The Myth of the Perfect Curriculum: Choosing the Right Homeschool Curriculum for your Family

When your homeschool year started you had such high hopes that everything would go as planned. Your schedule would be perfect, the resources you selected would make your children grab their pens with glee, and everything would be just right with your homeschool world.

Within a day or week or month, you discovered something wasn't quite right in your perfect world. Your schedule wasn't as perfect as you imagined, the math textbook you thought your child would love makes them cry, and your homeschool world is starting to feel slightly shaky.

A few weeks into a new school year is when many homeschool moms realize the curriculum they’ve selected is less than ideal and the hunt resumes. But, instead of spending all your free time researching curriculum, I challenge you to make the resources you’ve already selected work for your family (even if they aren’t perfect). And, while you're making those programs work, consider what you really need to know when it comes to choosing homeschool curriculum.

That elusive search for the perfect homeschool curriculum! We've all been there - trying to find that perfect fit. Instead, there are certain things you should consider when choosing homeschool curriculum -- and it doesn't involve an endless search for that perfect program! Find out what you do need to know about finding homeschool curriculum that works for your family.

When I first started homeschooling I researched curriculum like it was my full-time job. I downloaded samples, I scoured message boards -- all in the hopes of finding the perfect curriculum that would make me a wonderful teacher. Believe me, that's not the way we should be choosing homeschool curriculum.

I’ve since learned that perfect program doesn’t really exist {though plenty of very good ones do!}.

Why do we search for the Perfect Curriculum?

Ah, that diligent search for the elusive perfect curriculum. The one everyone raves about, that children love to do, and homeschool moms barely have to teach. Does such a thing exist? Sadly, no; it does not.

But we often spend most of our time researching and sifting through catalogs looking for that one curriculum that will solve all our homeschooling problems.

I don’t want to be the one to burst your bubble, but I must tell you that it’s a waste of time. There’s no such thing as a perfect curriculum.

You’ll still want to tweak it.

It won’t quite fit your needs.

It may even frustrate your child.

Why do we continue this fruitless search? I think there are a few reasons.

You’re in the trial-and-error phase of homeschooling

Sometimes, especially when you’re new to homeschooling, or you’re first introducing a new subject, it can take some time to find the right program for you and your children.

Math is one subject that often can take some trial and error before finding the right fit. (One tip: if the math workbook doesn’t make your kids cry, you have a winner!)

It’s perfectly okay to try a few different programs until you find something you can teach and that fits your child’s learning style.

But it’s important to focus on choosing homeschool curriculum that works, and when you find it, stick with it.

You’re not confident about your teaching abilities

It is very common for homeschool moms to overcompensate when they feel inadequate. Ask me why we used three math programs at the same time?

I’m not the only one.

Just look at the curriculum list for many homeschools and you’ll find two or three programs for one subject (usually math or grammar).

We tell ourselves we’re trying to cover all the bases but it really comes down to the fact that we’re not very confident - about our teaching ability or about the resources we’ve selected.

Here’s a secret -- your child will have learning gaps. And that’s actually okay. As long as you are teaching them HOW to learn, when they discover there’s something they don’t know, they’ll have the tools to continue educating themselves (even after your homeschool days are far behind you).

Stop feeling inadequate and select resources that you’re comfortable teaching from.

Related: Finding Your Homeschool Teaching Style

You’re bored

And this is where the main reason for that “perfect curriculum search” comes into play.

We work diligently with a particular program for awhile, perhaps even a few years; and then boredom sets in.

We’re bored with the spelling program and want something new.

We’re so tired of looking at the same daily schedule (especially when February rolls around). And so the search begins again.

This is a big no-no!

What should you do when you’re bored with your curriculum?

If you are feeling bored, change up the content subjects.

Don’t mess with your skill subjects if you’ve found the curriculum that works. Keep working on those skill subjects, but find a way to change your content subjects by trying a new program or adding a new subject.

