I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

5 Tips to Consider for Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum

5 Tips to Consider for Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum-The Unlikely Homeschool

"What curriculum do you use?" asks the newbie homeschool mom overwhelmed by all the CHOICES.

Before summer's end, I will invariably hear this question about a dozen times. Moms who only recently made the rather difficult decision to homeschool are now faced with the equally difficult task of finding the "perfect" curriculum. And so with admirable resolve, they ask any and all homeschool moms, "What curriculum do you use?"

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

In-and-of-itself, it's not a bad question. It's certainly coming from a place of sincerity and hope. But, unfortunately, it's the wrong question.

New homeschool mom, in trying to replicate someone else's homeschool curriculum, you are setting yourself up for homeschool failure. Why? Because your homeschool will be as unique as your home. You are a unique mother with unique children. You have a unique schedule and a unique budget. You've been blessed with unique struggles and unique success. All of which need to be taken into consideration when choosing a unique curriculum for you and your household.

So, if you can't create a carbon copy curriculum of your well-meaning homeschooling friend, how do you go about choosing the "perfect" curriculum?

Here's how.......(insert the sound of chirping crickets) 

Sorry to be so facetious, but the truth is, there is no black-and-white, tried-and-true curriculum choice formula that works for every mom. It's kind of like the spotted unicorn, it just doesn't exist.

But, before you slump over in complete defeat, there are a few very important tips to consider when choosing that elusive "perfect" curriculum choice for you and your kids.

Ask yourself a few simple questions.

  1. Why do I want to homeschool? 
  2. What is my child's learning style? (The three major styles: Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic) 
  3. What is my teaching style? 
  4. What is my curriculum budget? 
  5. How much time do I have each day for lesson planning? 
  6. How many hours do I have each day to devote to homeschooling? 
  7. How many children will I be teaching? 
  8. Do I have little ones that will demand an equal share of my time during the school day? 
  9. How involved will my spouse (if applicable) be in day-to-day teaching? 
  10. What are my teaching strengths? weaknesses? 
  11. What subjects do I wish to cover? 
  12. Do my children have any particular gifts or passions?
While it is a noble goal to want to tailor your entire homeschool to your child's learning style, the fact of the matter is, there are many other factors to consider that just might have to trump that. (Up until this year, all my children have been using a math curriculum that I really love, but the time investment will not be possible in the upcoming school year when I will have four full-time learners to teach. I have resigned to buy my "second choice" for my daughter because it is more independently structured and would require less from me.)

Determine what kind of teaching methods you prefer.

After asking yourself the previous key questions, determine which teaching methodology most lines up with your answers. There are many different methods of education. I'll just touch on a few of the most popular.

Traditional Textbook Approach

This instructor-driven approach is similar to that used in a traditional classroom. Textbooks, tests, quizzes, and well-ordered lesson plans often come in a "boxed set".

Examples include:

  • A Beka Book
  • Bob Jones University Press
  • ACE
  • Alpha Omega
  • Rod & Staff

Unit Study Approach

Most, if not all subjects, are unified by studying one particular topic at a time. Books, videos, field trips, and hands-on activities combine to make a well-rounded look at the chosen topic of interest. While this approach is helpful when teaching multiple ages, it often requires intentional planning.

Examples include:

  • Geo Matters
  • Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett
  • Five in a Row

Classical Approach

Designed to develop independent learners with critical thinking skills, the classical approach focuses on the trivium stages of learning (grammar stage, dialectic stage, rhetoric stage). Ancient disciplines and literary classics are emphasized.

Examples include:

  • Writing Tales
  • Tapestry of Grace
  • Classical Conversations

Living Literature Approach

As this approach to learning utilizes "real" books rather than textbooks, a library card is a must. Learning comes from the natural exploration of books written by experts in a subject. In its simplicity, the living literature approach CAN be combined with other methods to produce a well-rounded study.

