When I first began homeschooling I thought there were so many things I needed to educate my sons. I needed the right curricula, a schoolroom, desks, a chalkboard (yes, I am that old!), and a wall of bookcases to hold all of our books. (The picture to the left is something I would have enjoyed having at my house.)
I learned along the way that no curriculum is perfect; my kitchen became our schoolroom, and a chalkboard wasn’t necessary to teach (although someone gave me one several years into my teaching at home lol ). You will notice I am not listing a lot of curricula in this post because I believe that is so much to choose from and it depends upon your philosophy of education and your teaching style. However, here is my list of MUST- HAVES with a few curriculum recommendations sprinkled throughout…
A love for learning- If you do not enjoy learning and want to impart ideas or opportunities for your child to grow, then homeschooling is arduous and difficult. Is it always easy? NO! But, I would say that without having my children’s best interests at heart, looking for ways to encourage a sense of curiosity and confidence, and wanting to see them succeed, I don’t think I could have successfully homeschooled them all the way through to graduation.
Planning Time- Carve some time into your schedule so that you can plan what you want to teach and what activities you would like your child to participate in outside of your home. Without a plan, it is hard to see things through to completion. Even if you are a relaxed or an unschooling family, you still want to have a goal in mind. Take for instance planting a garden and tending it; you have to know when the soil needs to be tilled and seeds put into the ground. Without some thought and planning, time gets away from us.
Setting a schedule- This doesn’t have to be rigid but start your school day at a certain time, whether that be 8:00 or noon, let your son or daughter know that school begins and all else is to be done later. Have a time you will end, otherwise, you will burn you and your child out.
Living Books- Perhaps you have not heard that term before, but it is a fabulous way of describing good books that draw you into the story and don’t let you go until you have read the very last page! Simply Charlotte Mason, Sonlight, and Memoria Press all have terrific booklists and literature packages you can purchase. Or if you are on a tight budget, get titles from the library or purchase a few at a time because you will want to build your own library. Having a school filled with lots and lots of books is such a wonderful way for your child to enjoy learning and develop interests. If your daughter reads a book about Sally Rider and finds her life interesting, this may spark a desire to read more about space and astronomy. You can always do a unit (mini or larger) and provide opportunities and resources to further that exploration of a topic.
A library card- I know this sounds simple, and it is, but I loved and used the library weekly throughout our years of homeschooling. In fact, the librarians knew all of our names and still ask about my sons when I see them. Libraries are a gold mine of resources from books to movies to programs and even study rooms. See if your library has a teacher’s collection card. Our local libraries allow you to get one if you are a homeschool teacher, which affords you the opportunity to check out books for a longer period of time, forgives a certain amount of overdue fines, and even puts together book collections upon written request!
A good math and phonics program. Both of these, I believe, are foundational to every child’s education. As far as recommendations are concerned, I think there are several solid math programs including Horizons (young students); Bob Jones, Math-U-See, and Modern Curriculum Press (multiple grade levels). Teaching Textbooks begins at 3rd grade, and while I think it is a good curriculum, I am not 100% sold on it if you have a student that is going into a career that will be mathematically or scientifically based. Something more substantial such as McDougall Littel is recommended by my good friend who teaches and tutors students junior high through college.
Phonics programs such as All About Reading or the Veritas Press Phonics Museum are both good choices. Spelling U See and All About Spelling are great accompanying programs once your student has learned to read. I believe in making sure a student has mastered phonics before adding a full spelling curriculum. Phonics and spelling go hand-in-hand, but we did TONS of reading and copywork and, “How do you spell…..?” at the beginning of learning to write.
If you are just starting out and are going the traditional route, I recommend finding a packaged curriculum to give you time to adjust to homeschooling and teaching. Cathy Duffy has an excellent resource on various curriculums called Cathy Duffy’s Top 102 Picks. Her book will help you sort through the plethora of wonderful programs there are available. Rainbow Resource also has fantastic reviews and I like to recommend people to order the catalog and read their reviews after you have narrowed your selection. I have purchased quite a few things based upon the reviews in their catalog. CBD also has reviews that help make curriculum selection easier. I appreciate the information and descriptions that are given.