6 key action steps for selecting the best homeschool curriculum for your family

How to narrow down your homeschool curriculum choices according to homeschool approach, children's learning style, goals, and more.

Congratulations on your decision to homeschool your children. We know it is an important choice for you and your family. We want to support you in making homeschooling a wonderful experience.

One of the most important decisions you will make as part of the homeschooling journey is selecting the right curriculum. There are so many choices out there! It can be overwhelming to sort through the options and make an educated decision about what is best.

We are here to guide you in selecting your homeschool curriculum, making it more manageable, and helping you reach the best decision for your family.

This guide is supported by our foundational beliefs at Outschool:

  • We believe that all learners should have access to high-quality curriculum.

  • We understand that instructional materials are an important lever in successful learning outcomes for all learners.

  • We offer welcoming and inclusive learning experiences for all learners, regardless of their religious beliefs.

This guide will focus on secular curriculum options because they are often the most inclusive of all learners.

We have broken this guide into 6 Action Steps. These are steps you can take to make the best homeschool curriculum decisions for you as teachers and for your learners.

We know there is no single right way to homeschool and that you will create the path that works best for your family.

Step 1: Establish your process

Set learning goals

A good starting place for selecting a homeschool curriculum is to write out the learning goals you have for your students. Some examples of learning goals are:

  • Mastering addition/subtraction

  • Learning to write a 5 paragraph essay

  • Or building a robot

We suggest you write these goals out and review them with your learners. This will help you get excited about what you plan to learn and accomplish in your homeschool!

Understand state laws governing homeschooling

Another important part of your selection process is researching the legal requirements of your state. These requirements may impact your options, and we recommend developing a solid legal understanding of them.

You can use HSLDA, a nonprofit organization that provides resources, including homeschool laws by state. Some items you will need to understand are whether testing is required and what type of record keeping is necessary.

Identify your children’s learning styles

You are well-equipped to teach your children because you know them best! Learners come in all shapes and sizes, with different learning preferences (auditory vs. visual) and interests. It is a good idea to consider your learners’ preferences and learning styles when researching curriculum options.

Connect with other homeschool families  

Reaching out to experienced homeschool families in your community or via social networks is a great way to connect. You can get recommendations for homeschool curriculum as well as ideas for how to make the best choices. This can also provide opportunities for your learners to socialize with other homeschoolers!

Step 2: Develop your lens for selecting homeschool curriculum

Determine learning priorities  

Ask yourself what is most important for your learners to learn in your homeschool. It is helpful to make a list, as mentioned above, so you can identify your wishes and prioritize them.

Do you want your learners to have strong academic skills, cultivate a love of learning, develop tech skills, become leaders, or all of these? By setting these goals, it can help guide your selection process for a homeschool curriculum.

Establish your teaching style

What teaching style do you want to use in your homeschool? A few key questions you can answer to help guide this are:

  • How much time do you have to spend teaching?

  • How much independent study do you expect or need, given your other responsibilities?

  • Do you want to use a curriculum that contains a pacing guide and allows you to plan or one that is more flexible to personalize for your learners?

Answering these questions will help you develop your instructional vision. This vision is an important lens to use when you are selecting the curriculum you plan to use with your homeschoolers. Read this piece by a homeschooling mom about how homeschooling works for her and her family for inspiration!

Identify your homeschooling approach

How do you want to operate your homeschool environment?

Do you want your homeschool to feel like a traditional school environment or be more active and experiential? There are many approaches to homeschooling - the list below contains some of the most popular approaches.

There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. The beauty is you get to select or mix and max the approaches that work best for you and your learners!

A. Traditional homeschooler

You want your homeschool to feel more like a traditional school with a more familiar sequenced core curriculum. Sometimes this is a good fit when trying out homeschooling. It can make for easier transitions back to traditional schools.

