Choosing Curriculum: 2 Tips + 17 Quick Catholic Curricula Mini-Reviews
So many moms are experiencing serious decision fatigue right now.
And one thing I'm hearing in my Facebook community for Catholic homeschooling moms over and over is that they are having a tough time making homeschool curriculum decisions. Here are two tips and my opinions on 17 Catholic curriculum programs beyond what I shared previously to hopefully help you overcome the deer-in-headlights exhaustion of indecision.
Special thanks to my homeschooling mama friends for helping me narrow down my top two tips! We need to connect with other women to encourage one another on this journey. Do not underestimate the joy-giving value of a community of Catholic homeschooling mamas!
- Just pick something.
There are dozens of outstanding curriculum options for homeschoolers these days. There is no one perfect curriculum for all of the kids in your family. Nobody can tell you which one to choose, except maybe a truly dear friend or someone who has really tried to get to know you and your needs.
At some point, you have to trust your mother's intuition and just pick something.
As the year progresses, you can and should tweak the materials to work best for your family, and you might drop and/or add a few things. But, your plan is not set in stone, because it's a prediction of what you think will work and will almost always require adapting in little and/or big ways.
The sooner you accept that reality and make decisions about curriculum, the more peace you will feel. I promise.
2. The best curriculum is the one you will do cheerfully and consistently.
The best curriculum for your family is the one you will do with a good attitude. If you hate it, even if it's perfect for your kids' learning styles, you're setting yourself up for a difficult year. Mom's preferences really do need to come ahead of your children's, since you are the one implementing the curriculum.
The goal of education is for individuals to progress in their knowledge and skills from one point in time to another. While that can look completely different from one educational scenario to another, it's still the best measuring stick, in my opinion, of whether or not the education is working.
But to make progress, we have to do the work. We can't skip too many days or pages. Mom has to make a plan that she will implement consistently. It cannot be up to the kids. It's up to us.
So when you're choosing curriculum, make sure you pick something that you will do consistently with a good attitude. This, I think, is even more important than if it's the best philosophical fit for your family and why sometimes picking the easiest option is the best option.
Catholic Curriculum Providers: my thoughts
The chart I created back in March was helpful to many moms, but it focused on the facts when some need opinion. These are my opinions on the Catholic homeschooling programs with which I have enough familiarity to have an opinion.
what I've seen - the very best, quality, classic books and students who are engaged in socratic discussion plus solid courses in philosophy and ethics
what I've heard - the high school programs and online classes are amazing and all the levels leading up to high school solidly prepare students for those programs
good for - families who love classic books and deep discussions and who embrace a traditional liberal arts education
but - some say materials are advanced due to the rigorous philosophy, staff may be sometimes slow to respond
what I've seen - beautiful, enjoyable, fully Catholic materials in an affordable package with realistic expectations for family life
what I've heard - includes a balance of hands-on and workbook-style learning with both literature and textbooks
good for - families who want a more traditional box-curriculum, the flexibility of gentle lesson plans, and don't need the accountability of enrollment or a consultant
but - some say materials are below grade-level due to gentle approach, only includes K-8
what I've seen - a lovely three-year cyclical memory work program with optional science and art volumes to help a family extend it into a full curriculum while all learning the same content
what I've heard - co-ops help families get the most out of the material although a one-room schoolhouse approach at home can be effective too, especially with the online resources CSH provides
good for - families who want to supplement their existing curriculum with memory work or want a basic foundation to expand upon however they want with pretty, colorful materials
but - not a full program and some people don't like the music
what I've seen - a four-year cyclical classical memory work program with clear and effective materials that could be a solid basis for a full curriculum
what I've heard - co-ops and Schola Rosa are excellent options for extending the program into a full curriculum
good for - families who want to supplement their existing curriculum with memory work or want a basic foundation to expand upon however they want with solid, clear materials
but - not a full program and some people don't like the music
what I've seen - affordable, engaging recorded and live online classes from a variety of well-qualified instructors, passionate about their subject areas delivered from a Catholic perspective
what I've heard - the new grade school unit study program is amazing and the entire HSC staff are exceptionally helpful when you have questions or problems
good for - families who are looking for a la carte classes for middle and high school students who would benefit from mostly independent learning and someone besides "mom" as teacher
but - some instructors are better than others, some courses are laid out better than others, and there are so many classes that it can be tough to choose
what I've seen - a solidly Catholic, mostly traditional program with a classical foundation offering various options for courses at all levels
what I've heard - they have just expanded their online class offerings on top of their existing homeschool courses, online courses, and self-paced courses
good for - a family seeking a variety of options from one program with everything from advisors to testing to online courses to part time enrollment to diplomas
but - curriculum seems to be a cross between traditional and classical, rather than fully classical, lots of textbooks
what I've seen - a carefully constructed Catholic Charlotte Mason education with free syllabi and wonderful booklists to provide a feast of living books for a broad education in a short school day
what I've heard - some books are hard to find but alternatives are available, and the online forum on Facebook is a wealth of wisdom along with many additional files such as daily lesson plans
