How to Make a Curriculum Shopping List for a New Homeschool YearApril Elstrom
In our homeschool, we follow a traditional fall to spring school year. Every year around Spring Break, I take stock of how the current school year is going, what my children have completed, and what we need for next year. Although many homeschool leaders recommend a planning retreat, I have never been able to take one. But I do start thinking about the next school year and making my plans. I grab a spiral notebook, some homeschool catalogs (such as the BIP catalog), a pen, and begin with these steps.
My first step in planning is to make a list of each of my students and their upcoming grade. For this upcoming year, my list will include a young preschooler, a kindergartner, a second grader, a fifth grader, a seventh grader, a tenth grade student, and a high school senior. That’s a bit overwhelming at the moment, I have to admit.
Next, I write down the subjects I plan to cover for each of them and what curriculum I want to use. After that, I double-check my shelves to see what I already own and what I need to purchase. I don’t switch curriculum very often, so usually I just need to replace workbooks in math and handwriting, and maybe buy something new for my high school students.
With my lists ready, I think about the curriculum I have been using and dream a little. I keep a must have list and also a would really be nice list. You know that new language arts curriculum everyone is raving about, or that spelling curriculum that is supposed to work really well for dyslexic students? Put them on the dream list!
Our family homeschools on a tight budget. We buy most of our curriculum used, and I’ve already said that we don’t change curriculum very often, but I still make a dream list. Sometimes my husband looks at the list, asks me why I’m interested in buying that new math product, and then agrees we should invest in it. When we are able to reuse main curriculum items, we’re able to spend more on supplemental items.
You’ve made your must have list and your dream list, but now you need to look at the budget. What do you really need, and what is the best price you can reasonably hope to find for it? What is the estimated total expense for the upcoming year? Do you have any curriculum you can sell to help fund the new curriculum? Be honest here because you’re going to need to have these numbers when you talk to your spouse about the new year.
Make Your Presentation
Okay, that sounds really formal, but it’s not. To be honest, in my home, this happens in stages. My husband, Steve, sees me working on my list and usually asks to see it. I show it to him, but that’s all that happens at that point. The seed is planted, and he’ll mull it over for a week or so. Later, we will talk about it again, and we might make a few quick decisions. The harder decisions usually wait until later, since my husband likes to take his time. He might ask me to do further research before we talk about it again.
Every family is different, and every couple has different communication styles. There may be couples who like to take a date night and talk this through over dinner. There may be husbands who set a budget and aren’t as interested in the actual materials. I recommend talking about it, though, because it helps to include your spouse in the process and reduces conflict. I want my husband to be aware of what curriculum we’re using to educate our children, and he wants to know what I’m spending.
Ask Hard Questions
If the cost is too high for your budget, what can you do to lower it? What new items are most important? What just sounded cool, but can be lived without? What will you actually use? Can you combine subjects somehow? Can you borrow anything from another homeschool family? Is this reusable, so the cost can be split over several years of use by different students? Can you use free materials online? What is the trade-off for free materials — time, printing costs, internet bandwidth? Is it worthwhile, or is it better to pay for a product that saves you time?
Now what does your list look like? Probably shorter but more realistic. Once you have your finalized list, it’s time to start looking for the best deals. Many curriculum publishers have spring sales or sales at homeschool conventions. Are you on their email lists?