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Top 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Bought That Curriculum


Budgeting for curriculum is on every homeschool mom’s list, but don’t you just hate it when you buy something you end up not using?

What to consider BEFORE buying new curriculum:

  • Hand-me-downs don’t always fit. Chances are each of your kids will have a different learning style, and what works with one may not work with the others. Don’t justify an extravagant expense by thinking you will use it again.
  • However, finding curriculum that multiple ages can use together not only streamlines your day, but it also provides opportunities for kids to work together and build relationships (science/nature study, history, and electives are well-suited for this).
  • Mom’s learning style is just as important as the kids’. Make sure the style feels right or you will dread pulling out the books and your lack of enthusiasm will reflect into your kids. If you hate math, use a curriculum that teaches it for you. If you are not a hands-on person, do not plan to build the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks and marshmallows or sew Revolutionary War costumes for history.
  • Less is more, except when more is more. Do you really need all the supplements? Will you read all of the novels? Does the library have some of the books, or are the e-books free online? Keep in mind, though, that sometimes having the extra bells and whistles is a huge time-saver, such as watching the experiments on DVD or listening to the geography or history lessons in the car.
  • Buy at least one thing the kids can work on independently, no matter what grade they are in. If you teach with living books, having one workbook on hand can help out when you have to take school on-the-go. You never know when you might be waiting at the doctor’s office for half a day while Grandma has her cataract surgery.
  • Be realistic about the time you have and pare down to the basics. Although it sounds impressive, will you really have time for Latin, Spanish, music history, art appreciation, anthropology, computer programming, and Turkish in between running errands, English, and math?
  • Younger kids need time to play and discover the world and do not need as much curriculum as you might think. Keep it simple and fun; algebra will come soon enough.
  • Be the boss of your curriculum and do not let it rule you. You DO NOT have to check off all the boxes. Really. Even “real” teachers never finish a curriculum in a school year. (Shh! It’s a secret!)
  • Do not read catalogs like they are magazines. Companies are trying to sell you their product, and testimonials are not the same thing as reviews.
  • Library cards are free. Unless you’re going to be using a book over and over again, consider borrowing it from the library to save both money and space on your shelves. If you’re thinking you’ll want to have a book later on down the line as your younger kids get older, remember that many books are revised and updated over the years, and your current books might be out of date when you revisit them again.

There’s my top ten list. What would YOU add?

Anne Campbell, mommy to three boys (who think they live in a zoo!) is in her twelfth year as a homeschool teacher with the support of her husband of 27 years. A former public school teacher, Anne's joy is encouraging other homeschool parents that they are qualified and able to take charge of their children's education. When she started on her homeschool journey, Anne’s oldest son was in kindergarten, and they decided to take it one day at a time, one year at a time. Now she has one student in high school/college dual enrollment, one in middle, and one in elementary, and all still at home. You can read more by Anne at her blog, Learning Table.

  • Stephenie

    Hi, Anne! This is a great list! This isn’t really so much an addition as a follow-up, but I’m going to add: No matter how much you paid for that curriculum, if it isn’t working it is okay to use something else instead.

    February 1, 2013 at 10:24 am Reply
    • Anne

      I know, Stephenie, and I’ve passed so many things on to other homeschool moms that didn’t work for us, and sometimes end up being the perfect thing for them. I don’t usually buy the “whole package” anymore, until I’ve had a chance to try it out for a while first.

      February 3, 2013 at 10:15 am Reply
  • Lisa Reynoso

    I have to say “Amen!” to number 8. I wish my mom had known that when she was teaching me. I would have learned just as well doing only the odd numbers or whatever. But now I’m a mom and I’m determined to not worry if we don’t get everything done.

    Like this unit we are studying A for apple. We were supposed to have about a dozen apples of at least 3 different varieties, count the different kinds, and make a graph. It would have been fun. But it was the end of the month. My grocery budget was overdrawn, so buying more apples was out of tue question. I thought about trying to find apples in a magazine and using the pictures, but then I remembered that we probably don’t have any such magazines around the house. Then I realized that my kindergartener would be just fine if we didn’t make a graph at all. She’ll probably make a bunch of graphs over the next 12 years. There was no need to stress over it. I’m still debating whether to make the applesauce or not. I might make a small batch. But if we run out of time before we move on to the letter N, I’m not going to feel guilty. Because we already made applesauce a few months ago. 🙂

    February 3, 2013 at 4:28 am Reply
    • Anne

      Hi Lisa!
      That was one of the hardest things for me to learn, but now that my “guinea pig” is in 9th grade, I can see how much he DID learn over our years of homeschooling. Another thing we do is sometimes use our curriculum out of order. Instead of starting at the beginning of a book and working our way through, sometimes we will start at the middle or even the end. My oldest son is very interested in the World War II era, so we started history at the middle of his book this year.

      I love you apple story! All of us moms need to learn to let go of that guilt, don’t we? 🙂

      February 3, 2013 at 10:11 am Reply
  • MB

    Wonderful well written list!

    I would like to add something to #7; Use their play as a spin off for teaching. Try to get familiar with the basic idea of the curriculum. What & how they are teaching so that you can utilize it as a launching pad and take advantage of those “little moments.”

    Ex. My 5 1/2yr old son, who was not ready for any formal education yet was so excited with the “helicopter seeds” spinning down from the trees. Like any kid he would pick them up, and watched in fascination as they tumbled to the ground. A visitor told him it’s really fun if you get a handful of them and throw them up in the air altogether. Well of course, he had to try this out, but his little hands were not as big as his imagination, so I quickly gave him an empty oatmeal container & he started filling it up immediately! Then I watched my son try to count them all up. Soon, he asked his siblings for help calmly explaining, “I can’t count past 49!” I encouraged him, quickly telling him, “later I will show you a fun way to count higher!” The idea came from his older sister’s math curriculum (which might I add was one of those #1’s from your list. A new math book, cause it was a different kid, and a different stage in our lives. By the way if you have more than a couple of kids and need to switch curriculum, don’t be so quick to get rid of the first one if you have the space. You may prayerfully want to keep it, for the same reason you switched, you may find it useful again.)

    June 1, 2020 at 11:47 pm Reply
    • Ann Hibbard

      Great example! Thanks for adding that suggestion!

      June 3, 2020 at 2:45 pm Reply

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