Starting point: Remind yourself that you can basically teach a child from most any book. You can use virtually anything—from anywhere—and people have, throughout history—so start off with heart rest—breathe deeply and relax.
If daddy is out of work, or even if finances are tight for other reasons, one of the least expensive curriculum options for preschool through third grade is School Zone’s workbooks. Inviting, wonderful artwork. Not bad :)
I've started several financially-strapped families on workbooks like these, and they work fine. I have the moms rip up the super workbooks and put each section in a file folder. Doing this enables the mom to be able to bring out one page at a time from each section and it lays flat on the table where the child can write or draw neatly on them without the heavy bulk of pages flopping all over the place. They proceed to do pages from each section every day. If you do go this route, be sure to supplement with tons of reading by mama to offset the barren content—to reach the child's soul.
Downside of many public-consumption workbooks: They tend to be godless—making no mention of Him anywhere. Over time, this teaches the child that knowledge can be secular and he/she can still survive. You as a parent only have one shot to get a thorough saturation in the scriptures and create a lifetime hunger for God, so if you use the workbooks, be sure that you have a generous session in the Bible with your child(ren) each and every day, talking about scripture verses, memorizing verses, writing verses—hearing Bible stories as you read to them, etc., and teaching them to pray significantly, not just about the cat. Augment with our Character Traits Coloring Book and they'll fight less and honor you more.
For some wonderfully God-centered wholesome beginning materials, find yourself a set of the timeless, godly McGuffey Readers.
Here are some cautions about textbook curriculums from kindergarten on up. First, beware of any program that has a teacher's manual. Any curriculum that requires mama to do any teacher preparation the night before—even figuring out what page numbers to cover tomorrow, will dive-bomb. We've seen it all across the country. To survive teaching multiple little children over the long haul and not go stark raving crazy, have time to wash your hair, and fix dinner for hubby, you have to have a curriculum that teaches itself. A curriculum with any required teacher's manual is a no-go, if you want to reduce your own personal daily stress levels.
People buy these things by the droves, spending 1,000's of dollars, and the very next year come to our booth at homeschool conventions secretly in tears that nothing has been growing in your home schooling because mama cannot find the time, nor the discipline, nor the energy to even figure out what her children are supposed to do with these textbooks. In most cases we’ve found that you cannot have a mother-dependent curriculum and survive. With 21st-century distractions, neighborhood activities, and full-time outside additional job commitments for hubby, taking hubby (and/or mama) out of the home all day, the entire load falls on mama (or a part of her).
Second, beware of a curriculum that makes no mention of God. Exert caution about using any curriculum that doesn't have God on every page during the elementary years. There are literally tons of secular programs that will "educate" children—but outside of a moral context. With godless education every parent risks producing a "brilliant murderer" using these programs. All bets are off if you haven't saturated your children with the penetrating knowledge that they live under the lifetime gaze and love of their Creator and are ultimately responsible to Him. Knowledge is not the ultimate game in town; holiness is. The Almighty One will soon revisit the Earth. We must get our children ready to meet Him. We are living in the slice in history where the warfare will be the fiercest; we must plant seed wisely in our children. Read Psalm 1 again in light of educating your children :) Eye-opening. This is my main beef with programs that use the Classical Approach. The mom will burn herself out, with perhaps a minimum of holiness-growth in her children to show for it.
Many children are grumpy when it comes to using many of the possible curriculums. We hear (and have observed with neighbors over several years) about textbook-company programs that are "drill and kill". They are too much, and they are too tedious. You can get the same education without such a heavy boring package. The mom can use these materials, if she has to, but would, we think, do well to lighten them up by using only the portions that are vital. We steer people away from them. They cost a fortune and succeed in making children dislike learning immensely. You want the exact opposite: to create lifetime lovers of learning.
If you want to know what we do recommend for curriculum and why, after watching 25 years of curriculum experiments with thousands of families and observing the outcomes of their now 18+ year olds, click here to download 14 pages of our thoughts on that. (If you have additional questions, feel free to contact us.)
Keep in mind that providing an education for your child is only an education; it is not a god. We still have to live a real life around the edges :), which with multiple children is utterly demanding in and of itself—with nothing even added. Abraham Lincoln lived his real life splitting rails in the day, and did his book-learnin' sprawled in front of the fireplace at night with no curriculum—and he turned out quite well!
Nowadays, having a superior or ultimate education can keep one chasing rainbows—and costing you a fortune. It keeps the mama endlessly churned up and anxious with the questions: "Did I pick the right books for this year? Did I leave anything out"? This could all so easily be avoided with an easily administered consecutive curriculum that the child can carry himself or herself. Every child just needs a basic solid education. Education is not utopia. A child goes on to live an entire adult life with his/her own continuing self-education, through vigorous reading, at whatever level the individual craves—and that is where the profundities of thought start sparking and never finish.
For now, we have to get life's conceptual alphabet in them by the easiest and fastest way possible—and allow mama time to read a book of her own—and smile at her children, without being tormented that she didn't get the War of 1812 covered today—because it is already getting covered for her by the right curriculum, without a pound of her. :)
So now we're back to that question of which curriculum gets the job done but is least taxing to mama? Check out our complete list of reasons to choose ACE in that downloadable article on our website. And, to read much more on this topic, get The Right Stuff for Homeschooling.
News item: exponentially large increase in the number of families who are homeschooling. Homeschool How-Tos can help!!