Real Life Work

Working Homeschool Mom – What About Curriculum?

To my fellow homeschooling people – especially you, the working homeschool mom (or dad) – how is your curriculum treating you? Have you hit spring fever yet and begun your yearly search for that “perfect” program? I know I get all crazy (borderline psychotic), combing through curriculum catalogs, scouring reviews, and digging into every corner of the web to find the best resources around.

Why do we put so much effort (some would call this obsession) into our homeschool decisions? Well, because it is a majorly huge deal. And it can make or break you and your little school. As a newer lady to the homeschool lifestyle and also as a part-time working homeschool mom, I’ve had many ups and downs. It was my first FULL year and boy do I still have some learning to do!

Do you work and homeschool?  Check out our working homeschool moms resource page that contains more articles about how to balance homeschooling and working.

Working homeschool mom

Many of my waves of chaos were because of my curriculum choices. My initial plan was based on what my local homeschool crew were using. Yes, I followed the crowd. Don’t we all from time to time? If someone could just tell me what to do for curriculum, life would be grand…right? Although most of what I began with in the fall is great for many, the products weren’t what my family needed. I had one curriculum that I boxed up within a week of starting it! It was a total waste of $150!

This is not a post to tell you exactly what to buy for next year, because frankly, I’m still new at this and we all have different situations. But instead, this is a post with a handful of suggestions concerning homeschool curriculum for those that are either a working homeschool mom or are just plain busy. I would think ALL homeschoolers, especially new ones, could get something out of this post.

I’m sure we can all agree…

As working homeschool moms (whether in the house or out of the house), we need things to work. It needs to be a quick start up and functional immediately! Going through 5th curriculum purchase for the same subject is NOT COOL. I spent so much money on things last year and I would say more than half of them were shelved. At least I know what doesn’t work.

***Below are things I wish others had told me before making any spendy decisions.***

working homeschool mom

Research teaching methods

There are so many different styles and methods of teaching out there. It’s quite overwhelming. I suggest researching the different systems but don’t limit yourself to one style – like strictly a Montessori kinda gal or firm a Classical Education lady. Keep yourself open to all because each style has their own benefits. I think it’s important to know the techniques of each method because a typical homeschool curriculum tends to lean to a certain style. Unless you understand the method used in a chosen program, you won’t really know what you are getting yourself into. In regards to a working homeschool mom, I feel that some styles take a little extra effort while others, even though there is extra needed, provide a more beneficial investment.

I’m a classical, eclectic chick here. If you are looking for the ultimate resource for classical education, check out the book, The Well Trained Mind, which has an answer for all your questions and includes pages of curriculum suggestions. The one thing I discovered though with a classical approach is there is A LOT of reading. Which isn’t a bad thing, but when I have children who struggle with auditory processing and reading, I’ve had to venture outside the “reading” focus and get a little more creative. Honestly, we’ve slacked in certain areas because of us trying to squeeze into the classical model but not knowing how to teach it to my kids.

Evaluate Learning Strengths and Weaknesses…

To ease you into a successful homeschool plan, put priority in formally evaluating your children’s learning strengths and weakness BEFORE you purchase certain products. This is critical. I’ll say that again…It’s a BIG deal. When I started down the homeschool path, I didn’t even think about this. I purchased things based on random advice. Because of this, I created unneeded challenges during the first half of the year.

For example, because of my son’s learning disabilities, the homeschool technique I was using with him created a lot of trouble for us. One particular curriculum (Teach Your Children to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) incorporated high amounts of auditory teaching and hardly any kinesthetic, logical, or visual tools, which is how my son learns best. This curriculum is loved by many, by the way. But for us, our school time was grossly ineffective during this time and all the while I had to work and deal with other responsibilities. This could have all been avoided by understanding his strengths and weakness (sometimes you won’t truly understand this without some trial and error).

