When I first started thinking about homeschooling I found a lot of people were suggesting I find a curriculum that might work for our family. It was at this time I realized I didn’t quite know how to define curriculum. In my head I knew what it meant, but I didn’t know the boundaries. Are only books considered curriculum? Only lesson plans? What about things such as computers and microscopes? Do they count?
What is Curriculum?
With all of these questions I started researching what exactly curriculum consisted of and it became almost immediately clear to me that no one seems to agree on what counts as curriculum. Some people make it simple by saying anything you use to educate. Others give complex definitions breaking out curriculum into different categories and definitions. Some give strict guidelines for what must be included in order to be considered curriculum.
By this point I was beyond baffled at what curriculum was and decided I needed to give it a break. I’d research more when the kids were older.
Well, the kids are now older and I’ve decided that since I’m not a formal educator creating curriculum and lesson plans for a large school where detailed records need to be taken, I really didn’t need to define curriculum for my purposes. I only needed to figure out how I was going to teach my kids and what things I was going to use to teach them.
My definition of curriculum: How students are taught and the materials used to teach them.
Where to Find Homeschool Curriculum
Our homeschool style is relaxed. While we have routine in our day, we don’t have a lot of routine in our educational style. It works for us. However, it also means we don’t use a boxed curriculum, which is what many homeschoolers use. Instead we build it as we go.
Here is a collection of places I use to find what I need while building our curriculum.
- World Book Course of Study. To help give us a bit of structure and an idea of what other kids are learning at different points during their education World Book provides a course of study that closely matches what our local public schools are teaching. It’s my quick reference to make sure we are on track with our studies.
- McRel International Compendium of Standards. A comprehensive list of educational standards and topics. Similar to the World Book Course of Study.
- Library. One of our favorite places to find materials is the library. Our library has online databases for peer reviewed journal searches, there are plenty of books and periodicals, plus programs the library offers. We even have the opportunity to check out some fantastic science tool such as microscopes, telescopes and even a Van DeGraaff Generator!
- Pinterest. Plenty of ideas shared by other homeschoolers and educators. Collections of projects, lesson plans, resources, ideas and more.
- Amazon. Books, supplies, workbooks, tools and more. You can find just about anything you need on Amazon, though it’s a better place to go to find what you already know you need than to get ideas for what you might need.
- Homeschool Curriculum Swaps. Pay attention to the local homeschool community. Around here there are curriculum swaps where everyone brings their old materials to swap. If no one is hosting one, consider hosting one yourself. I’ve found homeschoolers love to find new homeschool homes for their educational materials.
- Online Sales. You can find used homeschool curriculum items in homeschool sales groups on social media as well as auction sites such as eBay. There’s always someone, somewhere looking to sell some old materials.
- Online Programs. There are a variety of online educational programs you can use for your homeschool studies. Programs such as Time4Learning offers full online curriculum or you can work through specific math problems on Khan Academy. There are also online class offerings such as Coursera.org or TED ed to teach students concepts and skills.
- Teachers. Teachers who are retiring or no longer need certain supplies any more are often selling off their collections. This is a great way to pick up some wonderful teaching tools.
- Retail Stores. I love browsing bookstores and other locations for curriculum ideas. I get a great discount at Barnes & Noble so I frequent there, especially for workbooks. You can also hit up the creators of different curriculum sets to purchase directly from them.
- Second Hand Stores. Never underestimate the power of a second hand store. Thirft stores are a wonderful place to find a wide variety of materials. Everything from fabric for home ec lessons to discarded books. If you don’t have a thrift store in your area, yard sales are also a great place to find educational treasures.
- Museums and Similar Organizations. One of my new favorite places to find art history and art appreciation materials is Joslyn museum. Not only can we access the gallery to see amazing artwork, there is also a Teacher’s Resource Center where books, prints, and other educational materials can be checked out. Other local museums have similar offerings for educational materials.
Where do you find your curriculum? Share your ideas in the comments below.