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Copyright 2005 Julie Shepherd Knapp
Deep Thoughts
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The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
Homeschooling Basics

How to Avoid Costly Curriculum Mistakes

by Julie Knapp, copyright 2006

What is the most common mistake made by new homeschool parents?

Spending a lot of money on curriculum, before they have taken a good look at all the choices of
homeschooling approaches.

A complete packaged curriculum can cost over $500 per child (per year!).  That's a lot to pay for
something you may not really need or like. Vicki Bently, HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens Coordinator,
breaks down some typical curriculum costs in her article "
What Does it Cost to Homeschool?".

Most homeschoolers have made bad curriculum choices at one time or another.  They buy a workbook
without having looked thru it.  They decide, on impulse, to give something new a try.  It happens.  If
you've paid $10 for a workbook that never gets used, it's not the end of the world.  Maybe you can
even re-sell it later.  But, if you've paid $500 for a curriculum that doesn't meet your child's needs or
isn't a good fit for your child's learning style, it can be hard to deal with.    

How can you avoid costly curriculum mistakes?

Here are 5 tips to help you make good curriculum choices:

* Don't be in too big of a hurry to buy any curriculum.  

Do some research.  Let your child de-school for a few weeks while you decide what direction to take.  
Get to know your child and how he or she learns best.  Explore the various homeschooling
approaches, and think about which ones would be more likely to work well for your child.  Try out a few
of the methods and see how your child responds.

* Don't buy curriculum just because someone else likes it.

Of course you should ask other homeschoolers if they are happy with what they use, and why or why
not... but don't buy a curriculum or other resources just because someone you know uses it and likes
it.  Try not to buy anything that you haven't been able to sit down with and take a good look at first.  
Starting off on the wrong foot -- with a poor curriculum choice -- will make homeschooling harder than it
needs to be.

* Don't  buy more curriculum than you really need.

Think twice before buying a complete packaged preschool or kindergarten curriculum.  Take a close
look at what topics are covered, and decide if, maybe, you could teach some or all of these topics
yourself - using household items and library resources.  Colors and numbers aren't rocket science,
after all...  Preschool and Kindergarten are also great years to try out some of the more unstructured
alternative homeschooling approaches, too.  

If you might want to try out an alternative homeschool approach, such as  Montessori or Charlotte
Mason, it's a good idea tp read up on their philosophies and try out a few of their methods before
purchasing any curriculum.  Most of the alternative approaches can be taught without a packaged
curriculum at all, just by following the advice and methods discussed in their books, and using various
free resources available online.

If you do plan on buying curriculum, but you think you might be able to teach some subjects yourself --
maybe with the help of library and Internet resources, or a spouse, or other mentor -- give it a try!  You
can always buy something more formal to use later, if it doesn't work out.

Consider trying to "pull-together" your own curriculum from library, online, or community

There are plenty of free and low-cost resources out there for constructing all or part of your
curriculum.  Even if you only "pull together" your own curriculum for one or two subjects, the money you
save on those topics could be applied to the cost of whatever packaged products you have in mind for
other subject areas (or toward other fun educational activities).  If you're interested in tips for thrifty
homeschooling, check out "
Can I Homeschool on a Budget?"
Although I have read that
the average homeschool family
spends about $900 per student per year
I have never spent nearly that much.
-- Vicki Bentley