Are you a home educating parent, or hoping to be one? If so, you already know the standard formula for selecting curriculum. It goes something like this:
Nervous Parent + Bazillions of Options x Teensie Weensie Budget = Stress
As a professional cheapskate and a teacher of over 20 years (with 10 years as a home educator/ co-op leader), I’m here to offer you a more effective formula.
Does this sound better?
Well-informed Parent + Narrowed List of Options x Effective Budgeting = Very Do-able
10 Tips to Stop Wasting $$$ on Curriculum
1. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. If crafts aren’t your thing you should avoid curriculums built around them. If you’re a self-starter you may not need instructor’s guides that do the lesson planning for you. On the flip side, if you know that you and organization are like oil and water, then by all means – go for the courses with pre-determined lesson plans and rigid deadlines. For tips on how to narrow down your focus check out this post I wrote about it.
2. Determine your child’s learning style. It’s not enough to choose curriculums that suit your strengths. If your child’s attention span lengthens when his hands are busy, then seek out curriculums built around tactile experiences like creating correlating lap books. If your kid plows through books and assignments at warp speed on her own, then don’t slow her down with busy work.
3. Accept advice from trusted sources with proven outcomes. Look to parents of well-balanced high school and college students. Pick their brains about what worked best and what they would do differently.
4. Test drive friends’ curriculums before you commit. I wish I’d borrowed DVD’s from a friend before I prepaid for a year-long subscription to a video course. The teacher’s pace in the videos was too slow for my daughter. We fast-forwarded through most lessons and finished the course with just the books.
5. Purchase core courses before electives…and try to buy used. Buying harder courses takes more mental effort than loading up on extras we know our kids will love. Be disciplined…or you’ll blow your budget.
6. Check prices on a particular curriculum’s own website, then compare those prices with the “one-stop shopping vendors”. Often “wholesalers” sell curriculums cheaper than the companies who publish them. Rainbow Resource and CBD are great wholesalers.
7. Buy at a convention. Many vendors offer special discounts to convention attendees, and you won’t have to pay shipping.
8. Evesdrop at vendor tables…then grill the vendors. Some of the best curriculum advice is learned from overhearing someone else’s conversation. Parents often share their positive/negative experiences right at the vendor tables. Vendors are usually ready with answers to address parents’ concerns.
9. Have older kids write answers on overlay transparency sheets instead of writing directly in workbooks. Consumables are pricey, but you can save them as “hand-me-downs” by using this simple trick.
10. Refuse to purchase out of guilt. Don’t buy that Latin course on how to sculpt a bust of Caesar out of dryer lint just because it was life changing for your girlfriends’ kids. If lint sculptures don’t fit your lifestyle and academic goals – then you’ll be posting that course on Craigslist for half the purchase price by Thanksgiving.
Kerry Messer blogs at www.plentyplace.com, where she shares thrifty, inventive ideas to foster discipleship and hospitality. Kerry is privileged to work alongside her husband in equipping/encouraging the young couples of their church, and she enjoys writing for The Home Educating Family Magazine’s blog, Faith Village, and Christian Media Magazine.