Choosing Fast, Cheap, or Good Curriculum in your Homeschool

homeschool curriculum options

This article is the text version of a video I did here

You may have heard about a concept that’s often used in business and in life. It can also apply to homeschooling, and it is the concept of cheap, fast, and good.

So, you may have heard this before, but in life you generally can only have two of the three when you choose a product or service or a way of doing things. And because we're talking about home education, good is really something that's non-negotiable, right? We want to give our children a good educational experience. We want to pick good, beautiful, truthful products when we're sharing and teaching with them. We're going to push that one to the side, leaving us with fast and cheap.

Now here's the truth of it, right? We all want to be able to homeschool as easily as possible with as little work on our part and also to be able to afford it.

You can't usually have both, so you can choose between fast and expensive, or a little more time-consuming and intensive and cheap. And that's really the truth of it.

What Fast Looks Like

Let’s look at a quick example. So I'm a working mom, I'm in my office right now. My older kids are at home. They're doing school independently online with either live tutors or some prerecorded self-paced courses. Those are expensive. And we only do a few of those because we have them set up for when I need to be here in my office.

I do none of the teaching for these. I do none of the work. However, those courses can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. We have to really budget for those. We don't do very many of them, but the more expensive some of those courses get and some of those offerings get the less I have to do.

What Cheap Looks Like

So as a working mom, I need to be able to have something that's fast and easy, but understanding I'm going to pay for that. Now, when I first started out homeschooling and I wasn't running a full-time business with my husband, we had more time and we could experiment and do a lot of the teaching ourselves.

That's where we really had the flexibility with our “time” budget. We could go take the time to pick out all the books from the library, or get on the waiting list for a very popular book that that was often checked out. We could look for those clearance sales at all or the little book and supplies stores. We could go to Pinterest and download free printables and set up our own curriculum that we mixed and matched.

With so much time, we could pay almost nothing and give our children a really good education. There wasn't someone else teaching. I couldn't just put my kids on the computer and have a professor walking them through things or take them to a learning center and also pay nothing.

Paying nothing and getting full teaching support are often incompatible.

Back then, when we had no budget, but we had a lot more time. We had some freedom to work within that realm. Now this leaves me to answer a lot of the questions I'm getting, where I'm a working parent and I don't have time, but also I don't have money. This is often why I hear homeschooling can't work for me. The truth is that you can, but you have to really prioritize.

How to prioritize curriculum

There are a lot of curriculum providers out there, very good ones, that will bundle everything for you and plan out your day and your lesson plans and everything you need to do. This saves you a lot of time, but you're going to pay for that.

There are some that completely take the teaching off of your plate, having online teachers or professors handling all of the instruction, testing, and management. You’ll pay even more for this.

On the other end are courses where you do everything. All of the planning, teaching, monitoring, and testing is on you. These are much more affordable (and can be free!)

There are usually options within that range that line up with your time and money budget. So just understand that budget and time are two things that a lot of parents really don’t have much flexibility with, but you might, and as your budget changes and your time allotment changes, you can play around.

Pro tip: That's why summer is often a really good time for parents that want to homeschool, because there is a little more time to relax with some things and you can do a lot more of the teaching yourself. Other ideas include playing catch up in evenings or catch up on weekends to save yourself money with those things that you teach on your own.

There are also some very good free resources available, such as Khan Academy (which I highly recommend). You can do a lot of the teaching through that, and it is free. Now, you will have to supplement with books and maybe some extra activities and drills, and it may not be the thing they respond to. So if your child doesn't learn well through video instruction online, you may have to pull it back and try again.

Good is non-negotiable

Fast, cheap and good are generally how we choose curriculum, but good is non-negotiable because that's why we're homeschooling in the first place.

You will have to choose between fast and cheap. Depending on where you are in your life, it may be fast this year and it may be cheap next year, but just know that that choice is up to you and you can mix and match to make it work.

And if you can't afford to do all the subjects at one time-- don't! If you don't have the time to do all subjects at one time – don’t! You can pick, you can choose, you can alternate. You can do a lot of math at the beginning of the year and a little less math at the end of the year. You can make it work for you.

Looking for more homeschool ideas and tips? HOMESCHOOL HACKS is available today.