I homeschooled four kids for over ten years and covered every grade, K through 12. I’ve gotten rid of shelf upon shelf of materials and still have half a dozen homeschooling bins in my garage – and I’m not even actively homeschooling anymore. I have seen, used, and passed along what must be many times my own weight in curriculum.
I have some favorites, of course, but I thought it would be useful to ask my now-grown kids what some of their favorite and not-so-favorite curriculums were. (Technically, the plural of curriculum is curricula but that looks so awkward and wrong that I’m not going to use it.) The answers I received were both inconsistent and revealing.
Life of Fred is a K-12 math curriculum that is unlike any I’ve ever seen. You really have to page through it to understand it. Frankly, I’ve not only paged through it but I’ve also used it for my boys and I still don’t understand it, at any grade level. But I know some math whiz kids, and math parents, who rave about Fred, so I’ve used it. My boys thought it was fantastic. My girls thought it was dreadful and confusing.
Teaching Textbooks is another math curriculum but much more traditional in its approach. With their bright covers and giant spiral spines, you can identify them from across the room. I loved that they provided CD lectures, questions on paper, and an answer key; at some point they transitioned to automatic online grading. My daughters loved them, especially at the lower grade levels. My sons hated them.
Spelling Workout is, as you’ve likely guessed, a spelling curriculum. These are very traditional spellers, just like kids in schools had in the 70s. As someone into words and a lover of spelling bees, I thought these were fabulous. If they’d made them for adults I probably would have bought them for myself, for fun. My one daughter, a creative writing major, recalls loving her Spelling Workout books. My son, now a computer data guy, nearly broke out in hives when I mentioned these.
Sonlight is a complete out-of-the-box curriculum that can tackle all the major subject areas broken down by grade. It is one of the most thorough, well-organized, easy-for-mom products on the market. Academic expectations are high, though, so kids can sometimes feel overwhelmed with busywork and mom can sometimes feel like an ogre as a result. I very much enjoyed how easy this made my life as mom but over time - some of us more quickly than others - we all grew tired of the relentless Biblical worldview. Yes, mom can strip out the religion from a curriculum, but at some point that becomes more work and worry than its worth.
Institute for Excellence in Writing offers a range of writing curriculum for kids of all ages and I am a huge fan. Many moms I knew also loved it - as long as someone else was teaching it. IEW requires a serious amount of work for the parent, work that is just too much for some moms and dads, especially the ones who are more math-science than English-history types. And although I believe it was a significant contributor to my children's ability to write coherently, not one of them agrees with that conclusion!
So what does this list tell you? I haven't really designated a Best or a Worst, have I?
I wanted to demonstrate that there is no Best and Worst in homeschooling curriculum. The definition of Best comes down to what is best for that one student at that time in their life, coupled with what is best for mom at that time in her life. The same can be said of Worst. The ideal outcome is to match the right curriculum with the right child (and parent).
This is great news for you! The homeschooling curriculum market shouldn’t feel like a competition. There is plenty of room for everyone. What one child spurns, another will embrace, and vice versa - yours included. The needs of the students and the parents are always evolving, providing an exponentially expanding market.
When you think you're ready for a freelance editor or proofreader for the curriculum you've written (congratulations!), I'd be honored to read your work. My goal as a freelance editor is to help you craft an engaging, compelling, easy-to-use homeschooling curriculum for your target audience.