Friday, June 8, 2012

Choosing Resources

Choosing the resources I will use to reach the goals I listed in step 3 is one of my favorite parts of planning for the coming year.  If anyone is keeping track, this is the 4th step in my planning process.  I should add here though, that even though I am breaking things into "steps" there is some overlap.  For example, "Choosing Resources" might be step 4, but it is really something I do year round. 

I am always on the look out for new resources for my home school.  Now, I don't actively seek them year round, but if I read a blog post about a great grammar program or hear about a new way to use a history timeline, or whatever, I make sure to note it in one of two places.  Here on my computer, I have a file in my "Favorites" entitled "Curriculum to Consider".  When I come across something I want to look into more, or definitely use in the future, I simply save it in that file.  I also have a handwritten list that I keep in a notebook.  This notebook usually sits on the stand by the couch on which I sit to do most of my reading, or in the bag that houses books I am in the process of reading.  When spring or late winter rolls around and I get into "planning mode" I take the time to really look into these resources.

These two lists of curricula and resources to consider get considerably long by the time I start planning!  When I'm ready to actually plan for the coming year, I take the snippets of time that I have and research each item.  Sometimes I think to myself, "What was I thinking?  That will never do!" and I can cross that item off my list.  Often though, I have some tough decisions to make between several good resources.  Here is where it is important for me to go back to the goals I have prayerfully set.  It makes it a little easier to make a decision when I can ask, "Is this resource going to help me or my child achieve the intended goal for this year?"  Sometimes, it might be a really great book that everyone is raving about and I just love because it has so much visual appeal, or whatever, but, if it doesn't help me reach the goals I took the time to set, it gets crossed off the list (or at least moved to next years "Curriculum to Consider List"!)   So as long as I refer to the goals I set, this process of elimination isn't too difficult. 

Sometimes, a resource makes me want to add a goal to my  list.  That can work okay, but I have to work hard to keep my love of curricula from dictating what our goals will be.  I learned early on that keeping our ship on course means having a definite harbor to reach.  Allowing the various curricula to dictate our course causes our boat to go this way and that way and we never really reach a harbor at all, never mind the one we had intended to shoot for.

For keeping track of all of these curriculum choices, once again, I keep two lists.  One is here at the computer in Word, and the other is, once again, in my notebook.  I do this because I find that I am not always at my computer when I am working on my planning.  We only have one family computer in the house so we have to share it's use.  That means, when I have time to do some planning, if someone is working (or playing!) at the computer, I have to wait.  Having a notebook allows me to do it in both places, and then I can consolidate in the end.  And, to be honest, I actually prefer to use the notebook.  The computer is great because of the tables I can make.  It's quick and efficient, but I really enjoy the process of actually writing things out.  I'm not sure I could ever go "paperless".  So, whether it's a chart on the computer or one in my notebook I include several things.  I label the columns on my charts as: Name (of the person for which the resource is intended), Subject (for which it will be used), Title (of the resource),  Source (from which to purchase), Price, and Notes. 

Once I feel that I have considered and decided upon the resources for the coming year, I take my handwritten list and add it to the list on the computer.    I also make sure to add things to this list I already have.  While the paragraphs above might make it sound like I choose new books for each subject each year, that is not the case.  Some things are tried and true and appear on my list every year.  So now, my list becomes the "Books and Materials to Gather or Purchase for 2012-2013" list.  When adding one of the beloved books that I use over and over to my list, I just write "home" or "have" in the Source column and put a "0" for price.  I also add things to this list that are not actually books, but items I know we will need like copywork notebooks, art supplies, classical music CD's, etc.

I'm not sure I can link to every source of information that I use regarding choosing curriculum, or even to every source I use to purchase the curriculum, but here are a few links to get started:

When choosing curriculum I often look to ~
First and formost, guidance from our Lord and Holy Mother Mary through prayer
then (in no specific order),
The various blogs I read about homeschooling
The widsom from the ladies at 4Real, MODGFamilies, and DYOCCFamilies
My Consultant from MODG who is such a blessing
The Mother of Divine Grace Website
Cathy Duffy Reviews
My IRL homeschooling friends

When purchasing curriculum I go to ~
Emmanuel Books (Probably my first choice for purchasing homeschool books.  I like to support this small Catholic company as much as possible.)
Rainbow Resource (The Rainbow catalog is huge and a bit intimidating!  I try to have my shopping list in hand before I peruse this resource.  If not, I can come away with all sorts of things I had no idea I was going to buy! 
Amazon (I often compare Rainbow and Amazon for the best price)
Cathswap (Buying used curriculum is a real money saver, and it helps out my fellow homeschoolers!)

There are  others that I occasionally buy from but not every year.  There are usually one or two specific things I purchase from: CHC,  Abeka ,Seton, CCMemory, Neumann Press, Dick Blick  Home Science Tools orAll About Learning.

Finally, when I think I've got everything I could possibly need for the coming year on this list, I move on to the shopping step.  That's step 5!

If you missed steps 1-3, here are the links ~
Step 1 - Beginning
Step 2 - Setting Goals
Step 3 - School Calendar

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