Step 3: How Do I Choose A Curriculum?

Buying homeschool curriculum and supplies is a big commitment.  It's hard to know where to begin.  Your choices will depend on your homeschool style and your budget, so please keep those in mind with every single purchase.  So let's walk through the process of planning and purchasing curriculum for your homeschool.

  1. Get basic supplies.
  2. Buy curriculum for the 3R's.
  3. Buy curriculum for the essentials.
  4. Buy curriculum for your electives.

Our goal is to help you run the very best homeschool you can.  That means spending the bulk of your budget and time on the most important things.  If you can read well, you can learn anything.  If you can write, at least decently, you can succeed at any vocation and communicate with others effectively.  If you can do arithmetic (up to algebra) you can handle any math that might come at you and reason logically.

History, geography, science, arts, foreign languages, logic, and so on are not unimportant, but they should be your second focus, not your first.

The things we recommend below are really for real our favorites.  We've used many, many things, but these are the staples we've stuck with.  When you click on the images or links they take you to Amazon where you can buy the books. These are affiliate links, which means we get a small commission for referring you.  This doesn't change your price.  It's a nice way for you to say thanks for all the free content and help we provide here at Layers of Learning.

1. Get Basic Supplies

All you really need to get started with homeschooling is a little information, a notebook or paper, pencils, and a library card.  You can make up your own lesson plans and teach your child without curriculum if you like.

Click through the tabs below to see which things we have felt are essential or very useful in our homeschools.

  • Information about teaching
  • School supplies
  • Office supplies
Teaching Basics

Teaching Basics

As a homechooler, you are a teacher.  And while we agree that homeschool parents can do as well or even better than public schools at teaching, that doesn't mean it happens automatically.  The better educated you are about how to teach, the more effective you will be.  You can't ever get back the years you waste or fail to teach your kids properly because of your own ignorance.

These books are some of our favorites about homeschooling, teaching methods, and learning methods.

How to Teach

The Well Trained Mind teaches specifically about how to teach classical style homechooling.  And even  though neither Michelle nor I are strictly classical in style it influenced us immensely.  We re-read it every now and then to keep, or get, on track.  It's definitely a common sense and practical how-to book on teaching all the most important subjects.

A Thomas Jefferson Education promotes the idea of an individualized leadership education.  If you want to homeschool in a style different than the traditional school approach, but aren't sure how, this book might interest you.

How To Talk So Kids Can Learn teaches you real techniques for communicating with kids in a way that helps them learn.  It uses little scenarios and shows how teachers and parents can really hear, understand, and speak in a way that reaches kids.  Some of the scenarios are classroom based, but it focuses on one-on-one communication and is really applicable to parents, especially homeschool parents.

Teaching Writing

For many parents and students writing is the toughest subject to teach and learn. Read Any Child Can Write early and often in your homeschooling career to stay on track with creating a writing rich home that encourages kids naturally to want to write.

Teaching Reading

Kids who are read to by their parents are light years ahead of those who are not. The Read Aloud Handbook explains why and how and when to read aloud to your child.

Honey For A Child's Heart is a list of the best books for children with descriptions.  The first part of the book explains why reading and being a reading example are so important.  Use this to help you find books at your library to fill your home with literature.

Teaching Math

Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler explains how to talk so your students get a growth mindset about math, an attitude that accepts that you can learn hard things and get smarter over time.  The book also specifically addresses how to teach math so it is a vibrant living, engaging subject and not a dead subject with nothing but rules to follow and procedures to memorize.  You can use her methods with any math curriculum.

Teaching with Love

When you homeschool, you are together 24-7 or close to it.  Relationships between family members in most homeschool families are much closer than relationships in non-homeschool families.  You can be an even more effective parent if you set out deliberately to nurture your children.  We love The 5 Love Languages of Children.  It's eye-opening and the things taught are practical and life-changing for you and your kids.

School Supplies
Office Supplies

2. Buy Curriculum For The 3 R's

Of course it is much easier to purchase curriculum, especially in the areas you don't feel so confident.

So the next step is to purchase curriculum in the most essential subjects:

  • Math
  • Reading
  • Writing

Back in the day these were called the 3 R's.  They are still the most important subjects.  If you did nothing but teach your kids well in these areas you would be a success.  So when you're starting out homeschooling and the budget is tight, this is where you put your money first.  When life gets stressful or you're feeling burned out, it is into these subjects that your put your remaining effort.

When both Michelle and I started we had our Saxon math, a notebook for journaling, and some books from the library.  That's it.  Really.

Click through the tabs below to see our favorite curriculum picks for these subjects.  You can click on the pictures or links to add them right into your Amazon shopping cart.