Give consideration to the curriculum product types out there…

Do you want to teach your children with just YOU as the teacher? Or are you going to use family to help? Straight-forward, scripted, textbook style things might help your family or you get started, especially if you are new to the scene or don’t have time to prep. Products like Shirley English (or so I’ve been told) are good at being scripted. My new favorite is Logic of English which is a 4 in 1 choice including spelling, writing, reading, and grammar. And it is scripted down to every detail! Saxon is good on scripting too and many love Math U See.

Do you want to go heavy on technology, using some kind of curriculum with a large dose of DVD’s or the computer for teaching (Math U See)? This may help take some of the load off of you but you will need to devise a plan that is balanced. Math U See is one that has video resources. Or there are curriculums like the Abeka Virtual School. Or you can purchase online support like CTCmath.com (review LINK HERE) to help assist you.

Do you want to have everything already done for you but not depend completely on technology? A complete boxed set of goodness may be your answer then. This is where every single thing you need for the year is in a pretty little package. Examples would be Sonlight or My Father’s World. These get spendy, but if your planning and prep time is limited this might be your best bet.

Do you want to use a more classical approach, which includes using the “Trivium” as a model for its education. In the younger years the focus is on memorization and a ton of reading and writing (not a bad thing). I think it is a simpler approach but you will need to get creative with supporting the content your kids are studying especially if their learning styles are visual or hands on. Then a community like, Classical Conversations might be your thing (you meet once a week). I use this. You can get an idea of CC through my blog, A Nurse’s Wildflowers.

Preparation Times….and flow of lessons…

Pay very close attention to what each course entails, especially with preparations. This is in addition to teaching the actual content.

For instance, Saxon Kindergarten (math) requires tons of cutting of all sorts of things as well as random objects to set up and collect. I’ve learned how to get around doing this kind of prep by using things around us that are right in front of us when doing the math. But even so, if I were to follow the curriculum to the tee, I would be spending an awful lot of time, time I don’t have, prepping instead of teaching…not what I want to be doing.

I had another curriculum I was thrilled to use with my son (a highly recommended reading and writing curriculum through the IEW). Unfortunately, I did not realize how much prep was involved. Just the opening pages alone were overwhelming. There was so much prep that I spent more time prepping than teaching.  It was also a very full curriculum and it got confusing for me to teach. This is a no-go for working homeschool moms…at least me. I need things to be straight forward and made for busy people. I want the option NOT to have to do all the extra games and such. If I have time then I’ll add it. I want a lesson that is stream-lined and designed to flow SMOOTHLY.

For me, if the lesson is going to point me in a million different directions or call for a large number of hands-on activities, this curriculum will get booted fast. These are all things that will put speed bumps into my day, which is already going to be somewhat limited due to the fact that I work or am busy.

Documentation, testing, grading, etc….

When planning for curriculum while working, also consider things like testing and grading. Is detailed documentation something you want or have to do? I’ve been a bit lax on this and plan to work on this in the next year. I don’t really care and my state doesn’t care about anything but a standard test here and there. However, I think my kids will be more motivated getting grades.

Also things to consider would be if you care about things like weekly tests like math and spelling? Personally, I don’t because I don’t think they helped me as a child. They take time. But they can be a good indication of how things are going. I suggest looking for programs that don’t go crazy in the cramming area. For instance, Spelling You See, is a new spelling curriculum  from Math U See that is super simple, takes much less time commitment than other things, and has NO testing. It uses a completely different method of teaching that is highly backed up with research. Did I mention it actually works? Currently, I am using Spelling Working for my 5th grader and so far it is very straight forward and easy to use. It does have tests though.

Broad and flexible…. 

Look for curriculum that is flexible and has the potential to overlap into other subjects (this is a classical education plus). Flexibility is definitely an important consideration for busy or working moms who have to change schedules, sometimes at the drop of a hat. And as for overlapping subjects, this is the most effective method of doing school – at least for me. For example, shoot for having writing assignments that have to do with history or science. Not only will this solidify your child’s learning experience, but it will save you time. I recently started one of the Apologia products which is a bible study however it is rich in history that we learned this year. That get’s an A+ in my book!

There is no perfect solution to curriculum. Our needs constantly change. If you do find that diamond in the rough let me know!

