Top Homeschooling Questions Answered (Part 3)

This article is part 3 of a 3 part series: Top Homeschooling Questions Answered.

The top hoemschooling questions are:

  1. When and how I should begin (Read Part 1)
  2. What do I need to teach (Read Part 2)
  3. What are the best programs to use (answered in this article)

There are three different types of programs to choose from when homeschooling. They are:

  • Using prepared, boxed curriculum created for the masses
  • Using online, learning platforms
  • Using skill-based and/or unit/theme based printable, teaching materials

What the best program is for you all depends on what works best for you and your child. However, there are some huge considerations to think about.

I’ll now cover the pros and cons of each:

Using Prepared, boxed curriculum created for the masses:

To ‘standardize’ education, our school systems have long adopted boxed curriculum. These programs all are based on grade-level skills and concepts, but they also change as states adopt ever changing standards and methods of teaching.

Pros of prepared, boxed curriculum:
  • Day to Day lessons are all created and given for the entire year. (This doesn’t mean there is no prep.)
  • Parents purchase having a sense of relief to have an ‘open and go’ curriculum (especially when they don’t trust themselves fully yet in being able to provide what is needed.)
Cons of prepared, boxed curriculum:
  • Lessons are not designed to meet your child where they are. Nor do they take into account their learning styles and preferences (and how those preferences can change).
  • There is no room (time) given for teachable moments or extended learning when a student shows an interest to dive deeper into a specific topic or interest.
  • Almost always requires extensive prep, even though they are advertised as open and go. Typically, the older the child, the more teacher prep will be required.
  • They can be very expensive. Prepared, boxed curriculum can be extremely expensive and all too often parents end up throwing out a good portion of it.
  • Parents will need to keep records.
  • Students often get bored and frustrated easily
  • Parents feel defeated when their children aren’t performing as they think they should based on what is given.

I first began using prepared, boxed curriculum in public schools. It was what I was given and expected to use. Even though these ‘open and go’ programs were created to be step by step, they still required me to do a lot of prep work. Plus, I always needed to find supplements to fill in the gaps to help students not quite ready for the material or for those that already knew the material.

Using online platforms:

Online platforms have been around and growing in popularity for years but really took off during the corona virus pandemic. They too are based on grade-level skills and concepts just like prepared, boxed curriculum, but are typically designed to move students along as they demonstrate that a specific skills or concept has been learned.

Pros of online platform curriculum:
  • Typically, easy to use for both parents and students.
  • Most will have some type of record keeping (but not all).
  • There is little to no lesson planning required for parents.
Cons of online platform curriculum:
  • Time required to be online with little to no ‘live’ human interaction.
  • If there is ‘live’ human interaction, it is on the teacher’s timeline and not yours. One huge advantage of homeschooling is having real flexibility! You lose this if you must meet someone else’s schedule.
  • Parents may still need to keep records depending on the program.
  • Often, too many of these online programs simply have a quick video or lesson to read and then a few questions to answer. Because of the format, these questions are typically all multiple-choice questions. There is no ability to have students learn to express and write out their thoughts or to be creative.
  • Parents have very limited interaction with the child or the work .

Using skill-based and unit/theme based printable, teaching materials:

For transparency purposes, my company, My Teaching Library, fits into this category.

Pros of using skill-based and unit/theme based printable teaching materials.
  • Materials are selected to meet each unique learner where he or she is.
  • Day to day lessons are assigned as the parent decides. If more time is needed or a bunny trail or teachable moment happens, it isn’t an issue! Exciting things can happen as deeper learning and interests are explored.
  • Creative expression is valued and practiced often
  • Encourages parent-child interaction and is typically more relaxed and enjoyable.
  • Allows for extreme flexibility in lesson planning and daily schedules.
  • Can be the least expensive way to homeschool (if you are an All-Access member of My Teaching Library)
Cons of using skill-based and unit/theme based printable teaching materials.

After 30+ years of experience and year of interacting with thousands of homeschooling families, I truly believe this is the best way to homeschool, so I can only say that the cons are what parents believe.

Here is a list the most common reasons homeschooling parents give for not trying to ‘do it themselves’ through the use of printable teaching materials that are not already laid out in a step by step format…

  1. Parents believe they don’t have the knowledge to teach without a prepared, boxed or online program.
    In most cases, this simply is not true! In fact, the most important thing to know is ‘what to teach.’ I cover that in Part 2 of this series. Once you know what should be taught, then you simply find, download, print and use the materials you need to teach a skill or concept. If a child needs extra practice, you give it to them through additional printables. If they ‘get it’ without doing an entire workbook or unit of printables on the same skill, you simply move on!
  2. Parents believe they don’t have time to lesson plan.
    I can tell you that, unless you use a fully online platform (and that platform only) you will need to lesson plan regardless of what type of program you choose. In my opinion, the cons of using online platforms far out way the cons of doing a little lesson planning. Once you get a little experience behind you (a month or so), most parents are only spending 15-30 minutes a week creating a lesson plan for the next week. You can find everything you need to create your own lesson plans in My Teaching Library’s Mega-Organizer.
  3. Parents worry about record keeping.
    You’ll most likely need to keep some type of records regardless of what type of program you use. The records you are required to keep all depends on the homeschooling law in your state. (See Part 1 of this series for how to find out what those are.) Also, you can find everything you need in My Teaching Library’s Mega-Organizer.
  4.  Parents worry it is too expensive to print what is needed.
    After years of printing myself, I recommend getting an Epson ecotank! The initial expense will quickly be recovered in the money you save from not having to purchase other types of programs, plus ecotanks are very cost effective when it comes to ink!
I do hope that you will be inspired to take homeschooling
by the reigns and go full steam ahead after reading this series!

I also hope you’ll be inspired to at least try to teach without feeling the need to use a prepared, boxed curriculum or an online program. However, if you do decide to decide try one or both, that’s okay…but just be aware that they may not be everything you thought they’d be.

Always remember…

  • Keep your homeschooling journey joyful, fun, and relaxed!
  • You are your child’s first and best teacher.
  • No one knows your child better than you.
  • No one has the right to shape and mold your child more than you do.

If you have questions about homeschooling
or My Teaching Library, please feel free to ask.
Click here to leave a message!

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