Ah, the time has come once again to turn thoughts to planning. I must say, this is the part of homeschooling I love, and hate, the most. I love to look over books, spend hours flipping through curriculum catalogs, going to the curriculum fair and seeing all the fun "stuff". My problem, of course, is that like most homeschoolers, I am a curriculum junkie, and I have to be careful not the buy everything that looks good. So, how does one choose? Sometimes I long for the days when I was homeschooled, when the only curriculum shopping my mom did was order a bunch of textbooks from Abeka, Saxon or Bob Jones. Well, okay, not really - but you know what I mean. Sometimes it can be so overwhelming to try to narrow down the choices, to not get sidetracked by the shiny new curriculum just out, the latest buzz on the curriculum boards.
So, how do I go about it? Well, to start, I think it is really important to know yourself and your kids. Homeschooling takes a lot of self-discipline. It's hard to get up every day and not get sidetracked by all the other things going on - it's hard to be disciplined enough to make school happen (and I say this with all humility as one who so often fails). So, don't make it harder by choosing something you know you won't stick with. If you are not a crafty person, don't pick a curriculum that requires lots of lapbooking. If you hate reading aloud, don't go with a living books curriculum that will require you to spend most of your school day reading aloud to your little ones (though, I must say, typing that makes me cringe, because I don't care how much you hate to read, every kid should be read to every day!). If you hate fill in the blanks, quizzes and worksheets, don't pick a traditional textbook approach. All that seems like common sense, but actually following through with that can be hard. How easily tempted I am by programs that I know are simply not practical for me to implement in my home life with my kids. What works for the mother of one will not work for the mother of 4, (or 10!).
Second, know your kids. This takes more time. Often we have a general notion of how our kids prefer to learn. Some are very hands on, others just want a book to read and figure it out themselves. Little ones need us to be more involved and engaging as we teach them. Older children need to slowly learn how to take over some of the responsibility in learning. The longer you teach them, the easier it will be to see what works for them. My caveat here is, the child does NOT run the show. Your kids are not going to like everything you select. They will not like every subject. They don't all like to read at first. But, life it tough, and sometimes we have to do things we don't like, and that is a good lesson for them to learn :) So, while I take my kids interests and abilities into consideration, there are some non-negotiables. They will take Latin, because I know it is important for them to learn. They will read good quality literature, because I am not comforted by the statement "well, at least they are reading", a quote parents use to justify allowing their children to read mind numbing, silly books which only further discourage their desire or ability to read the more challenging books. But in general, I consider each of my kids, and try to plan things I know will excite both them and me.
My point is, don't set yourself up for failure. Don't choose a curriculum that you cannot implement realistically in your situation, no matter how great it sounds. Don't be frustrated if it takes a few years to figure out what is going to work in your home. Don't let someone convince you a program is perfect for you just because it is perfect for them. Don't allow yourself to be constantly changing course, when you find something that works - stick with it!