The question posed in the title can be very difficult to answer, since the answer is peculiar to the individual concerned. It is also unfortunate that well-meaning fellow homeschoolers often think their curriculum choice is the one right curriculum and want to sway beginning homeschoolers to choose what they choose. Then there is the feeling of uncertainty, inadequacy, and guilt a new homeschooling parent can have – and often that nagging fear of making a mistake. Only you can answer these questions for your own child and your own family. This is even true if you have several children, since learning styles can differ from child to child. Here are some suggestions to help you begin to answer questions you may have about choosing English curriculum for your middle or high school student. (Note: Please take a look at a companion article of this topic, “7 Tips for Choosing Good High School English Materials for Homeschooling: What Ingredients?” either before or after reading this article.)
Do we choose a complete curriculum already designed for the homeschooler? Or do we find many different books and other materials by our own careful choosing? This is a question which answer depends on you, your family, your individual child, and even your budget. There are some curricula available which are considered to be complete, that is, you need not obtain any other resources. Following this route should depend mostly on whether you like the elements of that program, but can also depend on the cost. If such a program is expensive, but you only like half of it, this may be a poor choice for you, unless you are not concerned with cost. If you trust that program, it may be better for you to have the publishers choose the elements for you. Many people prefer to choose individual elements from several programs or even choose their own books from sources such as the library or bookstore. This is an ideal method if you know what each of the resources contain and they suit the learning style of your child, and the values and budget of your family. If you are completely uncomfortable with making this selection, you may prefer to go with a complete curriculum. However, the guidelines given in “7 Tips for Homeschooling Parents to Choose Good Materials for High School English: What Ingredients?” should help you know what to look for.
Do we do what someone else does? Asking advice from other people is not a bad idea, if we ask people we trust. That way, we are not ingrown and can become exposed to options we had not considered. But in the final analysis, our choices need to be our own. We need to carefully consider what is best for our child, based on his needs and our values and goals. Another’s advice can be very helpful, but should not be the final say on what we will do.
Do we buy materials only put out by publishers who share the same values we do? The answer depends entirely on your personal values. I will share my opinion. There are many excellent textbooks and helpful guides available on the market that are time-tested and sound. I believe there is no need to steer clear of such books since their primary purpose is to give educational instruction in the mechanics of English. If you feel uncomfortable with curricula not being written only by those who share your own values, you may want to avoid such material. However, it is my view that materials on grammar, composition, or public speaking are not written for the purpose of influencing the values of children, but rather improving their communication skills.
Literature, however, should be selected according to the convictions of the family. It is my view that we may gain much from exposure to the experiences and views of other people from other perspectives, times, and places. It seems that our scope of experience will be much too limited if we adhere only to writings of those who share our values. For the homeschooled student, I recommend that the parent is carefully involved in the selection process of the literature. It is also wise that parents teach their child to bring to him issues of a questionable nature for the purpose of discussion and protection.
Using the Internet
It is possible to find endless resources for the homeschooled student using a search engine on the Internet. It is also possible to waste time in it. Some resources for homeschoolers are good, others are very sparse. It is difficult to know what is good until after you have waited for a page to load in. This can be time-consuming and disappointing. But, it can also be profitable if you have the time.