Confession: I am homeschool catalog junkie. As a mom, I created our curriculum each year. With very limited funds, we used what I could find second-hand or on major markdown, create myself, borrow from the library, and request from Grandma and Grandpa as gifts. No apologies for what we did. It worked well. All my children went to college. They were offered multiple scholarships, and both daughters graduated with honors. (My sons have not completed their university educations, but are both at the top of their class and thriving!) Each of them are contributing adults in the communities in which they live. I wouldn’t change them for the world!
Now they are beginning their own families, and I am the Grandma. More catalogs come in the mail than when my children were younger; there are so many more choices now. I love it! The games, curriculum options, and diversity of ideas is exciting! As I watch my grandchildren grow, and work with other moms on curriculum planning, I am discovering these things all over again! One reality I find most interesting and fascinating to explore is each child needs different things, and any budget can be effective with proper planning and focus. There is no single perfect curriculum which is ideal for everyone.
Here is a sample of what I have learned. In our home, we have spelling curriculum from Christian Liberty Press, Rod and Staff Publishers, and a copy of McGuffey’s Eclectic Spelling Book. While all three are not strictly necessary, there are strengths for each one. I used the McGuffey…Speller for my children. It covered K-12, cost me $10, and was effective. The other two series we have acquired for my grandsons. Some copies were found second-hand; some we purchased new. I love the Christian Liberty Press books for J, my second grandson who is 5. He is a dually-exceptional learner and does extremely well with consistent formats and review in logical steps. Rod and Staff is what the 7 year-old is using. He is highly gifted and loves that handwriting practice (currently cursive), critical thinking, and spelling are combined in one lesson. We skip the minimal review sections, test orally, and move on to the next lesson as soon as he is ready. He is currently in book 3, but will be moving into book 4 shortly. If we were simply testing his spelling ability he would be in book 5, but because each lesson requires he understand and be able to use each word properly, and encourages a bit of thought, we backed up a bit.
As I expand the companies with which I am familiar, the need to understand how your children learn, and to have a budget seems more and more crucial. If you have the need and/or desire, you can create your own plan for minimal expense and give your children the chance to soar. If you are not comfortable creating your own plan, you can look into the myriad of options out there to meet the needs of your child. There are strengths, weaknesses, and biases in each written curriculum. World-views differ. Some focus on traditional learners, while others are better suited for advanced and gifted learners who tend to require less practice, more information, and are able to infer connections differently than their peers. Many are book and seat-work based, or you can find one which leans heavily on computer-use, or is focused on tactile learning. If you hunt, the selections are seemingly endless.
The method of education you choose does not need to be dictated by your pocketbook. Classical education supplies can be purchased in curriculum sets for hundreds of dollars or you can gather your own for much less. Whether you lean towards child-led learning, Charlotte Mason, or some other method, you can teach for pennies or spend a ton on curriculum and fun stuff. It is more important that you understand how your children learn, what their gifts are, and purchase (or create) from there. Teaching your own just gets more and more exciting as time goes by!
My favorite catalogs are Timberdoodle, Veritas Press, Dover Publishing, and Critical Thinking Company. What are yours?