Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum: A Complete Guide

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If you’re looking into homeschooling or if you’ve decided to take the plunge, I’m sure you’re starting to think about how the heck you’re going to teach your kiddos everything they need to know, and that means you’re looking into different curricula. Mmmm, I can almost smell the sweet, sweet scent of a fresh workbook. So exciting! (Ok, so cat’s out of the bag—I’m a big nerd. Now you know).

Let’s do this! 

First, consider pedagogy before curricula.

Alright, before we get too excited and start putting things in the old Amazon cart, you need to take a step back and reflect on the approach you want to take. What’s your philosophy about how you think your kids will learn best? Not sure how to figure that out? Here are some questions you might reflect on…

  • What are your family's values?
  • What are your family’s priorities?
  • Long-term goals for your kids? 
  • What’s driving you to homeschool? 

When you have a sense of what’s important to you, you’ll have more clarity on what you want your home school to look like. Here are some common pedagogies, learning philosophies, and methods you might want to explore as you are discovering your own personal style of home education. 

Traditional: While there isn’t actually anything truly “traditional” about his approach—traditional homeschoolers tend to lean towards doing things more or less the same as normal school, but at home. Kids work in standards-aligned curricula in their designated grade level at a pace set by the parent. Traditional homeschoolers value the rigor and structure of a set plan, and they get a lot of peace of mind from the idea that their kids are learning the same things they would have learned had they gone to school. You can also take a similar approach but with a faith-based framing, providing your kids with a structured curriculum with high expectations but with the faith tradition of your family integrated into subjects and less emphasis on the curriculum needing to be standards-aligned. 

Classical Education: This approach is based on the Greek and Roman idea of “the trivium” (the three elements of language: grammar, logic, dialectic) and the “quadtrivium” (the other four subjects: arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy). There’s also a big emphasis on classic literature or “great books” as well as character development. This is pretty close to the traditional approach since the adult is really calling the shots and dictating what is learned, how learning is demonstrated, and whether or not the child is meeting expectations. However, the types of activities will be aligned with the trivium rather than state standards. 

Montessori: Montessori is all about a child’s holistic development, allowing choices within limits, social interaction and manners, and hands-on learning within a “prepared environment.” There are specific materials needed and predetermined ways that the materials are to be used by the kids. Similar approaches include Waldorf (which emphasizes the importance of imaginative play) and Regio Amelia (which emphasizes a prepared environment but with more open-ended experiences).

Charlotte Mason: This approach is based on the work of British reformer and educator Charlotte Mason in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The main tenets include a focus on what Mason called “living books” as opposed to “twaddle,” meaning that children should be exposed to rich literature that demonstrates high moral character and educational value instead of shallow, dumbed-down entertainment. Nature study, fine art, music, and habit formation are also main elements of the approach. Mason encourages parents and educators to use a warm, connective discipline style, setting clear limits but allowing children a lot of autonomy.

Unschooling: This is an approach that allows the child to determine their course of study- what they will learn, how they will learn it, and how/if they will demonstrate or use their knowledge. There is no “unschooling curriculum.” While the child might decide that they are interested in taking a class or that using a curriculum to learn math might be useful to them, the unschooling parent would not mandate any prescribed path. Within unschooling, there is a spectrum of “seriousness,” we’ll say, with some folks classifying themselves as “extreme unschoolers” and others who are sometimes called “almost unschoolers.” 

Constructivism: This philosophy (originally put forward by Jean Piaget) promotes the idea that learning happens when kids discover new knowledge that they can attach to existing knowledge and then apply it to their real lives. As opposed to thinking that education is mainly the absorption of knowledge, constructivist homeschoolers focus on things like project-based learning, experiential learning, authentic audience, and helping kids reflect on their experiences and think about their thinking (meta-cognition). They might also use a mastery-based curriculum and allow kids to work at their own pace with guidance and support.

Eclectic: It’s great to know about all of these different methods, but it’s rare that a homeschooling family finds that one of these approaches fits the culture and needs of their kids so perfectly that they don’t need anything else. For this reason, most homeschoolers end up pulling different practices and ideas from a variety of philosophies. The most important thing is to find what works best for your family and keep an open mind since this “best thing” might not work for all your kids or for every grade. 

Ok, now let’s talk homeschool curriculum.

Now that you’ve got a foundation for the kind of learning approach and general belief system you’re aligned with… let’s look at the curriculum. 

Here are some popular “all-in-one” programs—meaning they provide all the subjects and a wide span of grades—that you should look into based on your affinity for the approaches we’ve already covered. 

Just a note: We don’t use or necessarily endorse these programs at Prenda. These are just things you might want to look into. More about what we use at Prenda in a minute. 




Charlotte Mason 


There’s no such thing as an “unschooling curriculum,” but you might enjoy these books!


How do I choose a homeschool curriculum? 

Here’s the thing… you have a lot of choices. But just like Alice in Wonderland, it doesn’t matter what you choose unless you know where you’re going. Homeschooling, or educating a child, is about so much more than what they learn. It is about who they become. It’s about the culture of your family and meeting the unique needs of your kids year after year. 

So until you take the time to ground yourself in your personal mission, you will be blown about by the whimsy of wooden toys and play scarfs, the idyllic notion of no-tech homesteading, and the ever-present nagging need for your kids to be able to compete with that overachieving neighbor kid and his braggy mother. 😉

So, how do you go about making these choices? 

Here’s how I think about it…

I think of every choice I make as if I were hiring an employee to do a specific job at my “company” (my family). Who a company hires is entirely influenced by what the mission of that company is and the jobs that need to be done to accomplish that mission. So, define your mission and then hire for specific jobs to be done. 

For me, I want my kids to grow up knowing that our family is their home base. That I am on their team and that no academic or professional success or failure will increase or decrease my love for them. That being said, I want them to have the confidence and competence not just to survive but to thrive and to lead in this next generation. That means they need to be intrinsically motivated and purpose-driven, independent thinkers, able to adapt and figure things out on their own, compassionate, and creative. They need to know who they are and what they stand for and to persist when things don’t seem to be going their way. 

This mission dictates I use a highly connective, warm, but authoritative parenting style where I provide my kids with a lot of autonomy while maintaining my high expectations for their moral character and work ethic. This vision demands that their education be largely constructivist in nature, with a hint of unschooling and the wonder and simplicity of Charlotte Mason sprinkled on top. However, because I value social learning and know that my kids will need to have next-level communication and collaboration skills, I use Prenda microschools to deliver this education to my kids. 

What is a microschool?

A microschool is just a small school, but a Prenda microschool is a tight-knit community of learners led by a Prenda guide who understands how to help kids connect with their personal purpose for learning, build mastery in foundational skills, and then use that mastery in real and meaningful ways. Our family has been microschooling going on 6 years now and I can happily say that I see the mission and vision I have for our family unfolding as my kids learn and grow in the microschool environment. 

If you want your kids to be leaders in this next generation and to have the competence and confidence to create a meaningful and happy future for themselves, microschooling might be a good fit for your family. If you want to be the one delivering this amazing experience to your kids and a handful of their friends—look into becoming a Prenda guide. 

You don’t need to have an education background to start your own Prenda microschool for the kids in your community. We provide all the tools and support you need to create an empowering and effective learning environment.

Ready to learn more about the magic of microschooling? Take our Beginner’s Guide to Microschooling course. 

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