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The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Choosing curriculum for your kids         May 11, 2011


Nancy Carter Picture  

Choosing curriculum may be one of the toughest jobs you'll ever love. There are literally thousands of different options available, and each was surely created because somebody thought it was the best way to teach children. 

How, now, shall we then choose?  

Prayerfully. Year by year. Child by child. Considering what works best for your whole family. 

For instance, I've discovered that my boys thrive with visually engaging textbooks where the lessons follow a pattern that makes it easy for them to work very independently, but we also need to do some subjects together so that we all kind of stay connected. 

Here are a few other things to consider:

  1. Is the curriculum easy for ME to follow? It's important that you feel comfortable with how to use the curriculum. Just as our children have different learning styles, teachers have different teaching styles. If something looks too complicated or labor-intensive, it probably is.
  2. Does it appeal to my children? There are so many choices out there; it's a shame to battle with your children over a curriculum that they don't like.
  3. Do we really even need more curriculum? Many homeschool families have bookshelves full of barely-used materials. You might have what you need at your fingertips already. Just do a little digging and be realistic.
Terri Johnson has a great article titled How to Avoid Over-buying Curricula on the Homeschool Corner at Plus, you'll want to remember that education isn't all about the books.

"Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire." - William Butler Yeats  

Enjoy every minute,

~Nancy Carter 

Nancy Carter
THM Editor


(From July 9, 2009 THM)


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Deborah WuehlerMercy Every Minute
Deborah Wuehler, TOS Senior Editor

I had the privilege of speaking at a women's luncheon this weekend. So, deciding the day before that I needed a new dress to wear, and being the frugal homeschooler that I am, I headed over to my local thrift store.


A little-known fact about me is that I hate clothes shopping. Do you know how time-consuming and frustrating finding something to wear can be? After an hour and a half, I was still unable to locate anything. I found lots and lots of interesting things that I thought might be nice, but most were not the right size. When I did find the right size (which will remain anonymous to protect my plumpness), the clothes either did not fit just right, or I saw right away that I could never wear that in public. Tired and frustrated, I finally prayed for help. Merely 15 minutes and $4 later, I had a skirt in a bag and was heading home. I hadn't planned to get a skirt, but I realized I had the perfect jacket and blouse at home to go with it. I love how God changes my mind for the better.


Great story, but what does it have to do with choosing curriculum? I find many similarities between looking for something to wear and looking for something to teach.


Often, I will go curriculum shopping with a general idea of what I need but no idea of what I want to purchase. Sometimes, I see so many things that look good, I am not sure about anything at all! After spending lots of time and ending up a bit frustrated, I finally pray. "Lord, give me Your direction and guidance for each child." I begin to see how the things I had in mind wouldn't work in my family with the way I teach. Or, I begin to see that it would not fit with how my child learns. After prayer, clarity of mind often comes, and I am sometimes pleasantly led in a whole new direction than what I had planned. Sometimes, I realize that all I need is some extras to go along with what I already have at home. And sometimes, I am even blessed with a $4, 15-minute answer.


Just as each of us has a personal clothing style, so we each have a different teaching style. What is right and works for one family may not work at all for ours. It just doesn't fit. Sometimes we feel like we don't have the right curriculum or don't have enough subjects, or don't have enough experience teaching. The cool part about all of this is that no matter what the teaching method or what kind of curriculum, God rewards our obedience, and home-educated children excel across the board. **


If you are like me and are already thinking about what you are going to do for curriculum next year, pray about it, talk to your spouse about it, and ask for God's guidance. He blesses those who want to bless Him with the education of His children and who are making the commitment to keep them home where they belong.



** The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.) Copyright © 2011 by Brian D. Ray


Gena Suarez

Hey from Gena

Gena Suarez, Publisher of TOS   


How does one "pick" curriculum? I think sometimes we choose five different phonics programs before we find the right one. And then another kid in the family won't like any of those, so we go with a sixth choice. Or maybe forget the curriculum altogether till the child is older; some aren't ready first thing in kindergarten. Some aren't ready till they're 10 or 12 for formal curriculum. I guess it boils down to customizing your homeschool for your children. No one knows them as well as you do, and there are no hard-and-fast rules saying which curriculum you have to use anyway. Your 5-year-old may read sooner than your 7-year-old, too, so get used to that possibility. It's okay. They're not chickens in a barnyard all clucking to the same old poultry tune. Nor are they sheep to be herded. Nor are they collectively sitting at a square desk in a square building repeating after the same instructor-never mind what that might even be, or if your opinion on it would matter. Some teachers have been known to tell their students that what happens at school stays at school, that it is their "safe place" and they don't have to share anything with their parents. Yeah, you heard that right. Your kids belong to them if they're off in the public school system. You are blessed-they are home with you. You have time to really know them, enjoy their unique ways, study their learning styles, and cuddle with them even in the middle of the day if you want to. In your jammies. Lying on your tummies on the living room floor (that you haven't vacuumed all week, but whatEV). But that time is limited. Take it from me, you'll turn your head or blink an eye and they'll be 21, and they might not want to lie on the floor (as the Cheerios go CRUNCH under them) anymore while reading aloud or showing you their new song. Then again, they might. So figure out the curriculum later. Go to conventions and browse the tables, sign up for homeschool newsletters, and keep your eye on the sales. Hit the local support group or co-op regularly if you can and talk with other parents for ideas. Get a free blog at and start sharing your day with other parents. You'll figure out the curriculum that works as you need to.


