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Copyright 2005 Julie Shepherd Knapp

The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
Homeschooling Basics


What Is a Homeschool Curriculum?
Do I Need to Buy It Right Away
?

By Julie Shepherd Knapp, copyright 2006


Well, it depends.

Choosing and buying a homeschool curriculum seems like the logical first step to many new
homeschool parents.  But first, let's talk about what we mean by the word "curriculum" and whether or
not all homeschooling families really want or need to buy it.  


What do people really mean when they ask what type of homeschool curriculum you use?  

Many people think of "curriculum" as a complete set of packaged or boxed lessons, designed to teach
a certain grade level, bought from a company which specializes in educational materials.  But this is
only one type of curriculum that is available to homeschoolers.  When people ask what curriculum you
use, they are really asking -- What do you use to teach your children?  Do you follow a particular
program or approach?  And do you use a packaged set of lessons or not?  There are, generally
speaking, three types of homeschool curricula.  



School-at-Home, Alternative, or Eclectic?  

Which kind of curriculum fits your homeschool goals?  


School-at-Home Curriculum consists of a complete set of materials designed to teach all subjects at
a specific grade level.  This usually  includes teacher's guide books, lessons, worksheets, tests, and
other activities -- everything needed to teach one child for the entire school year.  This is similar to the
curriculum used in public school and is often based on state educational standards, so it may
sometimes be called "standards-aligned" curriculum.  

If you want to re-create the public school environment in your homeschool, then this is probably the
kind of formal curriculum you are looking for.  You may buy complete packaged sets from curriculum
suppliers, or you may create or pull-together your own curriculum using textbooks and online
resources.


Alternative Curriculum is designed to help parents teach their children using a particular
homeschooling approach or philosophy.  This is usually quite different from how public schools teach.  
There are, for example, curricula that use ideas and methods drawn from Classical Education, Waldorf
Philosophy, the Charlotte Mason approach, and many others.  Some alternative curricula are very
structured and formal, others are more flexible and informal.  Some provide pre-packaged teacher's
guides, daily lesson plans, and tests.  Others provide suggested weekly goals, or just a list of
suggested resources.  

A packaged alternative curriculum isn't really a necessity for teaching the various alternative
approaches, and many homeschool parents do just fine without one.  Instead, many parents prefer to
follow the advice, suggestions, and methods presented by the educators who developed the different
methods.  They look to books, essays, websites and online support groups for guidance in creating
their own informal alternative curriculum using library, online, and community resources.


Eclectic curriculum is a "mix-and-match" selection that is pulled together from many sources,
including any number of learning materials and products, based on the needs of an individual family.  If
you want to use different curriculum suppliers for different subjects, or if  you want to combine methods
from several homeschool approaches, or if your child works at different grade-levels in different
subjects... an eclectic curriculum is what you will probably end up with.   You may find that you'll want to
buy packaged products for some subjects and create your own curriculum for other subjects using
library, community, and online resources.  


Life as a Curriculum.  Many parents who pull together their own eclectic curriculum will say that they
are don't use a curriculum at all, because they are not using a formal packaged product.  You will also
find parents who actually don't like the term "curriculum" or the structured learning environment that it
implies.  Some parents, especially those who follow the unschooling approach, see their curriculum
items as a collection of resources that facilitate learning, and believe that life experiences create a
better learning environment than any packaged product could provide.  Unschoolers tend to see "life"
as their curriculum, and "the world" as their classroom.    



Packaged or Parent-Created?

Well, how much time, energy, and money do you have?

Parents truly can create a solid, workable, homemade version of any kind of commercially available
curriculum or product.  Should you try?  

It depends on several things, such as your family's homeschool budget, your familiarity with the subject
area, and whether or not you are happy with the packaged options that are available to you.  Also,
consider how much time you have to hunt down free or low-cost alternatives, and your own
resourcefulness in "making do" and creating "from scratch".  Even if you're short on time and
resourcefulness, if you just do a little searching online you will find many suitable free alternatives to
most packaged curriculum.   

If the whole idea of a DIY curriculum is just too much for you, don't worry -- many families start out
using packaged materials.  Many parents would rather tweak a curriculum to meet their needs than try
to pull together their own resources. And many busy parents are more than willing to pay for the
convenience having someone else tell them what, when, and how to teach their children.  


If you are considering purchasing curriculum...

take a look at "How to Avoid Costly Curriculum Mistakes"
for tips on what to consider before you buy.


If you need help deciding which curriculum or alternative homeschooling approach to
choose for your child...

take "the quiz" --  the Homeschool Diner's
Click-O-Matic Guide to Choosing a Homeschool Approach

or go directly to the Homeschool Diner's
Guide to Homeschooling Approaches and Curriculum
to browse descriptions of some of the most popular approaches and explore your options.

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The Homeschool Diner logo and all pages of this website
are protected by copyright law.
Copyright 2005-2012 by Julie Shepherd Knapp,
unless otherwise noted.

To request permission to republish, reprint, make multiple
copies of, distribute, or post a particular article of julie's --
please contact :

julie at HomeschoolDiner dot com
(simply replace "at" with @ and "dot" with  .  )
________
Deep Thoughts
for
Homeschoolers
Taking on the education
of your children
is a daunting task,
and most of us
need simple baby steps
to get started.
-- Lisa, the Survival Mom
The Homeschool Diner logo and all pages of this website
are protected by copyright law.
Copyright 2005-2012 by Julie Shepherd Knapp,
unless otherwise noted.

To request permission to republish, reprint, make multiple
copies of, distribute, or post a particular article of julie's --
please contact :

julie at HomeschoolDiner dot com
(simply replace "at" with @ and "dot" with  .  )
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