How to Select a Homeschooling Curriculum

When putting together a homeschooling curriculum for your children there are many options. You can purchase a complete curriculum, a subject specific curriculum or assemble a curriculum comprised of books, videos and other resources on your own. Depending on which philosophy of homeschooling you decide to follow, a curriculum might not even be required. Today there are complete curriculum packages written for each and every homeschooling philosophy as well as philosophy blends. Some correspond with a specific grade level, where as others are meant to be used for a range of ages. Some are free or nearly free where as others can cost over $1000. As you can probably imagine each has its pros and cons.

By far the quickest and easiest way to begin homeschooling is to find a complete curriculum. Instead of selecting different resources for each subject, parents eliminate extensive research and decision making by selecting one complete package. Some complete curriculum packages even come with a teacher which eliminates a lot effort for the busy parent. These are commonly referred to as school-at-home programs as opposed to homeschooling. The main difference is that the person responsible for the education is the state and not the parent. While this type of curriculum makes the transition easier for the parent, it is not always the best decision for the child. Teachers who are located remotely don't tend to develop close relationships with students. In addition, the parent is largely cut-out of the loop and therefore may miss a cue when something is off. For parents who opt for a complete curriculum where they end up being the teacher, often a few weeks into the transition to homeschooling, parents realize that portions of the complete packaged curriculum just aren't a good fit. They then drop them and race to find a replacement.

One of the most popular complete curriculum options, especially for parents transitioning to homeschooling from the public school is the K-12 curriculum. Many school districts offer similar programs which are a slightly altered version of this curriculum. These are grade-level specific, on-line school-at-home programs that come with a teacher. Since the material in the curriculum closely aligns with face-to-face public school material both parents and students have a good idea of what to expect. These programs are advertised as tuition-free implying that they are free to the homeschooling families who use them. While this is true, schools love them because they receive district funding for each registered child and can educate many more students with far fewer resources and teachers.

If the above option doesn't sound like a good fit for you read-on. There are many more alternatives.
Hopefully you have had a chance to take the Homeschooling Philosophy Quiz I referred to in my previous post. Most curriculum tends to align with a philosophy of education. Therefore, knowing your preferred philosophies will help to narrow the options. A further way to hone in on the best curriculum for your family is religious identification. Families who chose homeschooling during the 70's, 80's and 90's did so for two primary reasons; religion or issues with the public school. Because of these origins, identifying whether you want a religious-based or secular curriculum continues to be a major discerning factor when sifting through options today.

As for me personally, we followed a complete curriculum for one year of our homeschooling adventure. My children were very young when we began homeschooling so we primarily did educational activities the first few years. When my oldest was in 3rd grade I began looking for a little more structure. The curriculum I chose was Ambleside Online. I selected it because I took a homeschooling philosophy quiz and scored high with Charlotte Mason, it was a mostly complete curriculum, looked good, and it was low cost. Although I selected a complete curriculum, I had trouble following it before we even started. Ambleside Online is a curriculum based in religion and I wanted a secular curriculum. As it turns out, my kids hated copywork and I really hated it when they made some for me during play time. Nature study was okay, but never a great hit. My oldest child loved the stories, but I found my middle child learned better through hands-on activities. I have no regrets from the time we spent following the Ambleside Online curriculum and still refer to it today when seeking resources. I just wish I had someone to help guide me through the options that were available at the time.

There is a list of complete curriculum options below. Most of the options listed have received good reviews from homeschooling families I know that have actually used them. The list is by no means comprehensive as new curriculum seems to be developed every day.

Traditional Approach

In this textbook/workbook approach to education, kids have well defined lessons, assignments, quizzes, tests and grades. This method looks very much like the public school. Many companies offer complete curriculum which can be implemented at home.
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - Secular, PreK-12, textbook based
  • Moving Beyond the Page - Secular, PreK- 9
  • Khan Academy - Secular, on-line, free, PreK-12, complete subjects for upper levels
  • A Beka - Textbook based, Christian Curriculum, PreK-12
  • BJU Press - Full Biblical Worldview Curriculum with on-call consultants books, on-line, DVD or Computer Disks
  • Calvert Curriculum -  combo textbook/on-line secular curriculum, K-8 (High School in Development Phase)
  • Horizons - Workbook based, Christian Curriculum, Pre-K-12

Independent Learning

The older students are the more easily they can follow an independent learning curriculum. Although they can align with any method, many follow the traditional approach.
  • Robinson Curriculum - Textbook/Workbook based Christian curriculum designed for independent study, grades 1-12
  • Ron Paul Curriculum - Curriculum built on foundations of liberty, mostly self-directed, free for K-5, 6-12 involves fees for video based courses

Computer Based Learning (Traditional Approach)

With the popularity of computer-based learning and the internet providing information at the fingertips, many independent learning curriculum are implemented via computers.


Charlotte Mason

The Charlotte Mason method involves reading "Living Books". Living books teach through story rather than through fact as in historical fiction. Lessons are under 30 minutes in length and incorporate nature study, copywork, narration, music appreciation, and art appreciation. Children explore the outdoors and create their own nature notebooks based on observations. Music is studied by listening to works of great classical composers and folk tunes. Passages are selected for literary content and copied into notebooks to learn spelling, grammar, punctuation as well as techniques of great writing.


Classical education is broken into three segments of study. PreK-5 is filled with memorization of facts such as the 50 states and the periodic table. Facts are frequently memorized with song. In grades 6-8th the kids learn the arts of logic and rhetoric. The upper grades emphasize independent thought and expression through written and spoken language. (think lawyer/politician) 



This method of education puts the child in charge of his/her time by placing him/her in a prepared environment. An emphasis is placed on life skills such as learning to pour from a pitcher, and polishing silver. The Montessori classroom contains age appropriate activities, constructed from natural materials, such as geography puzzles, sewing cards, books, counting manipulatives, and seashells and is primarily used for younger children.



This method centers around a daily rhythm and educates the child's head, heart and hands. A Waldorf education may involve circle time and movement activities, fairy tales, beautiful works of art, learning mathematics through art, and learning to knit. A Waldorf student might make a drawing of a cat with a curved tail in the shape of the letter C to learn about that letter. They may create geometric works of art as well as three dimensional and wire frame drawings to learn about geometry.


Unit Studies

In this method all subjects are covered with one topic. Often times topics are based on periods of history, but single books, science based topics such as animals, or the human body also can be selected as focus topics. If the topic was candy the child may read books about candy, write about candy, count M&M's, try making their own chocolate bars, or do a survey of friends to find out their favorite types of candy.



In this method of education children are encouraged to follow their interests (aka Unschooling). Parents provide a rich educational environment by continually introducing new materials and ideas. Parents may give their children books, introduce them to knitting, or buy them an electronics kit. Usually the child sets the educational path while the parents are role models, cheerleaders, and become specialists at finding resources. Sometimes referred to as Unschooling, there is no set curriculum and learning is an extension of life. Throughout the educational years, parents expose children to a variety of activities and encourage them to continue with activities the kids find interesting.

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