One of the most common homeschool questions that I’m asked is, “What curriculum do you use?” To be perfectly honest, I hate this question. I think too many homeschooling parents think that there is a “magic” curriculum out there that will make homeschooling perfect. Too much homeschooling energy is wasted on choosing curriculum, discussing curriculum, and changing curriculum. In fact, I see new homeschoolers switching up their curriculum every year (and many don’t even stick with it for one year).
In contrast, I spend much more of my parenting energy making sure that my children have enough free time to develop their creativity and problem-solving skills. Learning to problem solve is what makes my children exceptional, not working their way through a set curriculum.
So it is with great reluctance that I’m actually going to answer the question. But here it is – the only curriculum that we curently use is “Switched on Schoolhouse” from Alpha Omega Publications.
I do like Switched on Schoolhouse. It is self directed, which I think is a very important part of a child’s education. It is also very easy for me, the primary teacher, to manage. Most of the grading and scheduling is very easy. It is also simple to reassign, skip, and regrade assignments (flexibility is important to me).
If you have a child who has difficulty spelling, they may find Switched on Schoolhouse to be a bit frustrating because incorrectly spelled answers are marked wrong. Be prepared to either focus heavily on spelling or to regrade a lot of the problems.
We used the Sonlight curriculum for a number of years and I loved that too. But when I began Goat Milk Stuff, I no longer had the extra time to do Sonlight the way I wanted to do it. At the same time, we were in the “public eye” more, so I wanted something that was a little more “concrete”.
While I say that we use Switched on Schoolhouse, we only “loosely” use this program. It is more of a backup than our primary resource. We primarily rely on books (real books, not textbooks), the work the children do with Goat Milk Stuff, and creative activities that I regularly devise to teach the children.
Research has shown that in order for children to remember what they’ve learned, they need something to “anchor” the knowledge to. Facts that children (or adults) learn that are only memorized for a test tend to not “stick”. In fact, if you ask them a few days later, many of those facts and ideas that were memorized for a test are no longer remembered. So I work very hard to give the children memories or stories to “anchor” their learning to.
For example, I love learning History with the children. But I don’t ever make them memorize facts and dates (that’s what google and the internet are for). Instead, we focus on the bigger picture. Instead of learning when Columbus sailed to America, instead we focus on why Columbus sailed to America. We do this with well written, interesting books and discussions around the dinner table. There is nothing like “arguing” a point with your siblings and parents over the dinner table to help you anchor and remember history.
Jim and I have four podcast episodes where we discuss our homeschooling philosophy in more detail. You can listen to them at the following links:
If you’re reading this blog post because you want to know what curriculum is perfect for you and your child(ren), then you might be disappointed. But please remember that no matter what curriculum you choose, there will be “gaps” in you child’s education. This is true even for public school curriculums. Your children can’t learn everything there is to learn. No child can.
Help your children to love to learn and teach them how to learn and whatever curriculum choices you make won’t seem overly important.