Get Clarity About Homeschooling Curriculums Here
As you lovely readers probably already know, we are a UK homeschooling family. We started thinking about home education & homeschool curriculums when our eldest daughter was a newborn and we now thoroughly enjoy homeschooling our three children. We share our information and experiences with other parents considering or undertaking homeschooling in our homeschooling blog posts. Our most popular posts are:
After extensively researching the subject, including which UK homeschool curriculum to use, we were pretty sure we wanted to home educate but we looked around a small private school to see if it could sway us. Although there were many aspects of it that were lovely we remained confident that home educating was what we wanted to do.
But which method? Do we use a homeschool curriculum? When people ask us now how “homeschooling” is going, I often wonder what they imagine our days are like. Do they think I ring a bell at 9am, present classes like a teacher and structure in playtime? Do they imagine Patrick holding homework sessions after dinner?
Our family doesn’t use a homeschool curriculum but some people love them and I have seen some online that I really like, so I will outline how to decide if it’s best for your homeschooling family, and how to choose one, below. My absolute favourite homeschooling resources that we use all the time can be found in this homeschool room & homeschooling resources post, which also has plenty of info on setting up a homeschool room and recommendations of our favourite homeschooling equipment.
What is a Curriculum?
The dictionary definition of curriculum is: “the subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college”. Please note that the subjects chosen in any curriculum- school, homeschool, college or otherwise- do not necessarily reflect what a child will need for life. There is no way to ‘cover all your bases’ with a school or homeschooling curriculum; it is simply a path to follow.
I say this because some people get very hung up on the idea of having a UK homeschooling curriculum, when they aren’t essential to a quality education by any means. They are simply a resource to use to help on the educational journey, and should be treated as such.
To illustrate this, I found it interesting to discover that private schools are not obliged to follow the national curriculum either, and they often don’t- instead tailoring their services to create the best educational environment possible using a variety of different modules and teaching styles. For example, private schools often have a lot more sport and art provision than comprehensive schools, and most of the time have better results too- so lack of curriculum (national or otherwise) is not a risk factor in your child’s education!
List of Homeschool Curriculum Types
The spectrum of home education ranges from doing the national curriculum at home during school hours (we are yet to meet anyone doing this), to using an alternative homeschool curriculum, to a child-centric philosophy such as unschooling- I wrote a whole blog post about that here), and everything in between. Some often-talked-about methods or educational philosophies are:
Traditional (National curriculum at home)
This would perhaps suit families with children who have had to leave school for some reason and who want to ensure they stay learning the same things as their school peers for a time. The requirement for a UK local authority to provide a child temporarily out of school (for example, for reasons of illness) is just 5-6 hours of tutoring per week; this makes me wonder what the rest of the time spent at school is for!
That leaves a LOT of time for other fun stuff! If you don’t mind doing a lot of planning yourself I would recommend a selection of the Collins Easy Learning workbooks for primary children, and you can get a good idea of how to deliver the national curriculum to your child with this handbook:
If you would prefer to invest in a full curriculum where everything is organised for you and you as the parent have minimal planning (sounds pretty awesome to me) I have heard very good things about the Horizons curriculum, which incorporates all the usual subjects, is easy to purchase for each school year and is completely ready and laid out for you to deliver.
Think Scandinavian-style, with learning divided up into more holistic projects than subjects. Using a theme such as “The Romans”, children explore lots of different aspects of learning through a specific focus. Lapbooks are popular way of creation projects but this could incorporate anything- making food dishes, dressing up, visiting relevant sites and museums, creating and directing a play, making pieces of artwork, etc, all around the subject.
Most often Christian or Muslim families, these home educating families purchase a homeschool curriculum that encompasses learning about their chosen religion; this may include scriptural and moral education too. The Horizons homeschool curriculum is an excellent all-round homeschool curriculum that includes a focus on health, spiritual growth and wellbeing as well traditional topics and subjects.
Although there are some Bible studies included, these can easily be left out if you would prefer to use it as a non-religious curriculum. Alongside the Horizons curriculum, this beautifully written book is a great first read for Christian parents considering homeschooling their child, or those who sometimes wonder if they’ve done the right thing by homeschooling!
Developed in England in the 19th century, this method encourages children to focus fully on their task as long as they are developmentally capable for, and to prioritise a love of learning over rote facts. The arts and nature are big players in a Charlotte Mason home educating family household.
The book below, the Charlotte Mason Companion, is exceptionally helpful for parents wishing to use Charlotte Mason’s ideas in homeschooling- it contains day to day methods, advice and explanations of the principles as well as personal encouragement, parenting tips, insight and humour into the homeschool life.
Worldschooling: Home educating families who use travel as a primary method of education- check out a typical day in the life of our worldschooling family here. A lot of families who apply this term to themselves are nomadic, i.e., permanently travelling. Some of my favourite bloggers are Worldschoolers! We travelled for a year through Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia and ‘world schooled’- you can see our blog posts from this time in our travel section.
Autonomous Education (Unschooling)
This philosophy is underpinned by the idea that children do not need curriculums, or to be forced to learn any particular topic or subject. Good unschoolers will watch their children carefully to ensure that they provide a rich environment whereby children can progress in things that they love and are good at, while also being prepared to offer resources to help in the less confident areas.
This does not exclude classes, structure at home, clubs, workbooks etc; it simply means that the child gets to choose which of these resources they use. You can read more about this philosophy in my post about unschooling here.
Our thoughts on homeschool curriculums
You do not need a homeschool curriculum in order to homeschool, and you definitely don’t need to follow the national curriculum (see our post on the basics of homeschooling law here for clarity). However having a curriculum may be beneficial, especially if you like to have activities ready to go instead of coming up with things on the hoof (is that an English expression??)
Some people may find it easier to have a curriculum- if you or your child are people who like organisation and structure, having the set plan of a curriculum may be of benefit to you. You could even use several purchased curriculums and mix and match your favourite aspects of more than one.
How to Choose a Homeschool Curriculum
When considering which homeschooling curriculum to choose, take into account the following factors:
- Cost. Depending on your budget (see what we spend each month on home education) you may wish to use the many free online resources for learning (Khan Academy, Youtube, Alison, Twinkl, etc) or purchase a whole curriculum.
- Time. Do you want to set aside a chunk of time each day to go through a curriculum, or would you rather go with the flow and see what your child is interested in each day? (There is no obligation to do the curriculum once you have purchased it but if you are a ‘go with the flow’ kind of person it may be a waste of money)
- Interests of the child. Instead of purchasing a complete curriculum with maths, english, history, geography, religious education and other subjects in one homeschooling curriculum package, you may wish to buy individual modules focused on one subject area such as “Solar systems”.
- Your patience and parent-child relationship. There is no point in buying a curriculum if it is going to be a source of misery to you or your child. Your child will learn a lot more from a happy trip to the park with you than an hour sat with you both frustrated over a worksheet. My husband is way better with this kind of 1-1 activity than I am and when we have worksheets, he usually does them with the kids.
If you are nervous about starting homeschooling without any structure, OR you want your child to continue with grade-level studies, OR you think that having something to refer to (even if you don’t use it every day, or just to start you off) would be useful, I would recommend getting a curriculum like this one as a ready-to-go resource and then using it until you find your feet.
You may also be interested in the following posts:
For our complete collection of home education posts, click here.