What's the difference between a skill subject and a content subject? Skill subjects focus on important skills kids need to learn - like grammar, math, or writing skills. Content subjects, on the other hand, focus on content - stories, history, and science, to a certain degree. 

When you're feeling bored or your kid's eyes are starting to glaze over, set your content subjects aside and try a unit study. There are plenty of ways to add some variety without “curriculum hopping.” Keep working on skills but add some fun with a variety of content.

What to consider when choosing homeschool curriculum

Now that you understand why you keep searching for that perfect curriculum, we can set that myth aside and focus on what we do need to know when it comes to choosing homeschool curriculum. Here's how to find what will work for you and your kids:

Your Homeschool Mission Statement

We all have our reasons for choosing the homeschool life (read: Why homeschool?) and those reasons provide a solid foundation for a personal homeschool mission statement. 

A well-crafted mission statement will help you sift through the many available resources and narrow down your options. Really! If you know that a certain method will help you reach your long-term goals, you can use that information to choose programs that will help you reach those goals. And your mission statement includes all those pieces - helping you keep yourself on-track instead of endlessly researching curriculum choices.

Need help crafting your own mission statement? Read this: Homeschool Mission Statement

Your Yearly Homeschool Goals

One of the first steps in your yearly homeschool planning should be goal-setting. Now, you don't have to get super specific - just think of your overall year and the major things you'd like to accomplish. Perhaps you want your daughter to graduate from easy readers to short chapter books or your son needs to solidify his subtraction facts.

Set short-term goals for those skills you want your child to acquire and focus on those (especially on those days when life gets busy). Once you know what your major goals are for the year, you can use that information to select resources to meet those goals - instead of choosing resources because they look fun, or interesting, or colorful.

Read more: How to set homeschooling goals

Your Teaching Style & Your Kids Learning Styles

Another thing to consider when selecting curriculum - your teaching style and your kids learning styles. You don't want to choose materials that are hard for you to teach (that's why taking a peek at the teacher's manual is an important step in the selection process) or that make your kid cry at the overwhelming amount of work on the page (we've been there!). 

Consider the types of materials that appeal to you (read more: your homeschool teaching style) - it really is important to find materials that make you a great teacher. And think about your children's personalities and what excites them and try to incorporate resources that will focus that excitement.

Your Homeschool Season

Your homeschool will go through a variety of seasons - from little ones stealing your attention to activity-filled days with your high school kids. Each of those seasons will affect your homeschool day. If you've ever homeschooled and wrangled a toddler at the same time you know what I mean!

Consider your current homeschool season when choosing curriculum. If you know it's a very busy season of life then choosing multiple programs that are more teacher-intensive will only cause you more stress. Instead, plan to use programs that allow you to group your children for a few subjects (so you have more time to focus on your yearly homeschool goals).

Looking for more advice about choosing curriculum? Take a look at this post from Savvy Schooling: The Curriculum Conundrum

Don’t fall for the shiny-new-curriculum trap

The most important thing to do is to let go of the notion that there is some perfect curriculum out there when your choosing homeschool curriculum. If you've purchased a program that isn't quite right, there's no reason to ditch it. Find ways to use what you have purchased and make it work instead of dropping it to search for that elusive program. Unless, of course, that book is making your kid cry! Then you have my permission to find something else.

And this process does get easier! When you get used to finding what works for your kids, it's much easier to know what to look for (and what to avoid). Best of all, when you find what works it's just a matter of purchasing the next level each year (making your yearly planning that much easier!).

What should you do with your free time now?

Once you realize you are free from the constant research into various homeschool programs use your free time for something productive -- like preparing yourself for high school! Take time to educate yourself in those areas you feel deficient -- it’s a much better use of your time (and you’re showing your kids that learning doesn’t stop when they get that diploma).

I want to hear from you!

Have you fallen into the perfect curriculum hunt? What mistake trips you up (believe me, we all have them!)? Leave a comment and share your advice.

Tonia L

Hey! I'm the owner of Happy Homeschool Nest - a website devoted to helping homeschool moms balance the needs of homeschooling with managing a healthy and happy home.