good for - families who love books and nature and want to swap textbooks for narration, copywork, and lots of time outside
but - there is a learning curve for mom if you're not familiar with how narration, copywork, dictation, etc. work, and the method looks drastically different from traditional schooling
what I've seen - a classical Catholic homeschooling program that teaches children thinking skills and focuses on how to learn and provides a broad education with excellent parent support
what I've heard - reading the book Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum gives an almost essential background to the educational approach used
good for - families who are looking for full enrollment with a dedicated advisor but desire a different education than traditional schooling based on textbooks exclusively
but - some feel the elementary language arts skips around too much and delays writing instruction for too long, and teaching with a truly classical approach requires some background reading
what I've seen - an accredited Catholic homeschool program following the Charlotte Mason philosophy with beautifully created lessons completely in Spanish for Spanish-speakers
what I've heard - it's the only Catholic homeschool program in Spanish and provides online classes but keeps parents fully in charge of their children's education
good for - families who are bilingual and seeking a Spanish-language program open to the Charlotte Mason approach
but - I don't read or speak much Spanish, so I can't make a full assessment of the content
what I've seen - a correspondance school in the traditional Catholic school model that provides a complete education for homeschooled children with a key on instilling the faith
what I've heard - not much, because although they have been around a while, I don't hear much from families using this straightforward, old-school resource except that payments are flexible
good for - families who are looking for an affordable, traditional Catholic school program for all grade levels
but - must return provided books and lesson plans unless using for younger children
what I've seen - a nationally accredited homeschool program that is continually updating to meet the needs of their families while preserving their focus on traditional Catholicism and academics
what I've heard - parents control their school schedule and pacing with guidance from advisors, and the lesson plans are clear and easy to implement
good for - families who enjoy reprints of classic Catholic texts alongside modern resources and need the structure of a full program with support
but - some say the old books can be dry with outdated information and repetitive assessments
what I've seen - a completely online classical traditional Catholic education for grades 4-12 that is accredited and affordable and combines literature with Catholic and secular texts
what I've heard - it provides a virtual classroom experience similar to a Catholic school environment with engaging instructors
good for - families who want a completely online option for instruction with a focus on traditional with students who are driven and disciplined
but - this is the third re-incarnation of the program which was previously known as Regina Coeli and Fisher More Academy
what I've seen - Rolling Acres is the online academy while Schola Rosa can be done at home or at co-ops; both provide a multi-age approach to help moms simplify homeschooling
what I've heard - full-time enrollment provides community support for a curriculum that is both classical and Charlotte Mason with integration across subject areas and Socratic online classes
good for - families who want to learn together in a local community or at home with a full program that combines grade levels as much as possible
but - everything is provided online and families print or purchase materials on their own, and there can be a learning curve to figure out how the multi-age approach works
what I've seen - a simple, Catholic multi-age program with beautiful lessons incorporating many Charlotte Mason aspects
what I've heard - while it is truly minimalist in design, it is enough to provide a true, good, and beautiful education for most children
good for - families who need something simple to start and want to combine all of their children, studying the same topics at the same time
but - only the first year is available, and supplementing with additional materials is common, especially in higher grade levels, part Waldorf-style
what I've seen - a well-structured traditional Catholic school program that's accredited and has stood the test of time in providing an outstanding education for homeschoolers
what I've heard - the program, while effective and high quality, can be dry and boring for some kids who don't like workbooks, but enrolling and having daily lesson plans is a great help
good for - families starting out who need clear lesson plans, access to advisors, and full enrollment in an accredited program
but - there are sometimes a lot of books for each grade level, so moms homeschooling many children have a lot to oversee
what I've seen - the initial assessment is unique to Catholic homeschool programs and the focus on individualizing the course plan to the family is amazing
what I've heard - it's a fabulously flexible and affordable program for families who really want to tailor the curriculum to their children's and family's needs
good for - families with many children who want to keep things simple and manageable and have an advisor for an affordable price
but - depending on the materials, daily lesson plans may not be available, and you have to buy your books elsewhere
what I've seen - free lesson plans, great book lists, full curriculum providing a quality, well-rounded education
what I've heard - not many families use the program as written and usually substitute various books, using it more of a guide than a curriculum
good for - families who like checklists and a living books approach
but - it's only lesson plans, and you find the books and implement independently
So there you go! Now you know my thoughts on 17 Catholic homeschooling curriculum providers that I have researched over the years and found to be excellent options for families. These aren't the only Catholic programs out there, but they are the ones that I have encountered multiple times.
If you are just starting out homeschooling, you will notice there are many curriculum options. I have focused here on the Catholic providers, as for many Catholic families, that's the easiest place to start. Choosing curriculum can be overwhelming, but you can do it!
Choose something. Do it cheerfully and consistently. I promise you won't ruin your kids!
Leave a Reply