The first thing to do before choosing curriculum is to understand your child’s learning style and consider what your teaching style might be. Will you be traditional and setup a “classroom” or will you teach from the living room couch one on one. There is no wrong way to do this as long as you do it earnestly with the full intent of educating.
As far as your child’s learning style is concerned, typically there are 3 mains styles; auditory (listening), visual (seeing), and kinesthetic (touching). Children are typically predominant in one of these with a mix of the other two to a smaller degree. Unless there are learning disabilities or difficulties, most children can learn in any of these ways but they learn more quickly in their natural style. Knowing this can help you get over a hump if you have difficulty in one area or another.
There are many assessments you child can take to determine their learning style. There is a free one at How-to-study.com.
There is no right or wrong or “must do” list to teach for elementary ages. There are the core recommendations of course, but this your child and you get to choose what you teach them.
Once you get to middle school you will find that you will need to teach some subjects in a certain order to lead into high school. This is more important if you intend for your child to go to college. It is always a good practice to give them the education that would prepare them for more, rather than less, regardless of what they ultimately choose. Better to have the education and not need it, than need it and not have it. I see no reason to slack this for our special needs children either. Give them as much as they are capable of doing and don’t forget to challenge them, too. Children will surprise you with what they are capable of, if we allow ourselves to expect it from them.
The below table is a generic track of subjects that will prepare your child for college. I encourage you to look for tendencies in your child as soon as you start your home school. See what interests them and what their passions are. This will help you build a curriculum that will take them closer to where they want to go well before college. That being said, use those passions and interests to look at college requirements for potential careers in those fields to understand what credits they need for admission. For instance a history major may not need trigonometry or calculus in high school, but a math major would.
This is by no means “the” list but it is a good rule of thumb and should be customized to your student’s interests and strengths. It is a place to start and begin road mapping their educational path.
Once you have determined what subjects you will teach each child, decide which subjects you can combine, if it is at all possible. If you have an age gap of 2-3 years between children, there are curriculums that are written specifically for this purpose. The easiest curriculums to cross grade levels with are science and history. Combining classes means you teach one class in place of two or even three, thus saving you time, possibly money, and also providing some group discussion.
Another great help in homeschooling are online resources, computer learning, and dvd led classes. Once a child is in late elementary or early middle school they may be ready to watch a lesson on screen and complete corresponding work in that subject independently. They will still need accountability from you that looks like starting the dvd for them or checking their work, but it will allow you some breathing room during the school day. DVD and computer based learning is available in practically every subject. The main drawback to this type of learning is inflexibility. If you are using a program or dvd you can repeat a lesson, but if you need to present it a different way there may not be a textbook for you to draw from. Online classes have a schedule that you must adhere to and make up days are not usually available.
When at all possible go to home school curriculum sales or fairs to look at, get a feel for, and understand the curriculum better before you purchase it. Even though you may be able to return it or resell it, you will lose time and become frustrated with each false start.
Another great place to find information about curriculum are home school curriculum review websites. One of the best recommended is CathyDuffyReviews.com. Her book 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum is a fantastic resource that covers way more than just picking curriculum. If you want to understand “How” to homeschool buy this book!
Reference Books (all the below books have reviews on cathyduffyreviews.com)
102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum – Cathy Duffy
The Well Trained Mind – Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise
The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles – Carol Barnier
Countdown to Consistency: A Workbook for Home Educators – Mary Hood, Ph.D
For the Children’s Sake – Susan Schaeffer MacAulay
Gifted Children at Home: A Practical Guide for Homeschooling Families – Janice Baker, Kathleen Julicher, and Maggie Hogan
Beyond Survival: A Guide to Abundant-Life Homeschooling – Diana Waring
Give Your Child the World – Jamie C. Martin
Home Education 101 – Vicki Bentley
Homeschooling: A Guide for Regular People e-book – Christa Johnson
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace – Sarah Mackenzie
Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style – Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn
Timeline of Classics: Historical Context for the Good and Great Books – Gail Ledbetter
Home Schooling 101: A guide to getting started – Erica Arndt (confessionsofahomeschooler.com)
And there are many many more!!
Used & New
Homeschool groups also tend to have used curriculum sales in the late spring/early summer. Join the local groups or find someone who is a member and find out when they occur!