Examples include:

  • Sonlight
  • Veritas Press
  • Heart of Dakota
  • Beautiful Feet

Charlotte Mason Approach

Named for its founder, turn-of-the-century educator Charlotte Mason, this particular approach is very similar to the Living Literature style, but also incorporates a thorough study of nature, art, and writing with the help of copywork and notebook keeping in order to educate the "whole child."

Examples include:

Eclectic Approach

This particular approach is a combination of all the others. Value is found in certain aspects of each method and combined to create an "a la carte" curriculum. Science might be taught using unit studies, while history might be enjoyed with living literature books. Mathematics could be incorporated with textbooks while language may be taught with classical resources.

Other Methods Include

  • Waldorf Education
  • Thomas Jefferson Education
  • Montessori Approach
  • Un-schooling

For more information on each method of education, be sure to check out a great Homeschool Methods and Approaches series written by moms who have embraced one particular choice or another.

List your subjects in order of importance.

While all subjects have merit, not all subjects deserve equal attention. Make a list of the subjects you wish to cover in the order of importance to you. If you determine that Language/Grammar is the subject that you find the most important to a well-rounded education, begin your decision making there. Devote your time to investigating and purchasing Language curriculum. Then, move on to the next most important subject on your list. Otherwise, you might end up squandering your entire spring and summer deciding upon incidental subjects and have no core subjects with which to begin your school year the following fall.  

Seek opinions for particular curriculum choices.

Unlike asking the open-ended "What curriculum do you use?" that does not account for your particular variables, asking "Have you ever used ______? What did you like/dislike about it?" limits the conversation to only curriculums that could possibly work for your unique circumstances. Once you have done some initial investigation to narrow your choices down to some specific companies/curriculum, you can now ask around for some pros and cons to help solidify your decision.  

In addition to the thoughts of veteran homeschoolers in your own personal homeschool circles, here are a few other trusted sources to help. Please keep in mind that curriculum reviews are always mixed. Every curriculum will have an equal number of people who love it and hate it. Just remember that the very quality that makes a curriculum not work for one family, might be the exact quality that would make it perfect for you and yours. Have an open mind and consider your unique homeschool before making your decision. 

Curriculum review resources

Give yourself grace.

In your first year of homeschool, you have to allow yourself imperfection. Remember that you can not expect to create the same "picture perfect" homeschool as the veterans that surround you. They have been "perfecting" their school day/curriculum for years. Much of their "perfection" has come from trial and error...from successes and failures. When you are just starting out, remember my recent advice to Newbie Homeschoolers and show yourself grace. Plan to make a few mistakes along the way. If need be, budget for it. Understand that you will probably order something that you will not like, that you will not use, that you will have to chalk up as a loss. THAT'S OK! Box it up and pass it on...grace!

Once you've got your choices in place, it's time to make your shopping list! Be sure to grab my FREE printable. Good luck! You can do it!


  1. This is so true. Every family is different and will choose something different. I was told over and over, in our first couple years of homeschooling, what a great curriculum such-and-such was. I was almost convinced to buy it numerous times, but as I continued to look at it online and at a convention, I realized that it just wasn't the right fit for our family.
    I recently wrote a post for Heart of the Matter that will come out in early April. It outlines what curriculums we've chosen for next year. It may look similar to someone else's, but it probably won't look EXACTLY the same, and that's okay! It's hard not to compare and think that you're doing something wrong when someone else is so passionate about their choices. We just have to trust that we've done the research and the Lord has helped us choose what is good for our family.
    Good post, Jamie. :)

    1. That's the key...everyone is passionate about what they chose...that's why they chose it. You have to take their "passion" with a grain of salt sometimes, and just ask specific questions. Can't wait to see your curriculum choices! It'll be a great post.

    2. http://www.dearlylovedmist.com/2013/04/our-yes-i-know-its-still-early-but-ive.html


  2. Wow! I wish I had little ones to teach now. Ours are all grown. This is one of the clearest posts on how to choose what works for your particular homeschool that I've ever seen.

  3. I wish so much I could have read this when I first began homeschooling! Through much trial and error I finally learned that my homeschool didn't have to, (and wasn't really SUPPOSED TO,) look like anyone else's! I went into homeschooling with very unrealistic expectations, all because I thought using a certain curriculum would mean instantaneous success. Oh, the reality check I was in for!!