It's cool. They'll turn out great. The key is conversations with them, studying their interests together, teaching them God's Word (this is of the utmost importance) and just being together. NOW is your time. Don't let a minute of it be wasted.





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Todd Wilson The Familyman
Todd Wilson, Familyman Ministries


Got curriculum decisions? Oh, you've come to the right guy. That's me, Mr. Go-to Curriculum Guy. It's not that I know two licks about the difference between one curriculum and another, but I do know one truth that will solve all your curriculum problems.


Are you ready for this? Here's all my curriculum-choosing wisdom boiled down into one nugget of undistilled brilliance: God made you wise enough to figure it out.


That's it! The truth is, you know your children way better than some curriculum guru does. Oh, he'll throw you his pitch about how if you use his stellar curriculum your children will top the charts on . . . every scale. Go ahead and listen . . . but you know better.


You and your spouse are wise enough to figure it all out. If you don't want to do it "their" way, THEN DON'T. If you don't like the curriculum that everyone else LOVES, then don't use it. I don't care what anyone says you should use. If you like something else or don't like curriculum at all, then do it your way.




Father's Day Special-Okay, moms, here's your chance to show your man how much you love and appreciate him! This Father's Day, give him our special Familyman combo, a gift that will last the entire year! It includes the brand-new 365 Day Dad book, which will blast him with a daily dose of dad encouragement, and the ruggedly handsome, new Familyman ball cap in stonewashed brown. Order today and get more than 20 percent off!  


Be Real,



P.S. I'll be at CHAP, the Pennsylvania state homeschool convention, in Harrisburg this weekend. First person to come to our booth and say, "Welcome to beautiful PA!" gets a free book.


It's Just Common Sense

Ruth Beechick, Curriculum Specialist 


Debbie Strayer, Homeschool Consultant 


Let your curriculum choices flow from your relationship with your children and with God. There is a wealth of information on the Internet or at your local curriculum fair that helps you figure out what's available. Here are some practical ideas that we hope will help with choosing.

Use your own sense of what is best and don't rely too much on the advice of others. I know moms who relied on others and later regretted it. I (Debbie) have done this too. For guidance on general expectations, you can use information in Dr. Beechick's books for a "spine," as some people like to call it. But do not follow this, or any spine, slavishly. Choose what you think is best and make changes when they seem needed. God will guide you.

Good curriculum offers flexibility so you can use it the way that best fits your children. Keep it as your servant, not your master. If the curriculum demands total adherence for success, you can ignore that demand. Or even choose another curriculum if that seems easier.

A curriculum may come to you highly recommended¸ but you must have God's peace in using it. If you feel stressed when you use a curriculum, it is easy to transfer the stress to your children. God has a perfect plan for your family. Seek that plan rather than just following the path of those around you. When you strive too hard to keep up with schoolwork, or constantly pressure children to finish their work, you may want to rethink your choices.

You want both good fruit and peace when using curriculum. So begin by choosing the best you can, but remember that you can make changes at any time.

~ Ruth and Debbie


Read more from Debbie at





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Contest Central  

For the month of May, 2011   


The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education


Leigh Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations, a classical homeschool teaching community, has written this new book, a thorough look at how all parents and educators can apply classical methods to their students' educations.


The Core is composed of two main parts. Part One discusses the merits of classical teaching in today's society in three chapters titled "What's Wrong With Education Today," "Why We Need Classical Education," and "How Classical Education Can Help You."


The lack of meaningful relationships between student and teacher, government replacing community as the force behind education, discarding memorization (with repetition) as the main tool of learning, declining literacy rates, and therefore leaving today's children out of the "great discussion" are the problems with today's education system: "We have rejected the historically successful model of rigorous, classical education in favor of entertainment and job training."


Part Two describes the classical method for the grammar-stage child as it applies to reading, writing, math, geography, history, science, and the fine arts. How parents or teachers of various kinds (single, double-income, after-schoolers, non-classical educators, and homeschoolers) can apply these ideas makes up the last chapter. (...)


Read the rest of the review here. Win this book for your family!



Email Deb with your name and mailing address and the subject "The Core" for a chance to win* this book!


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® Magazine, LLC ("Company") is sponsoring the May Contest Central contest running from May 1, 2011, to May 31, 2011. You must be 18 years of age or older and follow all rules to participate. Entering the contest constitutes full and complete acceptance of, and a warranty that the entrant has read, understands and agrees to, all contest terms and conditions, including without limitation all of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC Contest Rules ("Official Rules") and The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine Writer Guidelines and Terms and Conditions for Submitting Queries. All Official Rules apply. Entry also constitutes full consent and unlimited permission for Company to print, publish, broadcast and use all intellectual property and personal information submitted as part of the Contest entry on the Internet and in any and all Company publications in accordance with the Rules. Entries become the sole property of Company and will not be returned. Employees and independent contractors of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, Contest sponsors, individuals or entities furnishing Contest prizes and their family members may not participate in this contest. Company reserves the sole, discretionary right to determine contest winners and to cancel, terminate, modify, or suspend the contest or the Rules at any time with or without notice or cause, subject to applicable law. See Official Rules for details.

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