Curriculum as a "Line of Best Fit"

After wrestling with the big question, “Should we homeschool our children?” the next question facing homeschoolers is “What curriculum should we use?”  We are blessed to be homeschooling in an era when there are a plethora of choices in every subject imaginable.  But for many of us, the sheer number of options is so overwhelming that it begins to feel more like a curse than a blessing.

How on earth can we choose?

There’s a principle from statistics that can be applied.  When data values are collected and then graphed, they often look like the blue dots on the graph above – scattered and separate.  Sometimes they’re all over the place, but other times they vaguely follow a pattern.

When a pattern can be observed – whether they’re roughly in a straight line or generally follow some curve – an equation can be found for the trend line or “line of best fit” (seen in red in the graph).  This line of best fit is essentially the average of those different points.

In the case of choosing a curriculum, those points represent the different goals we may hope to achieve: level of academic rigor, a certain teaching style (classical, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, …), specific formats (online, textbook, unit study, …), price, time required, etc.  It can be very difficult, if not impossible, to find materials that meet all of our desired criteria.  In that case, look for one that represents a “line of best fit.”

I would suggest the following:

1.  Pray about the decision.

No one knows you and your children better than the Lord.  Only He knows what the future has in store for your children and what they will need to be prepared.  He knows how you best teach and how they best learn.

2.  Prioritize your criteria.

What is most important to you and your family?  Price?  Teaching style?  Time investment?  What is least important to you?

3.  If possible, check out the materials in person.

Searching online is a good place to start, but all of the sites will try to convince you that their method is best, and you’ll only be able to look at a few sample pages.  There’s just no substitute for looking through the whole book or program for yourself.  Large homeschool conventions are excellent for this because of the sheer number of curriculum companies that are represented in the vendor hall.

Since most of those have already been held for this year, another alternative is to ask other homeschool moms what they use and if you can take a look at it.  Ask them how it worked for them, how much time it required, etc.  Every family is different, and what works for your friend will not automatically work for you, but it’s great to get some information from someone who’s not trying to sell it to you.

4.  Remember that no curriculum is perfect.

The goal is not to find the perfect curriculum.  The goal is to find the best fit for you and your family.  When in doubt, choose the one that makes you the most excited to teach.  Yes, it’s best if it also fits your child’s learning style, but at the end of the day, the teacher’s attitude is very contagious.  If you are dreading teaching a subject because you dislike the curriculum, your children will start to feel that same way.