    I plan to share your blog post. If I had read it and taken it to heart in the beginning, it would have saved me a great deal of time, stress, and discouragement!

    1. I was actually just speaking to a mom who relayed a similar story, Tanya. It's something I think we, veterans, should relay to Newbie moms...it will save them so much grief and frustration.

  4. Hi, i really want to homeschool my kids, but now while waiting im beginning to feel nervous about it... is that normal? now im thinking of working, but my heart is really to stay home n teach my kids :( how should i overcome that? someone told me homeschool is not for everyone, so now im reallly becoming doubtful..

  5. I really loved the one about listing your subjects in order of importance. I realized I spent more time selecting the curriculum for a subject that was farther on my list and really missed out on the one that was truly important to me!

    1. It's definitely easy to do. Sometimes the "fun" subjects pull me away from the important ones.

  6. Jamie, this is great I'm going to have to print this out for newbies! Blessings, K

  7. This is a great list of all the major players, well said!

  8. Thanks for this post! I am in tears over here. I have overwhelmed myself with all the options. I am going to print this out and spend some time answering these questions and seeking God's guidance.
    Thank you again!

    1. Oh Shannon, I am just seeing this now. I'm so sorry this has been a frustrating process for you. I'd encourage you to pray and ask God to show you exactly the curriculum for your family. He will! *hugs*

  9. Publishing your doctoral dissertation can be very effective for the aspiring educator. When go through the blood, sweat, and tears of organizing your thoughts, research, and argument for your dissertation you are at your prime.

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  11. I am loving your posts, and this article is excellent! I am a newbie at homeschooling, and I have gleaned SO much from your posts. I love the way you organize your thoughts.

    On another note, I have a question about something you mentioned in this article. "(Up until this year, all my children have been using a math curriculum that I REALLY LOVE, but the time investment will not be possible in the upcoming school year when I will have four full-time learners to teach. I have resigned to buy my "second choice" for my daughter because it is more independently structured and would require less from me.) I understand from reading some of your articles that you use Teaching Textbooks. Is this the one you are scrapping for second choice?...and may I ask what your second choice is and why you chose it?

    I am leaning toward TT because I am getting my feet wet and decided it was best to have a couple of subjects where our daughter can navigate on her own. She will be entering the 3rd grade and has only attended public school. She has been identified as gifted in Math. I understand that she may wiz through TT, but I am willing to take that chance so that I can better understand what our homeschooling year will look like. Any thoughts?

    1. No. Teaching Textbooks was the "second choice" I was referring to. I wrote this article several years ago and we have used TT ever since. We absolutely love it. I'm so glad I made the switch. Mind you, like all curriculum, it has its PROS and CONS. But for us, the pros far outweigh the cons. I wrote a post about it. You can read it here>>http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2014/08/a-beka-arithmetic-vs-teaching-textbooks.html

  12. 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!

  13. Great read!!! Thanks for sharing such a great blog, blog like these will surely help each and every homeschoolers in homeschooling their children in best way.

  14. We're just starting out, but we have a tutor because I'm working full time (healthcare). I am, however, trying to get away from rigid "schooling" to a more free way of learning for the kids (aged 8, 6 and 3, without leaving the basic necessary skills behind. Where would one be able to see what the main skills are that kids these ages need to achieve?

    1. One place I've found helpful is looking at several curriculum's "scope and sequence". This tells what they teach and in what order. It should give you a good idea what skills a child is generally expected to have at that grade level. Keep in mind that homeschoolers are often "ahead" in some subjects, on grade in others and possibly "behind" in some. That's ok. Just make progress (and adhere to state regulations).

  15. Hi there, I'm considering Abeka or All About Reading for my 1st grader. Which do you recommend? This is also my first year homeschooling.

  16. Great read!!! Thanks for sharing such a great blog.

  17. I have homeschooled my children and blog like these have always helped me. Keep sharing such great blogs.