When a new homeschool mom asks me questions about choosing curriculum I always respond the same way: I encourage her to get a copy of 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, read the first few chapters, and then give me a call so we can talk further.
Why? Because there are many questions parents need to consider before they even begin to review curriculum! The reason I have used and recommended 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (and 100 Top Picks before the new “101” version was released) for so many years is because Cathy Duffy does an amazing job of helping parents create goals and plans for their homeschooling activities based on the individual needs and differences of each child.
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Creating Educational Goals
The idea of creating goals and plans for your homeschool may seem vague and overwhelming – but it is a very important first step in building your home education plan, and with the information in this book the process is actually very straightforward.
“One of the beauties of homeschooling is that it allows us to recognize and nurture each one of our very special individual children.”
(101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum pg. 2)
Understanding Your Family’s Educational Approach
In short but very helpful chapters Cathy Duffy helps homeschool parents:
- Understand basic approaches to homeschooling (including textbooks, Charlotte Mason, classical, unit studies, unschooling, umbrella schools, etc.) and identify which approach(es) are best suited to their family.
- Create a philosophy of education by considering questions like:
- What do you think is most important for your children to learn?
- How much confidence do you have about homeschooling?
- How much money do you have to spend?
- Do you want your children to learn independently or will you teach some classes together?
- Will you include field trips and hands-on learning?
- How will your religious beliefs impact your homeschooling?
- Identify your children’s learning style so you can select curriculum that is a good fit. She also encourages parents to identify their own learning style, because that can determine the parent’s preferred teaching style (which can be very different from a child’s preferred learning style!).
- Set goals for what your child should learn, and when they should learn it.
The first few chapters include basic forms and worksheets to help parents walk through this discovery process.
Considering Curriculum Options
The reminder of the guide (more than 250 pages) includes in-depth reviews of a wide range of curriculum options in the categories of Language Arts, Mathematics, History & Geography, Science, Unit Studies, All-in-One Programs, Online Courses, Foreign Language and Electives. The “Chart of 101 Top Picks” includes ratings to help parents understand things like:
- How well this product is suited to each learning style
- The amount of parent/teacher involvement needed
- Whether the product is appropriate for 1-on-1, independent or group study
- Amount of writing required
- Parent/Teacher prep time
- If it is grade level specific or multi-level
- Ease of use for the parent/teacher and if a teacher’s manual is needed
- Whether or not the product has religious content
Each product on the chart is then reviewed in detail. Even though it is not always possible to see and handle each product before purchase, I have found Cathy Duffy’s reviews to be some of the most helpful I have ever seen. Over the years I have selected many products based on the recommendations in this book and I am pleased to say the descriptions were very accurate. It is obvious she has a deep understanding of curriculum and the needs of homeschool families.
If you are an experienced homeschool parent
I would recommend you take a little time during your planning for the new school year to review the information in beginning of the 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. We have always approached our homeschool journey one year at a time because we understand that our children’s interests change and their strengths (and weakness) can become more obvious over time. A brief review of the goals and plans for your children’s education will not only help you better prepare you for the new year, but it will also help you recognize all that you have already achieved!