3 Guiding Principles For Choosing a Home School Curriculum


My son turns five this August. This thought makes my hands a little clammy and my eyes sad. How did we get here so fast? Where is my baby?

School is coming – fast. For several reasons, we’ll most likely be homeschooling and part-time enrolling in a school in our neighborhood. This means I have been plunged down the dark rabbit hole of homeschool curriculum.

Phonics, literature-based, spiral math, sequential math, Entertainment Immersion Method Spanish, classical method, unschooling, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, and on and on and on.

Where do you start? I am a teacher by trade, but we’re talking High School English. I like to sit with students and discuss themes in Their Eyes Were Watching God or conference in-depth about their latest poetry. For all my training and experience, I honestly have no idea how to teach a child to read, and I really don’t care that much about spiral math vs. mastery math.

This is what makes my hands get clammy – what am I doing?

A few months ago, when I started to get obsessed with looking at curriculum, I realized I needed to slow down and take a step back. I needed to look at the big picture and articulate our values.  What do we want? The answers to that question would guide my curriculum choices.

I started to create a homeschool philosophy of education. If you’re thinking about homeschooling, I encourage you to do the same. The process has helped me immensely to sift through the overwhelming mess of curricula available.

I’ve put the ideas into three categories – Mission, Core Values, and Goals – Kindergarten. This strategy has helped me start big and narrow in. It’s also helped to get my husband more involved in the discussion. He’s a teacher too, but as the stay-at-home parent, the responsibility for school is falling more on my side. His input has been so great, and I’m seeing him own the details more as we talk through what matters to us.

I’ll share our philosophy here, but keep in mind that this is a working document. I fully expect some things to shift or get chopped as we actually start school. It’s also important to remember that any philosophy is just a statement of what’s important to you, to your family. In your context during your particular season. I offer our mission, values, and goals simply as helpful starting points or opportunities for reflection.

This is the widest lens. Why are we homeschooling? What is the purpose of educating our children at home? At the end of 5, 8, or 12 years, what do we want to have accomplished? For our family, homeschool exists to bring God glory and spread Jesus’ fame by cultivating our children’s gifts and abilities, fueling a passion for lifelong learning, and equipping them for excellence and service.
What important ideas will contribute to accomplishing our mission? What academic philosophies do we hold dearly?

Our Core Values

  • Following Jesus will not be treated as a subject, but rather be woven into the fabric of our family rhythm and all academic content
  • Healthy, loving, grace-filled relationships with mom and dad are essential for thriving homeschool kids.
  • School routines and curriculum choices should reflect our values and goals rather than mimicking a traditional school day or classroom needs.
  • School routines should free our family to be flexible and open to serving our church family and our neighbors as much as we can.
  • Nurturing lifelong learners is more important than creating temporary students, so we seek to inspire more than require and to fan curiosity.
  • Developing good friendships with peers in our community is important.
  • We want to model and ignite a passion for reading.
  • We want to elevate the experience and study of visual and musical arts.
  • We want to spend ample time outside experiencing and studying creation.
  • We want to engage deeply in our city and its vast resources
  • Creative play and movement are important in human development.
  • We want to choose literature, curriculum and experiences that help develop a humble, global worldview, including engaging in a family-wide pursuit of a second language.
  • The general ethos of our home school environment should be fun, interesting, and peaceful.
  • We want to foster independence while cultivating close family bonds.
  •  As children grow into older students, excellence is expected.
    3. GOALS
    These are year-to-year goals. What are we working toward, specifically? Academics, heart issues, teacher growth? I’m not quite finished with this section, but here’s what I have so far:

    Our goals for 2014/15 with 1 Kindergartener and 1 Preschooler
    We will all:

  • Approach school time with interest and positivity
  • Spend ½ day per week learning about nature, outside as much as possible
  • Begin learning Spanish together, trying to engage four days per week
  • Create according to our interests – making music, writing, collage-making, painting, drawing, etc.
    Kindergartener will:

  • Learn to read
  • Feel positive and successful about math
  • Demonstrate strong and confident grasp of mathematical concepts in accordance with a curriculum that will put him on track to take 8th grade Algebra, if appropriate
  • Begin a handwriting program when ready, possibly mid-fall
  • Grow in knowledge of geography, primarily through Montessori maps
  • Engage with Montessori materials
    Preschooler will:

  • Engage with reading program as she is interested
  • Play, work with Montessori materials, or craft during brother’s focused school time
    I will:

  • Find our daily and weekly school rhythm
  • Grow in patience
  • Learn to set aside homemaking tasks as needed
  • Focus on not multitasking during school time
    If you’re starting on this homeschool journey – bless you. I feel a little overwhelmed already. I know things will settle down once I’m more confident and focused on my values and goals, but it’s definitely a daunting task.

    Whether you’re already schooling-at-home or just starting out, do you have any advice? I would love to hear how you go about deciding what’s important! 

    Lindsey lives on and loves the west side of Chicago with her husband Mike and her kids – Caleb, 4 and Lily, 3. She works part time as a doula and childbirth educator and is fascinated by birth. In winter she likes to bake with sourdough, and in summer she likes everything. In all things, she is covered with God’s grace.