum procedures, different records tools, and other parent tasks.
Find a structure that will allow you to adjust your parent involvement later, so you can adjust to cover the unexpected or prevent burnout. You don’t want to have to switch homeschooling curriculum just to switch features and services! Switching curriculum is very difficult on everyone! Look for a choice that has service options. No matter what you do, it is important to show an interest in the student! Even with higher services, the parent is still able to be involved, but your homeschool can run on its own much more when needed.
Individualized Mastery-based Homeschooling Curriculum
Some homeschooling options are are lock stepped where a 7th grader does exactly what other 7th graders are doing, and at the same speed. A homeschooling curriculum should be individualized! That means it should allow the student some cushion to work at his or her ability and speed. It means the curriculum should be at the right level. Some students can work faster in some subjects than others. The right level of curriculum improves speed.
Depending on the structure you are using, a student might be able to finish a grade level in less than a year. A student might finish some subjects in less than a school year, but need the full year to finish others. Some students may take a little more time initially, because they are repairing foundation issues. However once repaired, they are able to go at a faster pace than ever before. Some homeschool programs will allow a student to begin work on the next grade level. There is great strength in an individualized homeschooling curriculum! See Individualized Curriculum
A homeschooling curriculum should be mastery-based. That means a student is not allowed to pass or go forward unless the material is mastered. Some mastery-based programs or schools require a 80% to pass instead of 70%. A few even require 90%. You might wonder how is that possible? First, it is vital the curriculum has multiple units that make up a year. For example, 10 or 12 units for each subject. The student should start out with a diagnostic or placement test to see if there are any areas that were not mastered in previous grade levels. Instead of repeating an entire year, the student can do these smaller units where needed.
One of the main reasons students have trouble is because they are attempting to do work without the proper foundation. For example, if a student does not sufficiently master multiplication in math, the student is doomed to struggle with division because multiplication is involved in division. The student could be getting some things wrong because they have a mistake in a past concept, not the new concept. Once the foundation is repaired, forward progress greatly improves! Also the attitude of the student greatly improves.
An individualized and master-based homeschooling curriculum just makes sense! Most traditional classroom structures cannot use it, thus they have more struggling students and also many underachievers. Many homeschooling curriculums are individualized master-based, but not all. In order to take full advantage of an individualized master-based homeschooling curriculum, students may have some smaller units from past grade levels that need completed their first year.
Online Versus Paper Curriculum:
There are a few things to consider about the format of the homeschooling curriculum.
Under 3rd Grade:
For several reasons, it is best to use a paper or booklet curriculum for under 3rd grade. Younger hands need to develop further for keyboards. Mankind is still learning about digital viewing time’s effect on young children. It is more difficult with young children to use proper ergonomics for repetitive keyboard tasks. Children need to develop writing skills, possibly including cursive. Many online homeschooling curriculum options use paper-based curriculum for under 3rd grade that dovetails into their online curriculum. For example, theme characters, procedures, spelling word lists, and scope and sequence stay the same once transitioning to an online version. This removes unnecessary challenges. However, not all online homeschooling curriculum offers a dovetail from paper to online, so ask.
3rd Grade Up:
Online curriculum has several advantages as mentioned above, such as automatic record keeping. Another one of its greatest strengths is instant answer reinforcement. The online system can correct many of the student’s answers immediately. There is no waiting until the parent gets time! This prevents a student from having a wrong answer residing in memory for a while. If waiting to see corrections, the wrong answer may be what is remembered later! Paper or booklet curriculum will often require the parent to score some work and tests, so requires more parent time. Paper or booklet curriculum can be easier for the student to short-cut if tempted.
However, not all students are ready for the benefits of online homeschooling curriculum at 3rd grade! Some may need another year or two to improve handwriting skills. Certain 3rd-6th grade students may understand their accomplishments better in paper form, which can motivate them. Some may get more reward showing paper schoolwork to parents. Sitting in front of a computer four hours a day just might not be doable yet. You can use paper curriculum in locations where there is no internet access.
Ideally, it is good to find an option that allows you to switch from paper to online when you as a parent feel it is right. For some, it may be 3rd grade. Others, it might be 6th grade. Not all online homeschooling curriculum options offer paper curriculum after 3rd grade, so check. For some students, rather than just entirely switch formats, some benefit by transitioning in stages. For example, the year before going all online, use a combination of paper and online where some subjects are paper and some are online. This will help you know when to completely use online. Some homeschooling programs or schools offer this combination option, some do not. Even if you have a kindergartner, it is good to know ahead of time what options the homeschooling curriculum will have down the road. Once again, it is better not to switch curriculums if possible.
Kindergarten Through 12th Grade All In One Place
Many parents look for a structure that will allow the student to continue at home in upper grades. By staying with the same homeschooling curriculum for all grades, new student procedures do not need learned. There is no risk of missing or duplicating material. New parent procedures do not need learned. It is much more efficient!
Teacher Support For Upper Grades:
Even if the parent can assist with many upper level concepts, it is important to have a structure the family can fall back on. It can be very time consuming for parents to “stay up” with the context of student work in multiple subjects, especially in upper levels. Look for a program that offers teacher concept help and subjective scoring. Most of these services are done directly within the curriculum interface.
Even if the curriculum has built-in digital tutors, someone needs to be able to properly score subjective answers in the context of the lesson. Once again, you can be involved as much as you want when you have teacher support, but have a fallback for concept help, parent illness, parent busyness, etc. For some older students, attitudes are prevented by having an outside person (besides the parent) that is also interested in the quality and quantity of schoolwork.
