55 thoughts on “Homeschool 101: Choosing Curriculum the Simple Way

  1. I love gathering and sharing good curriculum ideas! My oldest son learned to read using Teach Your …in 100 Easy Lessons when he went to private school for Kindergarten prior to us homeschooling and he read like a champ. When I began using it with our middle son it was not clicking for him or for me teaching it. I think your point that it has to work for both teacher and student is excellent! We switched to another very simple book, Phonics Pathways by Dolores Hiskes, and we both thrived with this book! I can’t say enough about it and here again, simple and inexpensive. I fretted over all kinds of formal, expensive programs with lots of bells and whistles but we didn’t need them. We also added in the BOB books and other readers.

    We love Horizons Math. Easy to teach and not too much “busy” work for the student. Around 5th grade I switch from Horizons to Teaching Textbooks because Math is not my strongest subject. I have read and learned myself that Teaching Textbooks may be a year behind Saxon and Horizon so when I switched, my son would have gone into 5th grade Horizons, but Teaching Textbooks equivalent was Math 6.

    I love to mix and match from different curricula so that if something isn’t working in a particular subject we can change without having to replace a whole expensive curriculum set.

    Thanks for the tips Heidi!

  2. Thank you so much for writing this! I have homeschooled my children for five years now. We have went thru an academy that was very good for me in the beginning. However as I added more children to the academy not only did it get expensive but took up every bit of time that we had. The math program is not working for my 4th grader or myself. So this coming year I have decided to make up my own curriculum and to make it fit our lives not us fit the curriculum. At first I wasn’t sure if I could do it but I think I will be fine. Thanks for your encouragment!

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m not ready to do Apologia General Science. I tried last year with my 7th grader and he wasn’t ready and I didn’t want to try again this year so knowing you still did the Young Explorers till 8th gave me total peace!!! (I was getting very anxious over it) Thank you so much!!!

  4. Heidi, what kinda spelling curriculum do you recommend? What has worked for you and what hasn’t? I’ve got two totally different learners, and so am looking for something a bit more hands on right now, but we also do a lot of sit on the couch learning 😉 as you put it I guess. Thanks for advice.

    1. Hi Tabitha! You know, I have “theory” about spelling—and here it is: kids are either born spellers or they’re not… because … most good spellers are VISUAL learners! So, I work with my kids on phonics when they’re K-3 quite a bit. I don’t “do” spelling curriculums—instead I focus on having them read a lot and doing copywork. It has worked out great for our kids so far!

      1. Awesome response! I have done the same with my kids (let them learn through phonics, reading and copy work), but I know so many people who make sure that they do a “spelling” class for their kids (which my kids and I hate doing) and I wondered if I was going to mess up my kids by not doing that. This just totally made my day! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!! Bring on the next school year!

  5. I needed this so much today! My husband had surgery for cancer this week & I started back to school w/ my dyslexic senior. I feel that I just don’t have the energy to make it through these hard subjects.

  6. Thank you! I needed this hug today and the reminder to keep it simple and fun! I did not do that last year and we were all exhausted! This year will be different! More laughing, creating, and enjoying the process! By God’s grace!

  7. I sometimes sit and wonder how i will make it through another day with all four kids in different grades, needing different help all the time and I have to step back, give myself a pep talk and say a quick prayer and get back to it. Definitely not the easiest thing to do but it is where God has put me so I’ll keep doing my best. Praying for you!

  8. Great inspiration for this homeschooling momma in the making! My husband has concerns about our daughter knowing what “the other kids are being taught” I think he is referring to unit studies. Would you recommend any unit studies for younger kids. So far we have just been introducing themes that she is interested in and are expanding it as far as she wants to take it. Thank you!

  9. Hi, I’m wondering if you have suggestions for curriculum for grade 9 and up boys. It is overwhelming to find things for each and every subject they are taking. Some of what we do is online (math) but the rest is up to me. If you can make suggestions or have links to good reviews please let me know. Love your posts….

  10. ….at least you have recently had surgery!! What’s my reason for really just “not feeling like it” after homeschooling since 1996? 😉 I have 1 ‘student’ left, who is entering 6th grade (11 years old) this year, so I have a few years to go yet. Others have all graduated!!

    1. I love Joy Hakim (sp?) “History of the United States,” and I’ll see if I can link to it on my Facebook page. 🙂 Reads like a story and is NOT revisionist as far as I can tell. Look back through my posts on homeschooling and you can find my faves. xoxo!

    1. I think it’s almost always more important. 🙂 If your curriculum is awesome but you can’t teach it properly it’s not going to help much. Keep trying until it works for you. Hugs, Heidi! I like your name. It’s cool.

  11. I go to bed every night ready to send them all to school the next day. God works on me while I sleep and I wake up refreshed and ready for another day each an every morning. Homeschooling isn’t for the faint of heart!

  12. When I began homeschooling over 27 years ago, I didn’t know you could buy a curriculum….☺ We purchased workbooks at the local grocery store for a couple of years. I soon found some curriculum but could not afford most of them. I bought used or went to our local small town schools when they had book sales. I always kept the cost down low for all six of my blessings and they have all graduated and moved on (married, college, military, etc.) and they are all educated quite well. We reused books, borrowed books, and printed our own worksheets many times to fill in the gaps. I did have a nice selection of hardbacks that I slowly purchased that we used time and time again. Went through a lot of paper; ha! I didn’t even have Internet for must of those years. Homeschooling is a journey and everyone’s is special and unique in their own way. Happy homeschooling!!

