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Choosing Our Schoolbooks and Sticking with Them

Sorry to disappoint, but this will not be post on scientific, methodical, and tried and tested ways of choosing a curriculum and the books to go with it. It is not being written by a confident mom with rich and fruitful years of homeschooling behind her. How I wish, it were, though...

I do not know if it is just me, but I get what I call "the annual jitters" when it is time to choose my children's books for the next school year. So you can guess that I have nothing but awe and admiration for moms who are so put-together in this aspect and even manage to form online groups for sharing the curricula and book lists that they have pieced together.

The irony is that we use a boxed curriculum. That's right. It comes with book lists. You are laughing now, aren't you? What are the jitters for, you say? I often wonder myself.

Well, for one, even boxed curricula come with book options for certain subjects. No more than two, though, in our case. And a two-choice decision is enough to give me the jitters? Yup, it is.

For another, I go to bookstores every week, even if I don't actually buy books, even if I should be in a supermarket instead, and even if I don't even have money in my purse.. And when I see books that could cover the same topics that we should cover for the year, I. Go. Crazy. What if this is the better book? Maybe I can use this in tandem with what we have now? Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Time to tame the jitters this year. Decisively. Ruthlessly?

So, I tell myself:

1. I will trust our curriculum provider. I will trust myself and my husband that we made the right choice of curriculum provider, because we did. They ooze with credentials and have long years of experience in education, particularly homeschooling. I will stick to their book lists. If I have to choose between two books for one subject, I will ask my child which one appeals to him more.     

2. Of course, there are supplementary resources, like other books, films, math manipulatives, and science models. I can include these in my list, but not "second textbooks" which merely duplicate what is in the main textbook. I will choose these supplementary resources well (they may even come from the curriculum provider), and acquire them before the school year starts, if possible (meaning, if I have the money).  

3. After being done with planning for the next school year, I will do just that. Stop planning. That's right. Goodbye, textbook browsing, window shopping, and -- heaven forbid -- buying again! Changes in the book list can only be warranted by serious and compelling reasons (can't think of one now, though). 

4. After being done with planning for the next school year, I will start implementing my plans. This means that I will teach and teach well. I will devote my time to helping my children enjoy and fully appreciate what they are learning. By doing this, I will help them become earnest, serious, and independent learners. 

5. Books are not the only inputs to education. They are not even the most important ones. A loving and patient teacher-mom is. A cheerful and edifying family atmosphere is. Complete faith and trust and faith in a loving God is.   

Just to firm up my resolve, I came up with the following table. I call it the ANNUAL RESOURCE TABLE. 

It is a visual tool to remind me of the curriculum, books, and resources that I have chosen and will stick to for the year. I made it using the Open 2.2 Calc(TM). You can also use other appropriate software or just pencil and paper!

Some notes on the Annual Resource Table:

1. I will print one table per child, slide it in a plastic sleeve, and put it in front of the binder that contains the course plans for the year.

2. The table is not just for homeschooling. I will also make one for my son who attends "regular" school. It should have some use for him, as well.

3. Now that the textbook shopping monster is reined in, this is what I know -- there is more time for feedback, recordkeeping, or just having fun with the kids!

Q: What do you do when the book that you need is at the bottom of the book tower (as opposed to bookshelf, which is on shortage around here)? A: Pull it out at your own risk.  

How do you choose your books for the next school year? Do you also have the jitters? 


  1. Great post, Marcia!! And thank you for sharing the Resource Table...I've gone through a few methods that only seem to work for a while (my fault). We, too, use a curriculum that comes with a book reading list...I LOVE IT! We follow a Classical Education and so there is a broad-based study, therefore, we have A LOT of reading. Our curriculum is through Kolbe Academy...their Literature program is strong. You can check them out here
    Thank you, again, for this post...I can feel the procrastination building up in me and I need to carve out time to begin to organize as you have done (so that I don't become overwhelmed).

  2. What a very, very pleasant surprise, Valerie! We are also a Kolbe Academy family :-) Yes, the readings are quite a challenge. As parents, we really have to support and encourage the kids. They just have to be convinced that the hard work will pay off later! And that "hard work" becomes less hard if they turn it to prayer. Looking forward to comparing notes with you. God bless :-)

  3. I loved this post since I sooooo know the feeling. I have switched curriculums so many times and I only have one to worry about (maybe that's the problem)! We have been using Memoria Press materials and we follow the Latin Centered Curriculum which has been the best match for us so far.

    {Have to is kind of fun to look through those curriculum catalogues that come or to walk through a used book store though.}

  4. Kolbe uses the some history books from Memoria Press. I especially enjoy the Famous Men workbooks and how they incorporate timeline and mapwork with the events part of history.

    I think all homeschooling moms enjoy browsing through curricula (I still do!), and the challenge is in reining in our excitement :-)


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