One of the questions that most parents ask when they consider homeschooling is whether or not they need a curriculum. This question isn’t one that has a simple, cut and dried answer. It really depends on you, your kids, and what you want for your homeschool.
Curricula can be helpful in some cases. If you aren’t good with a particular subject (maybe your math skills are a bit lacking), aren’t sure what to teach to cover a specific subject, or don’t know what order to teach skills in, a curriculum might help. If you’re one of those people who needs a clear outline that shows exactly what to teach, when to teach it, and what to use to teach it, then a curriculum will probably be a necessity for you – unless you have the time and desire to put that outline together yourself.
But maybe you’d prefer to wing it – maybe you want to unschool, or give your children much more say in their education. Maybe you know that worksheets and textbooks aren’t the way your child learns and you believe that crafts, projects, experiments and experiences are the way to go. If any of these are the case, then a curriculum might be a waste of money for you.
But here’s something else to keep in mind – a curriculum isn’t necessarily something that encompasses every subject. We often think of it as such, because when we talk about curriculum in regard to public school, we mean it as every subject. Each subject is actually a separate curriculum, though – you can buy curriculum that covers every subject, but you can also buy them that cover individual subjects.
With that thought in mind, that means that you can buy curriculum for the subjects that you need it for, but not for others. Going back to the beginning of this post, let’s say your math skills aren’t as sharp as you think they should be for you to teach math on your own. You could buy a math curriculum – and only a math curriculum. You can still teach spelling, reading, geography, history and every other subject on your own. This would be the eclectic homeschooling we talked about earlier this week.
But maybe, in your case, that’s not why you’re asking. Maybe your question is actually, “Do I need to buy a curriculum, because it’s really not in my budget right now?”
If that’s your concern, then rest assured: you don’t need to spend money you don’t have on a curriculum. You can put it together yourself, or you can look around online. There are many options for free curricula, such as Easy Peasy. Just do a Google search for free homeschool curriculum and start sorting through the nearly 4,000,000 results. You’re sure to find something that works for you – and again, you can always pick and choose, and pull the things that work for you together from the various options.
You can also pick up any of a variety of books that promise to help you figure out what to teach and when, and in what order. My favorite of these is Rebecca Rupp’s Home Learning Year by Year. Rupp lays out what should be taught for each grade level, in the order in which it should be taught, with suggestions of games, websites, books and more to go along with many of the skills. Some of the websites may no longer exist, and you might have some trouble locating the games or books if they’re particularly old, but overall, it’s a great starting point.
Join some homeschooling groups and sites, too. They often have a wealth of information about where to find free curriculum, find things to put together your own, and often, they can also tell you how to get used curriculum that’s in good shape and cheap. You might even get lucky and find someone who has exactly the curriculum you want that they want to get rid of – work out a deal, or you might even be able to get it for free.
If your state requires a curriculum, then obviously, you have no choice. But even in that case, do some research. Some states will provide the curriculum, free of charge, since they require it. Others will sometimes offer a discount.
One final thought on how to get curriculum materials on the cheap is to try your local school district. I consider this something of a last ditch, Hail Mary kind of effort. A lot of school districts will refuse to help you out, seeing you as the enemy because you won’t put your child in or took your child out of their school system. But there are also a lot that will give you textbooks, workbooks or other materials that are surplus, outdated or otherwise not being used – it might be a loan that requires you to return the materials after a certain period, or they might simply give them to you to keep. But either way, it’s worth giving it a shot. The worst they can do is say no, right? And that doesn’t make you any worse off than you are now, and if they say yes, then you’re better off than you are now.
One of the things we want to teach our kids, as homeschoolers, is resourcefulness. We want to teach them how to find answers, information, materials or products for themselves, how to think outside the box, and how better to teach them that than by being resourceful about finding a curriculum?
And remember, though I’ve suggested many ways to find and get curricula, that unless your state specifically requires you have one, you don’t need it. So don’t feel guilty if you can’t afford it. Put together your own and consider it the best lesson in resourcefulness that your children could get.