Having a homeschooling curriculum or program that offers all grade levels has several advantages. New procedures do not need learned by both parent and student. Using the same homeschooling curriculum for all grade levels reduces risk of missing or duplicating concepts. Multiple students in the family can use the same structure, so it reduces the number of parent procedures. It is good if your choice offers teacher support features if you ever need it, especially for upper levels.
Homeschooling Curriculum Cost:
When looking at the general theme of what has been covered above, you probably noticed a nudging toward using higher service options. Homeschooling curriculum with academic support features costs more, but the higher cost may be the best value!
First, remember you will be saving a significant amount of money that was previously used for a campus-based school. Transportation, lunch, additional clothing, mandatory fundraiser participation, classroom parties or snacks, etc. can add up to $2000 per year. This does not include extra tuition-based campus school costs.
You may want to compile realistic costs for what you were doing in the past. Figure out mileage to and from school, plus include mileage for other school-related travel. Take the annual mileage and multiply by the IRS’s 53 cents per mile to estimate gas and devaluation of the vehicle. Short drives are actually harder on a vehicle than long ones. Then figure out lunch costs versus at home. Figure out how much extra clothing is needed for a campus-based school. Include all the other incidentals, then total for your situation. Just by homeschooling, you may already have a higher service homeschooling option in your budget!
You will also be reducing time and stress costs too. Stress is removed for getting everyone out the door on time. It is removed for having certain clothes clean on time. Stress is removed for deadlines of school communications and lunch issues. It is reduced to get yourself presentable to drive to school. Time is saved in all these things.
Analyze Feature Value:
Second, compare daily school costs between prospective options to see what the family gets in return. Try to figure out your daily cost for each homeschooling choice. Take the annual cost and divide by approximately 180 school days. Compare the different daily costs of options to evaluate if a higher cost is worth it.
For example, if it only costs 75 cents more per school day to have someone else do the subjective scoring, it might be well worth it. If it costs $3 more per day to have subjective scoring AND human concept help, it might be well worth it. For high school, $6 more per day might be worth it to have concept help and subjective scoring. High school requires much more subjective scoring. Even then, $6 per day is just over $1 per hour to have that kind of support available! If that structure allows the parent to accomplish some other tasks, it is worth it!
When considering that most families save money by having school at home, you may already have the cost of homeschooling curriculum in your budget. When you see an option you like, determine the daily cost. Take the annual cost and divide by approximately 180 days. Use that figure to compare to other options’ services and features to see what is the best value. Sometimes a slightly higher cost per day is worth it! If the accessibility of higher service helps your family to be a success and reduces stress on everyone, it is worth it!
Options vary considerably. It is important to use a curriculum or program that has been in use for at least 13 years. Some options are newer and have not been tested through multiple years of use. An older curriculum usually means all the bugs have been worked out for spiraling concepts for academic retention.
Beware of online homeschooling curriculum that does not require occasional human scoring. Certain aspects of writing skills and critical thinking cannot be developed with an entirely “choose the right answer” approach.
One of the most important things is to evaluate the values being presented in a curriculum. You want to make sure the values are what your family wants. Parents may not be around when some values are presented to the student!
You may want to pursue an accredited program. It is not just because it might make annual state registration easier in some states. It is because an accredited program has been intensely reviewed by people outside the program! Accreditation teams review the curriculum for several things, including year-to-year student academic growth. They also review structure, policies, and parent feedback. Academic accreditation still allows the program and curriculum to have unique values.
Use an established curriculum so you know it isn’t still in experimental mode. Beware of entirely computerized scoring. Sentence and essay answers are important. Make sure the curriculum holds your values! Consider an accredited option to rule out some unknowns.
Evaluate the amount of time the parent needs involved, then choose a structure accordingly. Try to use a structure that can still work if you are sidetracked with distractions or you need to free up time.
Use an individualized mastery-based structure. It allows each student more time when needed on a concept, but allows acceleration when mastered. A mastery-based structure prevents future struggles. Most students will earn higher grades with a mastery-based structure.
Paper to Online Transitioning
For younger students, find an option that allows you to switch from paper to online when you as a parent feel it is right. Not all online homeschooling curriculum options offer paper curriculum after 3rd grade, so check. A combination of paper and online where some subjects are paper and some are online can make an easier transition year.
Offers All Grade Levels
Use a choice that offers all grade levels. New procedures do not need learned by both parent and student each year. It reduces the risk of missing or duplicating concepts. Spelling and other multi-grade level areas can coordinate better when staying with the same homeschooling curriculum. Multiple students in the family can use the same structure, so it reduces the procedures for the parent. It is good if your choice offers teacher support features if you ever need it, especially for upper levels.
Budget and Shopping
Figure out what you are saving by homeschooling, even when you compare to a “free” public school, so you know what you are already spending for education. Then figure out the daily cost of a prospective homeschooling curriculum by taking the annual cost and divide by approximately 180 days. Use that daily figure to compare to other options’ services and features to see what is the best value for the daily cost. Often a slightly higher cost per day is the best value!
Use an established curriculum so you know it still isn’t in experimental mode. The older the curriculum or program, the better! Your child should not be an experiment! Beware of entirely computerized scoring. Sentence and essay answers are important. Make sure the curriculum holds your values! Consider an accredited homeschool program, so you know it has been thoroughly reviewed.
Consider Extra Benefits
When choosing a homeschooling curriculum, you also want to compare additional benefits that stand out to you. Some will offer an additional digital tutor on the screen if the student needs additional information or clarification. An online lesson plan system can keep the student organized daily while allowing a quick snapshot for the parent. Multimedia features can help students with different learning styles. A text to speech feature is also a valuable option, so curriculum text can be read to the student when there is a need.
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