A library card is all you really need to teach reading to your child from kindergarten to graduation. There are a few books below that will help a great deal, especially when you're teaching your child to read for the first time.

Learning to Read

We recommend Phonics Pathways because it uses phonics, not whole language, instruction, is easy for the parent to use, is organized into short lessons that you can move through at your own pace, and it has excellent reviews from lots of parents who have said it just plain works.  As an added bonus it is friendly to older students or even adults who have not learned to read yet. Reading Pathways is the follow up book that will launch your child from sounds and blends into actually reading.

We've also both used How To Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  Our biggest complaint about this book is that it's not visually friendly, but the DISTAR reading method really is helpful.  If reading doesn't come naturally to your kid, this step-by-step method will probably help.

If you want extra practice with phonics we're fans of the Explode the Code series and have used it with all of our kids.

By the time your child has finished learning the first few sounds on the letters she can start reading with the Bob books.  I used them with all of my brand new readers.


Honey for a Child's Heart is a book of book recommendations by level and interests.  We highly recommend this as a way to find worthwhile books for your kids.  I was trained in early elementary education and have kept my own annotated list of books since my college days, so I don't have or need this book. But Michelle has referenced this book for years.   The parent uses this and then visits the library to gather the specific books for their child to read or for the parent to read-aloud to the child.

As far as learning literature forms and discussing great literature, the best method is to choose a book you want to read and discuss and look up the free Sparknotes literature guide for that book online.  Either the parent or the student can use Sparknotes to get information about themes, literary devices, characters, summaries, and so on.  Then the parent leads a discussion, assigns a paper, etc.

There are also dozens of different publishers who sell literature guides.  Feel free to investigate any of these as you like.  We've never used any of them personally in our homeschools.

Honestly, in our homeschools, we normally just let our kids read, read, and read.  Only occasionally do we discuss books in a formal way or write papers about them.  And then the purpose is usually college prep.


3. Buy curriculum for the essential subjects

The essential subjects are those that should be taught, if not constantly, then at least frequently throughout the school years. In my homeschool each of these subjects is taught at least once a week.  They are:

  1. History - the story of everything that came before.  This subject helps us understand where we came from, the debt we owe the past, and warns us against future follies.
  2. Geography - the study of the world as it is now.  This subject is so much more than maps.  It's about the condition of humanity in the present day.  You study cultures, languages, locations, landscapes, and governments that shape the world you live in.
  3. Science - the study of the natural world.  A decent science education, even if science isn't your thing, will make you proof against charlatans.  Even more importantly, science teaches logical thought patterns, observation, curiosity, and objectivity.
  4. The Arts - the beautiful things. Arts includes literature, plays, poetry, paintings, sculpture, photography, design, film, and music. These are the results of society's hard work, the reward, if you will.  Until you study this area, you can't possibly appreciate it or gain much value from it.

We recommend you use the Layers of Learning curriculum for your history, geography, science, and arts.  Here's why.

  1. We're extremely thorough.  We cover more cultures and times, places, and topics than any other curriculum we've seen.
  2. It fits every learning style and every teaching style.  We include worksheets, writing projects, books, videos, hands on activities, games, and more. But it's all adaptable to your preferences and needs.
  3. It's inexpensive.  The program covers all the four of the essential subjects (history, geography, science, arts), can be used for all of your kids at once, and for all the years of their education, making it an excellent value.  You need buy each year only once and that's your kids' whole education in these four essential subjects clear up to graduation.

Below we have our year packages which sell at a discount off the regular price.  But you can also buy one unit at a time by visiting our catalog.

4. Choosing Elective Curriculum

So now you should have an idea of what you want to teach this year in your homeschool.  You may also want to add an elective or two each year or each semester. Here are some ideas:

  • Religion/character building - this can also be done in a separate family tine or as part of the morning meeting.
  • Foreign Language - Modern languages like Spanish, German, French, Japanese, or Arabic can be taught with Duolingo, a free online language course.  If you want to teach Latin we recommend Getting Started With Latin by William E. Linney, a truly beginner-friendly course.

  • Music - If possible every child should take at least two years of music lessons.  The piano is a popular starter instrument.  If you can't afford private music lessons, see if your child can participate in band or orchestra at a nearby school.
  • Life Skills - lessons like cooking, auto maintenance, finances, or crochet are valuable for children to learn.  Most life skills can be learned in the course or normal family life if you have your children by your side as you go about your daily duties.  But sometimes a dedicated course is nice too.

Ready To Plan?

Once you've chosen your curriculum, you're ready to plan out your whole homeschool year.

Free Samples

Try family-style homeschooling now with free samples of four Layers of Learning units when you subscribe. You'll get to try family-style history, geography, science, and arts with your children.

You can unsubscribe any time.


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