Best Homeschool Curriculum for Christian Families
When most Christian families first start looking into homeschooling, they quickly realize that there are far more options available now than there were 25 years ago. Many are plagued with the question, “How do I find the best homeschool curriculum?” There are so many things to consider: the time investment of designing an interesting program for your children, the worldview of the authors and editors of the curriculum used, how your children best learn, and how much it would cost in both time and money. I am hoping that some of my ideas will help you along your journey to find the best homeschool curriculum for your family.
Identify Your Homeschooling Philosophy
A lot of Christian families choose to homeschool because their children are struggling in the traditional school environment. My cousin has a very high-energy little boy (did I mention very high-energy?) and recently decided to homeschool. The structure and consistency my cousin has in her home to provide him a safe place to learn and grow just isn’t available in a traditional classroom environment. There are days that she has a hard time keeping up with her son and his sister; I can’t imagine how a teacher would handle him in a classroom. One of the first things my cousin did on her quest to find the best homeschool curriculum was to identify her goals for homeschooling. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.” Along with the goals, she also needed to identify her philosophy for homeschooling. Did she want to follow a traditional homeschooling approach, a classical approach, eclectic approach, or did she want to start from the ground up and build her own program?
Determine the Level of Spiritual Influence
Children learn from everything around them including parents, books, friends, music, and television. Sometimes the messages are subtle and other times, not so subtle. Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Along with many homeschooling families, I believe this to be true, so the best homeschool curriculum should incorporate a Christian worldview as a part of its content. I suggest researching the curriculum options to find one that aligns with your Christian family values to maximize the influence you would like to have on a child’s spiritual growth. Some Christian programs also offer teacher support, so be sure that the one you select has trained teachers who speak to your children from a Christian worldview and not a secular one.
DIY, Coaching, or Out-of-the-Box
Whether organization is your forte or not, I suggest making a t-chart to identify what is important to your family when it comes to home education. Here is a list of some of the things you should take into consideration while you compare different programs to decide on the best homeschool curriculum for your family.
- What worldview does the curriculum or school teach from?
- Is the program or curriculum accredited?
- Will my students be able to easily transition to a different program in a couple of years if our financial situation changes and I have to return to work?
- Will my students earn a high school diploma if they graduate with this curriculum?
- Is the curriculum online or book-based?
- Do I have any support staff or teachers to turn to if I get stuck, or am I on my own?
- How much time and energy do I have to commit to creating fun projects, developing lessons, and helping my students?
- Am I organized enough to follow through with the demands of a less-structured program?
- What are my students’ learning styles?
- How much structure or flexibility do my students have?
- Will my children complete everything at home, or are they required to attend weekly classes with other homeschool students in the area?
- Am I confident in my ability to assist and teach all subject areas?
- What kind of cost is involved?
Here is another resource you may find helpful in breaking down the different philosophies of homeschooling and the pros and cons of each.
Identify the Academic Needs
Every person absorbs information differently. The Chinese proverb, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”, illustrates some of those differences. Some students learn through reading, others through listening. Some students can’t seem to retain any information unless they are moving around while they are gathering new information. Some students acquire material very quickly and others really have to work at it, sometimes even retaking courses. Does the curriculum you are researching have credit-recovery options if needed? If you aren’t sure what your student’s primary and secondary learning styles are, you may find the infographic on Edudemic helpful. The best homeschool curriculum for your students is determined largely by its ability to be tailored to individual learning styles.
Many homeschool parents worry about their inability to provide quality elective materials for their children. In fact, one of the big buzz phrases right now is STEM education. If you are like me, when I first heard the phrase, I thought of flowers or plants with a stem. STEM education, in its simplest form, stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The goal of STEM education is to encourage students to take an interest in and integrate these subjects together at an early age. The best homeschool curriculum should include a variety of electives rich in STEM courses, foreign language, business, and other options to make sure your student will be ready for a competitive university, trade school, or career. There are a variety of books or online courses providing elective choices. The electives your student chooses in junior high and high school should align with their plans after high school.
College Preparatory and NCAA Approved
The direction you take with your family philosophy in homeschooling and the electives your student chooses have a direct impact on their eligibility for college as well as participation in college sports as an incoming freshman. Typically, the best homeschool curriculum is one that is accredited, ensuring your student’s seamless passage into adulthood after high school. An accredited program should help with record keeping, grading, and by providing transcripts (or do it all for you). It is important to do your research to make sure the program is actually accredited and not just telling you that they are. You can always cross-reference the curriculum accreditation by researching their accrediting body. If your student plans to attend a Division I or Division II university and play college sports, he or she will need to take NCAA approved courses in high school to be eligible. Not all high school classes are NCAA core courses. You can visit the NCAA eligibility center for more resources on where to find classes that meet their requirements.
Books versus Online
Is a book based or online curriculum best for your student? There are pros and cons to consider for either option. I had to realize that even though books may be my comfort zone because that is what I was raised with, they may not be the best way to give my students a quality education. The educational paradigm has shifted, and students need to be technologically literate and savvy to get even the most basic job, not to mention run their own business someday. I found that I preferred the digital programs over the book-based programs. Although books can be reused, I didn’t like the idea of having to wait for books to be delivered or the storage space they would take up on my overcrowded bookshelves. I was drawn to the online option as the best homeschool curriculum because digital learning is cutting-edge, modern, high tech, easily to use, mobile, and builds technology skills.
If you are like me, I believe in paying for quality over quantity. I also believe that you get what you pay for. Sometimes, financial constraints may keep you from using the best homeschool curriculum for your family. When you sit down to understand the financial impact it will have, remember to draw out your family finances to see what would work for your children long-term. Dave Ramsey says that “a budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” Based on your budget, I suggest you look into the various curriculum and payment options. Most booked based curricula require a payment for books all up front. That can be a huge investment up front and carries a lot of risk if you find out it wasn’t a good fit. Online programs often offer discounts for upfront payments and even offer monthly payment options if you can’t afford everything all at once. Look for options that provide you with a money-back guarantee or a risk-free trial period. That way, if it isn’t a good fit, you haven’t thrown your money out the window.
After spending time going through your checklist and comparing programs, you should be able to highlight the factors that are most important to you. If you are a Christian and come to the realization that a more traditional approach to schooling would provide for your family’s needs, you will most likely love the Ignitia online curriculum offered through Enlightium Academy. It provides structure as well as fun games and videos within the lessons to help keep your child’s attention. This takes a lot of the pressure off parents from having to consistently develop enjoyable and attractive projects for a book-based program. Enlightium's program is fully accredited, which means students earn a diploma and have transcripts when they finish the 12th grade. Parents who struggle with subjects love the teacher support for their students, especially as they start taking more complex courses in the higher grades. Enlightium Academy offers several different payment options based on how much help parents and their children need from the teachers. Flexibility to work at their own pace is also a huge plus for many students, especially those that like to work ahead or fall behind their peers in a traditional setting. The Ignitia online program offered through Enlightium Academy is one of the only programs to have a check mark in every category for my suggested list of options for the best homeschool curriculum for Christian Families. If you’re interested in learning more about their program, click on the link below.