B. Classical homeschooler

You love the classical approach to education and want to base your instruction on the classical styles of Greek and Roman. This includes a major focus on grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

C. Unit study homeschooler

You like to use an approach where students learn about a topic across English, social studies, math, science, and more. For example, suppose you were teaching about World War I. In that case, you can introduce fiction or non-fiction books for English and social studies, math problems that address challenges from that time, and scientific approaches that solved problems for different armies. These are often more experiential and require a bit more time on the teacher’s part.

D. Unschooling homeschooler

You love to use a very flexible, student-interest-driven approach to homeschooling. There is generally no schedule, and this model supports natural learning.

E. Pre-packaged program homeschooler

You want to use a comprehensive curriculum plus oversight and record-keeping processes to help you manage homeschooling. These can be helpful if you have less time in your schedule to homeschool but are often a bit more restrictive in your homeschool options.

You have done the work of Steps 1 and 2 to understand what you want your children to learn and how you want to teach. Now you are ready to go onto Step 3 and start reviewing your curriculum options!

Step 3: Understand and narrow your choices for homeschool curriculum

There are many choices when it comes to homeschool curriculum. Use the lists you developed on learning outcomes, teaching style, and homeschool approach to guide you in the process. There are other important things to consider:

  • Cost: How much do you have to spend on curriculum?

  • Time: How much time do you have to plan, prep, and teach?

  • Combining Learners: Can you combine your learners for certain subjects, or do you need to teach them independently?

  • Beliefs: Do your philosophical or religious beliefs influence how you want to homeschool?

  • Alignment to State Standards: If your goals include college/university after homeschooling, you will want to consider alignment to state standards. Your learners will need to master the necessary content to apply to college.

The options are endless for curriculum, and it can be overwhelming. A great place to start your research into the available options that match your approach and teaching style is Cathy Duffy Reviews. These reviews offer many filters that can help make your search process more manageable.

There are some wonderful Outschool classes you can try! This can help you figure out what works best for your learners and to outsource some of your teaching. Check out our guide to homeschooling on Outschool to learn more!

Once you create a list of curriculum options that could be good for your homeschool, you can chat with other homeschool families to get references or recommendations on the items on your list. You can use Facebook homeschool communities to ask questions about your possible choices. There are styles to fit every learner, and the fun part is researching and coming up with compelling options!

Step 4: sample homeschool curriculum options

Now that you have narrowed down a list of options from your research, conversations, and social interactions, it is time to sample! Reach out to curriculum publishers or visit their websites and request or download samples. Once you receive your samples, it is a good idea to double-check:

  • Cost

  • Amount of required teacher prep time and planning

  • Appropriate grade levels/ages

  • The instructional technique (is it more hands-on/experiential or traditional?)

  • Amount of required writing

  • Philosophical method (secular or religious)

  • Alignment to state standards

  • Approach to inclusivity and historical narratives

You can check out online options such as those that Outschool offers to supplement your homeschool or to be the core of your homeschool.

Step 5: make a decision about your homeschool curriculum

You have done the hard work to establish your learning priorities, teaching style, homeschooling approach, budget, and philosophical approach. You did the research to narrow your options that fit your needs and your learner’s educational preferences. You have reviewed samples of the possible options.

Now it is time to make a decision. You can review your finalists with your learners and make a joint decision! This will increase their excitement for their upcoming homeschooling! Compare the strengths and gaps of your options. Review any feedback you received from other parents or homeschool social communities.

Consider how much work each option will require from you and if it matches the priorities you established in Step 2 for your learners. And then, make a decision and buy or download your curriculum. There are high-quality options that are offered for free or low-cost, which are curated on the HSLDA website.

Step 6: Start teaching with your selected homeschool curriculum!

The moment has arrived for you to start teaching with your new curriculum! We hope these Action Steps have been helpful in getting you to this point. Good luck, and let us know if you have other recommendations from your homeschool curriculum selection process. You can join our Homeschool with Outschool Parent Community to share your ideas.

Jennifer WolfeJennifer leads strategic & DEIB partnerships for Outschool. She's a former The Learning Accelerator partner and advisor to many ed tech companies on the development of high-quality K-12 curriculum.

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