Think Before You Buy

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 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.

Angie Kauffman
Angie, a domestically challenged nerd and mom of three very fun kids, is the founder of Real Life at Home.  Angie also listens to music every chance she gets, writes eBookspodcastsloves Pinterestdocuments the little moments in life on Instagram, and occasionally sleeps.


  1. says

    You’re right about the library! Public libraries, if possible, should always be the first go-to source for putting together teaching materials. We are fortunate in this area! Our main branch hosts a number of educational kids’ clubs on different topics, complete with study materials for parents. Many of the kids of the local homeschool co-op attend the biology club, the puppetry club, the writers’ club, etc., as part of their homeschool curriculum.

  2. says

    Our homeschool park day group gets together every year for a curriculum night, so everyone can get a hands-on look at others’ stuff. And someone is always bringing something to the park that someone else wants to see. Makes a big difference!

    • says

      We have curriculum swaps, which is a great way to trade off the items that didn’t work for you for something you want to try out!

  3. says

    One year I purchased a book from a newish curriculum company and right on the front page in their mission/commitment statement was a list of what was considered heretical….Roman Catholicism and any popery was #3 on the list…Yeah, I returned it.

    I have found 4-H to be a great resource for things I don’t want to teach. Such as science. My older children all completed 4 yrs of the Entomology project. (The study of insects) They also learn presentation and oral speaking skills, record book completion and following exact instructions to qualify for project completion.

  4. says

    I actually find the negative reviews as helpful, if not more helpful, than the positive reviews on a product. Read the negatives and see if what is written would be a negative for you as well – sometimes it won’t be. is a great place for reviews on products specific to home school materials.

  5. says

    Hi Jennifer,
    That is so true — I usually read the negative reviews before the positive to see what’s wrong with the product. Thanks for the link. It looks like a good source for homeschool-related reviews!

  6. says

    Great post. I also use 100 Top Curriculum Picks to look at the major curriculum and the learning styles that fit best with it.