Last updated on February 11th, 2022
If you’ve found you’ve spent far too much money early on during your homeschooling journey, you may be wondering how to homeschool without a curriculum, or if it’s even possible to do so. The answer is yes, it is possible to succeed and thrive in your homeschool without ever purchasing an out-of-the-box curriculum of any sort.
Often when parents first begin to homeschool their kids, they fall into the curriculum trap. It’s one of the most popular questions across social media platforms in homeschooling groups. “What curriculum are you using for Math,” or “What’s your favorite Reading curriculum”
Parents feel drawn to curriculum and when something stops working, they often jump from one option to another. When a child just isn’t grasping a topic, a parent’s first inclination is to try something brand new.
Rather than spending copious amounts of money on a curriculum that may or may not work, we sometimes forget to take a step back and consider our child’s learning style.
Deschool Before Jumping into Homeschooling
Before you spend a small fortune on curriculum, consider a period of deschooling for both you and your child. Taking a few months off to ease into a homeschool mindset will do wonders for everyone. You’ll be able to slowly see where your children excel and where their interests lie.
During the deschooling period, you can visit museums, the local library, watch documentaries together and truly get a sense of your child’s learning style. You may come to realize that this slow, child-led learning method works best. You may then decide you want to continue to homeschool without using a curriculum.
Homeschool Without a Curriculum as an Unschooling Family
There’s been much talk of Unschooling lately; the child-led, seemingly hands-off homeschool approach that allows the student freedom to pursue their interests at their own pace.
Unschoolers don’t use a curriculum, but rather are lifelong learners who rely on everyday experiences as teachable moments. Parents of unschooled children provide a rich environment where learning can happen naturally, organically and at the pace of the student.
When my youngest became interested in knights, castles and all things Middle Ages, I built upon that interest by providing age-appropriate picture books about medieval weaponry and falconry.
I read Usborne books to him about castles and knights as well. He watched videos about knights maille and armor and we made our own catapults and flails.
We even took a few field trips to Medieval Times. The interactive family dinner theater features medieval games, sword fighting, jousting and an engaging storyline that truly brought history to life for my son.
It was a great way to expand upon his basic interest and each year we tend to circle back to the Middle Ages, slowly adding a bit more history and detail as he matures.
Unschoolers learn how to homeschool without curriculum by creating an inviting learning environment. They have to have a willingness to drop everything and go down the proverbial rabbit trail when an interest is piqued.
It takes a lot of energy and dedication but is a very hands-on, rewarding way to homeschool that can include the entire family, regardless of age or grade level.
Learning Through Gameschooling
One fun way to homeschool without a curriculum is by learning through games. Gameschooling is a form of play-based learning that incorporates educational components into fun and engaging board or card games.
There are countless games that teach complex concepts in a way that makes them easy to understand. Kids catch on quickly when concepts are presented through play.
Often when my son is having difficulty grasping a math concept, I reach for educational games to help solidify the concept. This way he’s able to practice a concept and the repetition of the game helps him to remember it.
We’re fans of Learning Resources games like the Pizza Fraction Fun Game. This game helps players visualize fractions in a way that is relatable and fun. Similarly, the Dino Math Tracks Game, also from Learning Resources, made learning place-value simple. What would have taken weeks was mastered in a few simple plays of the game.
Homeschooling without a curriculum through the use of games can be helpful for parents of reluctant schoolers because it doesn’t feel like school, it’s just ‘playing a game’ to your child.
Online Homeschool Classes Instead of a Curriculum
If you’re having trouble getting out of the seated-at-a-desk, school mindset, perhaps opting for online homeschool instead of a curriculum, is the answer. There are countless options when it comes to online classes. Some, like Kahn Academy, are free, though not live. The classes are self-paced and offer a wide variety of options with ways to track your child’s’ progress.
For a more interactive experience, Outschool provides live classes where your child can interact with other students and the instructor via a webcam. These live classes provide a rich homeschool learning environment without a curriculum but do offer the structure and interaction that you and your child may prefer.
Here are some of my favorite online programs
Homeschool Co-ops in Lieu of Curriculum
One of the most valuable things we’ve done as homeschoolers is joined a homeschool co-op. Getting out and meeting other homeschoolers in our community has been significantly beneficial. Homeschool co-ops vary widely. It’s important to try out a few and find a true fit. This takes time, so don’t be discouraged.
Parents within a co-op can bring their unique experiences, skills, and perspectives to the group. Our children have learned from architects, doctors, emergency personnel and countless others within the community as part of a homeschool co-op.
This is an ideal hands-on way to homeschool without a curriculum and get out and ‘socialize‘ because that is the million-dollar word, after all.
What Do You Need to Homeschool Without a Curriculum?
Homeschool curriculum can be expensive, especially if you’re trying out a new one every few months to find just the right fit for your child. It is possible to homeschool without ever buying a curriculum, it just takes a bit of resourcefulness, research and dedication.
Your local library is going to be your home away from home. One of my favorite things to do is to create a unit study around a particular topic of interest. I gather several books and pull together a Morning Basket around that topic.
Teachers Pay Teachers is another fantastic resource for inexpensive printables and lesson plans. My 8-year-old is learning to code with Scratch using a combination of TPT resources and an accompanying YouTube video series. He learned in two afternoons what would have taken me weeks to prepare for and try to teach with my limited coding experience.
Benefits of Homeschooling Without a Curriculum
While I’m not 100% curriculum-free, there are times when my son (and I) crave a little structure. I am grateful that we have decided to ditch the curriculum for the most part.
We don’t feel pressure to complete every page of a workbook. As a result, there’s no stress that my son is behind in any given subject. Because we don’t adhere fully to a curriculum, he can learn at his own pace. I feel confident in knowing he’s learning what he needs when he needs it.
We tend to get caught up in the ‘finishing’ of a curriculum we spend a lot of money on. It can feel like a ‘waste’ to skip pages or if we have to let it go and try something new. By removing the curriculum altogether, we’re free to let our children excel at their own pace.
Homeschooling without a curriculum is not for everyone. Sometimes we need the structure, often we don’t. Consider easing up a bit on the ‘must-have’ curriculum in just one subject and let your child take the lead. You may be pleasantly surprised (and impressed) by what rabbit trails you wind up taking.
Marie has been writing professionally for over 20 years; travel and writing have been a significant part of her life and career. She successfully homeschooled her three now-adult children through high school and currently homeschools her youngest son. As a veteran homeschooler, Marie spends her time as a freelance writer and chronicles her homeschool journey, daily life, and family travel adventures on several parenting websites.