After much praying and research, you decided that homeschooling is the best choice for your family. You thought making THAT choice would be the hard part until you prepared to choose a curriculum. Compared to the families who homeschooled decades ago, we are blessed to have an abundance of resources and choices in curricula. However, sometimes all those choices can seem overwhelming, so much so that you may begin to doubt if home education is the right path for your family. Choosing a curriculum is a daunting and important task because it is not only a large financial investment, it is also an investment in our children's education. Two of the best online resources I have found for helping me choose curriculum is http://cathyduffyreviews.com/ and http://www.homeschoolreviews.com/. I also recommend picking up Cathy Duffy's book 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. It not only covers all the bases involved when making your curriculum decision such as learning styles and education approaches, but it also has tons reviews lots of different types of curricula. You can also look through curriculum at a local homeschool convention. Visit HSLDA's website to find a homeschool convention near you.
No one wants to put a price on his/her child's education, but finanical considerations will be a large part of your curriculum selection process. Sometimes people are reluctant to homeschool because they think curriculum is too expensive. However, if you factor in the registration fees, lunches, school clothes, activity fees, supplies, etc that you have to purchase if your child attend public school, you may be surprised to find that you actually SAVE money by homeschooling. While it can be a large upfront cost depending on which curriculum you choose, you can cut costs by borrowing books from the library instead of purchasing and buying used curricula from Ebay or Homeschool Classifieds.. It is even possible to rent some of the resources you need from Homeschool Book Renter. Another option is using the free online curriculum Easy Peasy. Many assume that the more expensive a homeschool curriculum is, the better it is. However, that isn't always necessarily the case. The thousand dollar curriculum that your friend just loves could be the wrong match for your family. I have met families who homeschool their children for around $1000 per child, and I have met families who successfully teach with a library card and internet print-offs. Many people use their tax return to purchase curriculum, cut out frills such as eating out, or buy all used books. If you find yourself in a special financial predicament, you may qualify for financial assistance through The Homeschool Foundation; they even have a special fund to help military families who may need help purchasing homeschool supplies. I can promise that if the Lord calls you to educate your children at home, He most certainly will provide!
Your children's learning styles will probably be one of the largest factors in selecting which curriculum you will use. For example, if your son is a very hands-on learner you would probably want to use a more manipulative base math curriculum such as Math-U-See. If your daughter is a very audible learner, she may enjoy a grammar curriculum that presents the lessons orally such as First Language Lessons. The best advice I can give you is to not choose a curriculum based on how well it works for someone else before evaluating if it will work best for your child's learning style. I made this mistake in my first year of homeschooling when I purchased Saxon Math K for Lynsey's kindergarten math based on the rave reviews of others. While I think Saxon primary level math would be a great choice for a student who likes to move at a slower pace and needs lots of hands on learning, it was just too boring for Lynsey since math is her strongest subject. We were doing a week's worth of lessons in one day because the information was just way too simple for her knowledge. After I purchased a new math curriculum that was more challenging, she rose to the challenge and still favors math over any other subject.
Your philosophy of education will play a large role in choosing which curriculum you will want to use with your children. Are you more comfortable with a more traditional approach? Then you will probably be considering curriculum from publishers such as A Beka, Alpha Omega, Christian Liberty, or Bob Jones. Perhaps you read "For the Children's Sake", and you are convinced that the Charlotte Mason approach is the best fit for your family. You would want to explore Queen Homeschool Supplies or Ambleside Online. Many people want the literature based eclectic approach of Sonlight; I know of several families who use Sonlight and love it. My family personally prefers the Classical Method as described in The Well-Trained Mind, and I piece our curriculum together from various publishers including: Memoria Press, Veritas Press, and Classical Acadmic Press.
How much time do you have to devote to both lesson planning and your school day? If you do not have much time to plan, you may want to invest in a curriculum with complete lesson plans. If you have more time to devote to planning and want to customize your curriculum, you may want to piece your own curriculum from various publishers. You also want to look at the time commitment required for the schoolwork itself. Do you want a curriculum that has a lot of time for read alouds and experiments. Just remember that you do not have to dismiss a curriculum completely because it seems too time consuming. One thing new homeschoolers do not realize is that you do not have to follow a curriculum religiously. You can pick and choose and even omit some activities if you wish. I made the mistake of that my first "real" year of homeschooling Lyn in kindergarten. We used a kindergarten curriculum that included a TON of seatwork. School was a pain for both of us. Even though she had mastered the information, I still made her complete all the seatwork because it was included in the lesson plan. I quickly realized that I was creating a miserable "school at home" environment instead of a learning environment at home. After I became more flexible and omitted the worksheets that were tedious and unnecessary, we were both much happier:-)
Making such an important choice that impacts your child directly does seem scary and overwhelming, but I promise most of that anxiety will dissipate after you overcome the first year jitters. There are so many resources and lots of information to help homeschooling families today. Speaking with other homeschoolers can also help you gather information. Above all, pray for guidance from the Lord. He led you to educate your children at home, and He will be with you every step of the way.