With so many products on the market today, it can be very difficult for homeschool parents to figure out which ones to try. Particularly in the major subject areas, the constantly growing list of curriculum options can make the selection process completely overwhelming.
To top it all off, because every family and every student is just a little bit different, there are no “right” or “wrong” curriculum decisions either. What this means is that homeschoolers must decide completely on their own which products to use for every single subject and for every single student in the homeschool.
Sound difficult? It doesn’t have to be. By changing the way you look at it, the task instantly becomes more doable. Not easy, but less overwhelming than before.
Think about the last major purchase you made. Maybe it was a new or used car, or perhaps you bought a home computer. Or maybe it was something a little bit less expensive, like a microwave, a golf club, or a blender. How did you approach the purchase? Probably not by running out to the nearest store and buying the first one you saw. More than likely, you did some research, shopped around, read the consumer reviews, and talked to friends and family members first. Then, and only then, you plopped down the money and took the item home.
Shopping for homeschooling curriculum is very much the same process. Like buying a car, purchasing decisions do not always come easy. Expecting to choose and order curriculum in a couple of hours may be possible, but just isn’t realistic for most people. Neither is expecting to make a single phone call to a homeschool veteran hoping they’ll tell you what to buy, either. Choosing can take time. Finding the most appropriate product takes research. Locating the best price may take even longer. And decisions made in a hurry do not always work out.
In my book Suddenly Homeschooling, I offer several chapters worth of suggestions on how to accomplish this task and find educational materials in a hurry. But even with a time crunch, I suggest taking a couple of days. Rushing through the job in an afternoon can work, but having more time is obviously preferred.
That’s why the comparison to car shopping is a good one. You’d never want to buy a car that is too small for your family, since trying to squeeze a family of 9 into a 5-seater simply won’t work. You wouldn’t want to purchase a gas-guzzler either, if you knew you’d never be able to afford to run the thing. You’d never want to buy a truck when what you really needed was a car, a sports-car if what you needed was a conversion van. Collecting information, taking notes, talking to people and reading product reviews are all part of the process. And just like you’d never buy a car without so much as looking at it, why assume it’s alright to buy curriculum without looking at some sample pages?
Sometimes, new homeschool parents expect quick answers. A quick phone call to a curriculum supplier or sending an email to an experienced homeschooling parent just isn’t enough. Understanding that curriculum decisions are at least as important as making other major purchases is the first step. Realizing that curriculum decisions may be even more important (these are your kids, after all) than other major purchases is even better.