The market for homeschooling has really grown. With all the curriculum and merchandise available nowadays, it is easy to get sucked into buying the latest promise of teaching just about any school subject with ease — sometimes with all the dialog written out for you!
Unfortunately, many times, a lot of these purchases go unused or are left to gather dust after a few lessons. Perhaps the material wasn’t as wonderful as you had hoped. Maybe you or your children simply didn’t connect with it. If I knew then what I know now, I’d tell myself to pause and think carefully before pulling out the credit card. Hopefully, with the following steps, you can save yourself from a closet filled with useless school materials.
1. Read Reviews
Along with the publisher’s own website, read testimonials from other people who have used the materials. Try amazon.com or search “[name of curriculum] reviews”. Better yet, if you know someone who have used the materials, ask what they thought of it or if you could borrow a copy.
2. Try Out Samples
For the more popular curriculum, there are usually samples available on their publisher’s website. Print these out if possible (or preview if interactive) and test drive them with your children. Remember, even if you absolutely love the format, your children (the ones who will have to use them) might not. Another good place to look is to see if your local library has a copy. If you’re lucky you might even find copies of workbooks available for loan.
3. Know Your Child’s Learning Style
Make sure what your are buying is a good fit for your child. If Tommy learns best through hands-on experiences, filling out 200 pages of math problems or listening to CD lectures on biology isn’t going to do much for him.
4. Buy Small
Lastly, if you’ve done your research and think a particular curriculum will be perfect for you, consider buying just one item. A lot of curricula are sold as complete sets that you can use with multiple children (thereby “saving you tons of money in the long run”). Sounds great, but if you spend $300 on an entire year’s worth of materials, complete with teacher’s editions, and find you (or your children) hate it after lesson 5, then that’s $300 down the drain. If possible, buy one student book first and try it out. Do not purchase anymore until you’ve completed it!
Navigating through the mass of appealing and promising workbooks, curricula, and software can be quite overwhelming and it’s sometimes hard to say no. Next time you are considering bringing another item into your homeschool, take a moment to reflect on whether it will add to your children’s education, or to the reject pile.
Amida tries to buy as little school materials as she can get away with. Find out what her children actually uses at Journey Into Unschooling.