Do you work and homeschool?  Check out our working homeschool moms resource page that contains more articles about how to balance homeschooling and working.

Do you homeschool? Are you busy or are you a working homeschool mom? PLEASE help your fellow homeschool mammas out and put in the comments what you use for resources and why you LOVE them.

About the author

Heather

Heather is a Christian gal who lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she married her high school sweetheart in 2001. She has 3 children ranging in ages from 4-12. Asperger's and sensory processing issues are also in the mix. At this time, Sonlight is their main curriculum which Heather and her husband find nice for the working homeschool family. Heather juggles the responsibilities of being a part-time RN and police officer's wife. She has a reputation of creating kitchen disasters, but loves collecting new recipes and learning about natural, holistic living. Also in the family is a bunch of animals like chickens, goats, a few dogs, and cats....

8 Comments

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  • All great advice. I’ve been around the world and sampled so many curriculum. Finally ending up where I began. So next school year we will be going back to old faithful and sticking with what is working. Kids voted and parent approve. My husband totally complained when I added another curve ball on the curriculum. Next year we are going to be in our groove, but boy was it fun trying out all those fun things.

    • Nita, I’d love it if you shared what you are using? And what didn’t work and why? “Old faithful, is faithful and that is truly what we need. But it is fun trying out new stuff! 😉

  • As a homeschooling parent I have been looking for a “diamond in the rough” myself, but unfortunately haven’t fount it yet. To supplement our math instruction, though, we have recently started using a free math site called dimentor.com that integrates some great real-world applications for all types of math. Students can create their own challenges that incorporate math, solve those of others, earn badges, be part of a larger community of kids using math, and more.

    There is also a premium version where students get personal mentoring and smart quizzes that explain the steps if students get stuck. Users get a free trial if they enter the code “dimentor2better”. We’ve been impressed so far.

    Thanks for starting this great discussion 🙂

  • Thank you SO MUCH for this series of articles. We are a former homeschooling family that wants to homeschool 3 of my 5 school age kids (6th grade, 8th, 9th). I work full time outside the home during the day as does my husband. My mom is going to live with us during the week to supervise the children, but I am responsible for choosing curriculum and discussion, etc. I have had a hard time finding any information to help me choose curriculum that my children can do relatively independently. I am also hoping to get a more flexible schedule from work, but for now I will work 7:30-4. I am torn between using Sonlight because of all the great books, it is laid out well, and because it seems thorough and Switched on Schoolhouse for ease. Any thoughts? Is there a forum somewhere for working moms?

    • Hi Dawn,

      The Hip Homeschool Moms site has a private forum for homeschooling moms–both those who work outside of the home and those who don’t. Here’s the link to request to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HipHomeschoolMomsCommunity/ There are lots of moms there who are willing to answer questions and make suggestions, and since it’s a private group, only other members of the community can see your questions and give suggestions to you. I hope you find the group to be very helpful and supportive! That’s what we hope to accomplish by having the community available!

      Blessings,

      Wendy

  • We use AbekaAcademy.com . There are lots of people that complain that it’s too much, but it is great for our family. It comes with teacher support, all lessons are laid out in painstaking detail, it gives my kids the ‘classroom’ feel that they desire (yes they selected this program over others I presented them) and everything we need. It also teaches the curriculum for us. I do also use supplements to just make things different for the kids by signing them up for an online class with Currclick or Landry Academy. They like YouthDigital.com and Tynker. We’ve kept Spelling You See and Sequential spelling since I am having to do a spelling triage for my kids. We also keep using Time4Writing.com since it’s completely independent of me teaching the kids. The supplements I use as a sort of ‘summer school’ since we do schooling all year around. The one thing I do is involve my kids in the decision. Usually they know what works for them and they like the ‘shopping’ aspect of it.

  • The Robinson Curriculum was created by a widowed, working father. My own homeschool middle and high school education consisted of the math and science components of his curriculum. When using Saxon Math textbooks as Mr. Robinson recommended, plus a test prep book, I taught myself calculus and got a 5 out of 5 on the Advanced Placement Calculus AB exam. His curriculum is a good resource for working families.

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