It can be one of the harder decisions, once you've decided that you're moving forward with homeschooling. Should you purchase a box curriculum or should you try and put one together on your own?
First, let me say that with so many homeschooling families there is a wealth of information that you can gather from books and searches online. Starting from scratch is actually not something you have to do anymore for there are families doing just what you want to do who have already started down the road in creating the resources or at least cataloging them where you can find them with some ease.
So I guess the choice may be between piecing things together to match your family's needs, interests, and goals or finding a full boxed curriculum that has already done this.
Here's where having your goals, an idea about what homeschooling method might work for your family and your children's learning styles can make choosing a curriculum much easier. (Yes, all this work is paying off!)
Curriculum companies usually share their methodology and in looking at their scope and sequence you can see what things are covered quickly. Online sites are very attractive, so don't get too caught up into the "look and feel" of the site. Find out who writes the curriculum and what their world view is. (There are companies for Christian and Secular World Views.)
Once you identify a curriculum that meets your family's goals (or comes close), consider purchasing that curriculum used. Many homeschooling families sell their curriculum so they can purchase the next level the following year. Due to this you can find many nearly new items for sell at very reasonable prices. You can find these used curriculum sales online throughout the year and in person in both the Fall and Spring of a year.
Should you want a more uniquely designed curriculum for your family, you can start by searching homeschool blogs or asking other homeschoolers in your network as to what they're doing/using. This is a great way to get first hand information and feedback on potential curriculum options and where to find resources. I belong to several groups online and have found many awesome resources—some I'll be using this year—along with detailed recommendations and examples of how others have implemented them.
Using your goals and children's interests as a guide, you can put together a year's worth of learning based just on these. I'd suggest getting to know your librarian and using her/him to find out just what free and nearly free resources are available. You may be surprised at just what you can find through the library system. Asking your family members, friends, neighbors and others in your network for connections and resources they may have access to that can benefit your homeschooling year is advised as well. (This is a great way to get others involved and supportive of what you're doing.)
Keeping your eyes open for local events in your area, festivals, museums, concerts, etc. can also give you ideas of ways to use what you have around you to add to and supplement your homeschooling curriculum.
As you can see, there is really no limit to what you can find to use in homeschooling your family. Whether you ultimately decide to go with a boxed curriculum, piece something together yourself (or with the help of others) or do a combination of both, remember that you are your child's teacher. Whenever something needs to be adjusted to assist your child/ren in learning—do it.
Wishing you well as you figure things out for your family!
(To read previous steps click here.)