One of the advantages of homeschooling is the freedom to choose what subjects to cover and which materials to use. But for new homeschoolers, that freedom can be daunting.
And with print and online curriculum costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars, there can be a lot of pressure to make the right decision the first time.
If you're just starting out homeschooling, you can take some of the pressure off yourself by remembering that you don't have to buy a curriculum. There are many kinds of alternative learning tools that are cheaper and often better than standard textbooks and worksheets.
Still, many new home educators find it comforting to have some kind of curriculum as a guide. That's where all-in-one workbooks and websites come in. They can often provide the back-up you need without tying you down. And there are a number of ways you can use them:
Use them as-is. For kids who enjoy doing worksheets (and yes, they do exist!), have your child work through them a section a day. Time it to fit into your school year, the way a traditional classroom teacher would do.
Skip around to find topics your child needs or wants to work on. Depending on the subject and how it's presented, you may not even need to do them in order.
Keep them as a reference guide. Whether or not your students go through the workbooks themselves, you as the instructor can go through them to get an idea of what to present at a particular grade level. They can serve as a security blanket when you start to doubt your kids are actually learning.
List them on transcripts. Even bare-bones workbooks can often be listed as materials if you live in a state that requires you to subject paperwork to the school district. For record-keeping purposes, flipping through the titles of each exercise can help you translate the learning your children do into "educationese."
To get the most out of homeschooling, workbooks and websites can be supplemented with hands-on projects, and activities outdoors and in the community. But the resources below can help you get started while you develop your own homeschooling style, without having to invest a lot of time or money.
1. Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills
Topics in American Education Publishing's Comprehensive Curriculum series include phonics, reading, reading comprehension, language arts, writing, and math.
Other subjects can be added with the same publisher's Complete Book Of ... series, which includes Spanish, Maps and Geography, Time and Money, Handwriting, and more.
Dover coloring books have been a favorite history resource for homeschooling families for decades. Although light on text, they can provide a good introduction to almost any topic. There are also Dover coloring books for other subjects, including art, music, and science, as well as math puzzles and activities.
Compared to standard math textbooks, Singapore Math's softcover textbooks and workbooks are inexpensive. They are also tops at helping kids understand math concepts and developing the number sense needed to go on to more complex topics. Along with Key To and Miquon, they are the math books I recommend for elementary math students.