Starting but overwhelmed by choice?

Recently a reader wrote and asked me ~

“I want to start homeschooling my 7 year-old but I am over whelmed by all the curriculum choices. What would you recommend?”

May I first say that this is not a simple choice, nor a quick one.  Many new homeschoolers feel the pressure to …

  1. Start straight away
  2. Spend money on the “right” curriculum
  3. Make choices that avoid “failing” their children and the family
  4. Don’t trust the child’s natural built-in desire to learn
  5. Feel overwhelmed because so many approaches seem good.

But don’t!  Take a deep breath …. let it out slowly … and relax.  This process is like planning a wonderful overseas journey with your entire family, and your planning may take weeks or months to refine and finalize before you leap on to the plane and take off!

Here’s a few guidelines ~

  • Start with prayer and ask the Lord to show you what His vision is for you, your family and your child.
  • Visit other homeschooling families. You can quickly discern approached that make your heart leap with joy, or squirm with a clear “no”.   The family I first visited was so strict and rigid and demanding, that I thought, “No way … I can’t do that!”  The second family were so relaxed and unscheduled that I felt confused and insecure.  I realized that I was looking for some regular structure but with creative freedom.   This defining thought helped refine my focus.
  • Read good homeschooling books. My favourites ~ “For The Children’s Sake” by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and the “The Whole Hearted Child” by Clay Clarkson.
  • Research the Internet –  look at different approaches, learning and teaching styles, costs, times and schedules …  (see the list below and the references at the end)
  • Gradually you will find a sense of fear and dread or a feeling  of peace and excitement  with each approach.  Ignore any approaches that make you fearful or stressed and follow-up on those approaches that stimulate and excite you.  Follow your heart and be led by peace.  In my experience, this is often how the Lord leads me.
  • I really urge parents to consider their teaching and parenting styles in this decision too. Some moms hate mess and hands-on activities.  Other moms hate marking and tight schedules. Many homeschool moms start with stressful, demanding homeschool curriculums and are “burnt out” in the first months!
  • If your children are very young, please don’t buy the expensive “bells-and-whistled” boxed curriculum for each child.  Find something simple that all your kids can enjoy together and ease into your formal schooling gently.  Read aloud is a winner every time!
  • This is a journey and will change and evolve.  Nothing is cast in stone.

There are different approaches ~

  • Traditional school-at-Home – usually has separate textbooks and workbooks for the various school subjects. You read the assigned chapter in the textbook and answer the questions about the content. Usually the workbooks contain fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions –  Abeka, ACE, Alpha Omega, Bob Jones.  Many parents select this as a “safe-tried-and-tested” method.  Usually included marks, tests, exams and schedules.
  • Unit Studiestakes take a theme or topic and incorporate all the school subjects (language arts, history, science, music, art, etc.) into that topic, such as  Konos, Delight Directed Studies.  A wonderful way to deep-dive into topics that your children love and are interested in.
  • Eclectic Homeschooling – is basically a collection of several different styles of learning. Eclectic Homeschool parent forms his/her own homeschool approach from a variety of sources in the way of ideas, curriculum, and methodology.  This is what I call a  “Tailor-made” education, often done in collaboration with the child.
  • Unschooling – also known as natural, interest-led, and child-led learning. Unschoolers learn from everyday life experiences and do not use school schedules or formal lessons. Unschooling basically goes with the interests of the child. There is no set curriculum.
  • Classical Homeschoolingalso called “The Socratic Method” is based on the Trivium, a method of teaching children according to the phases of a child’s cognitive development (concrete, analytical, and abstract thinking).- Dorothy Sayers.
  • The Charlotte Mason Method – uses rich literature and “living books” rather than textbooks or dumbed-down twaddle, giving him a broad education. Her approach works with the way children naturally learn and presents a generous curriculum, including nature study, art and music appreciation, and handicrafts, as well as the usual academic subjects. This is the method I followed for most of our homeschooling.  
  • You can also find other curriculums with these approaches – The Waldorf Method, Montessori, Multiple Intelligences, DVD/Video Schooling, Internet Homeschooling, Delayed Academics: (Dr Raymond Moore)

Give yourself time to work through this process. Sometimes it can take weeks or even months.   In the mean time don’t worry about your child falling behind.  Choose a great literature book and read aloud to your child and let him follow his interests before you leap in a buy a curriculum.  He will not fall behind!

Here are some more references:

Encouraging you in grace, Nadene

3 thoughts on “Starting but overwhelmed by choice?

  1. Pingback: New to Homeschooling? | Practical Pages

  2. Hi nadene,

    Even though I am a “experienced” homeschooler, I still find it helpful and encouraging to read advice such as this post which is aimed at “new” homeschoolers. I wonder if this feeling of overwhelm and underlying panic ever dissipates? Thanks for posting, I use your site regularly.


    • @Anna, I can identify with that feeling of anxiety! I go through periods of stress every time I prepare for a child’s new school year! It doesn’t seem to get easier as they get older. My anxiety has shifted from what curriculum to use to concerns about my teens’ characters as they transistion to greater independence and sometimes fail. I still want to feel in control, but I am not. Never a comfortable place to be …


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