  13. I’ve about to start my tenth year homeschooling. My first “baby” will be a freshman — aaahhhh! HOW did that happen? The most freeing day in my journey was when a friend reminded me that they never finish the end of the math, science or history books in most public/private schools. She also gave me the freedom to — gasp! — cross out pages that were too repetitive of a concept my child already grasped. Ohm what a happy day THAT was!! We all need to remember WE are the teachers and the masters of the curriculum, not the other way around!

    1. Those same words were spoken to me, Carolyn! FREEEEEEEEDOM! Can you hear me in my best Mel Gibson/Braveheart voice? FREEEEEEEDDDOOOOOMMMM! Thanks for posting.

  14. Please advise!!!! Home schooling is new to me. I am a teacher, but that doesn’t make me wonder less if I’m cut out to be a home schooling mom. How do you know??? Also, what curriculum can you recommend from Gr1-7?

    1. Hello new homeschool mom. I’m Heidi, and I’ve been at this for 187 years. 🙂 Here’s my “opinion” … but take it with a grain of salt, because homeschooling is a very personal journey to your family. Honestly, I think being a certified teacher is going to make this a *teensy* bit more because you’ve been trained for a traditional classroom and homeschooling is not that. THAT SAID, let me encourage you 🙂 If you have the desire (the calling) to teach your kids, you’ll do great. I have some CD’s of my workshops for newbies that would help you a lot. Check out my store at this site. Also, I say lay off too many books early on. I use a hodgepodge of things. I’m not sure I can link to them here so check out my posts on homeschooling and you’ll find my recommendations. Keep it SIMPLE. Explore. Read. Use your library. Relax. You can do this. xoxo h.

  15. No curriculum can be a substitute for God’s gentle leadership in your homeschool.

    thank you Jesus (and Heidi!) I really needed to read this 🙂

  16. In the beginning of our homeschooling journey, I was so afraid of doing it wrong. I leaned on a friend to help me get started. We are in our eighth year of homeschooling now, and looking back, I think that first year may have been the best. It was simple. We used Five in a Row and loved it!!! But, the following year we joined a co-op. Feelings of inadequacy settled inside me. I began comparing our homeschool to that of others. We purchased a box curriculum that year, and have purchased or borrowed one every year since, until this year. Oh, to turn back the wheels of time! I’m not saying the boxed curriculum was bad or ineffective. But it did make me feel tied down. I felt like I had to check off everything on the list, and if I didn’t, I was failing.

    Back in the Spring, I spoke with you for just a few moments at a homeschool convention. Simplicity is what I took away from our conversation. It was then when I finally realized that our boxed curriculum was anything but simple. I needed freedom! So this year, I’m trying to simplify. Next year, we will simplify even more. It’s a process that is slowly releasing the grips of complexity into the arms of freedom.

    Thank you, Busy Mom, for taking those few moments to speak with me.

  17. In homeschooling, you can choose to work through their curriculum as quickly or slowly as you feel comfortable doing, establishing your own pace. A child who struggle in one or more areas academically should consider homeschooling as an excellent one-to-one environment to learn the skills necessary to catch up.

    Anne

  18. Hey Heidi, What do you think about accreditation in the high school years? I am a teacher and am trying to become a stay at home mom to homeschool my 8th grader. I am so used to so much structure with curriculum, that I’m overwhelmed and excited of the freedom of it all. At the same time, I don’t want to mess up chances of my daughter wanting to go to a certain college. I would love to know your thoughts about this. Thanks!!

    1. Accreditation is not an issue. Colleges are seeking out homeschool grads. If your daughter knows what college she wants to attend, you can contact them to find out what she will need—but the key is to keep good records. Find out what the state requires for graduation and follow those guidelines. We have done a lot of “delight directed” learning with our kids with great success. Homeschooling will allow you both the freedom to pursue your/her passions! You can do it. 🙂

  19. Hi there, I have a 3 year old and am considering homeschooling him in light of all the “fun” things they’re teaching our kids with or without permission… It already seems like a daunting task. How do you start a 5 year old on school? Do they actually want to sit and learn? Do you take a lot of breaks at first? What if they don’t want to do it? I feel like I should send him to school for a year or two to get him into a good routine… Help!

    1. Hi Liz! I can relate. I felt much the same way when I started so let me encourage you: START SIMPLE. Start researching. Attend a local homeschooling convention. You can do this 🙂 I have written much about this topic. Search “homeschool” in the search bar, or just google Heidi St. John and homeschooling and a bunch of links should come up.

  20. HI Heidi!
    Not certain if this is a valid site anymore but I am VERY NEW to homeschooling. Looking to start my 4 1/2 year old grandson and already overwhelmed. 🙂
    Can you recommend what would be a good choice for his age? He’s active, enjoys experimentation, loves the outdoors, still needs focus on numbers and letters but truly enjoys books. He’s involved in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd [which I could not recommend more!!}but would like a good backdrop for that.
    Thank you!!
    Yours in Christ, Nickie

  21. I think these are great ideas! I’d add ….. remember that what works for others, may not work for you. I’ve have chosen online program for my kids and it worked for me!

    Thanks for linking up with great ideas!

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