There is no one right way to choose a homeschool curriculum. It is easy to fall into "analysis paralysis" looking for the perfect solution for you and your student in every subject. A few basic questions can quickly narrow down the options so you can really figure out what will work best for you. I'll walk you through our personal decision tree below the questions!
What homeschool style(s) do you want to use? I like the quiz here at Eclectic Homeschooling as a starting point. I encourage that each student and teacher take the quiz to see the commonalities and differences.
Do you care if your curriculum is religious?
Do you want to do the grading or have someone else do it?
Do you want to spend the time to mix and match or do you prefer to be able to order a kit style package?
Does your student plan to return to public or private school at some point?
High positive numbers indicate agreement with a style while negative numbers indicate disagreement.
How do I go from those scores to a curriculum choice?
Styles where both of us have low or negative numbers go right out so say good-bye to Waldorf, Unschooling, Traditional, Thomas Jefferson, and Montessori.
We seem to be in pretty solid agreement with Charlotte Mason and, if I were starting somewhere in elementary school I would absolutely go with a Charlotte Mason curriculum - probably Mater Amabilis or Ambleside Online. However, Charlotte Mason style is basically 100% different than anything else and I didn't want to spend a ton of time teaching the process of learning. I do refer to both of those linked curricula to get booklists when I need a jumping off point.
What's left? Classical seems like we are pretty far apart but in talking to Emma, I learned that some of what she disagreed with so strongly (flashcards and rote memorization) weren't things I felt strongly about. She was also distressed by an emphasis on composition and communication but (Here comes parental prerogative!) she's not getting out of those no matter what curriculum we choose. Project Based Learning also seems pretty far apart but it's mostly because I don't like engineering enormous projects. I can certainly suck it up and incorporate some of that. Reggio Inspired required research from both of us and, once we read about it, both of us agreed that it wasn't a suitable option. Unit Studies is another place where we seem far apart. While I like the occassional unit study, I certainly don't think it's the best way to approach every topic. I'll incorporate some elements - like coordinating art appreciation with history and choosing to order the year's literature selections with history, if applicable.
Final answer: Combo of Classical, Project Based and Unit Study
Religion. This is a hugely personal choice. Many homeschoolers choose to homeschool for religious reasons or prefer a curriculum that adheres to their religious beliefs. There are also non-religious curricula available. We are practicing Catholics and, regardless of curriculum choice, the history of the Catholic church and Catholic Catechism are going to feature in our schooling. I also feel very strongly that a science curriculum that proclaims itself to be religious is also (frequently) not likely to be fully rigorous. In pretty much every other subject, I couldn't care less.
Final answer: Not super important, except in science.
I'm confident in grading and the very minimal recordkeeping my state requires so I don't need a curriculum that offers that. Also, those often function more like a private school via correspondence and I want more flexibility. However, if you're only planning to homeschool for a single year during the coronavirus pandemic and are worried about how a homeschool transcript may be received, this is probably the way you should go.
Final answer: Don't want
Because Emma has moved between public and private school, there are some interesting gaps in her educational experience. She also worked well above her grade level in mathematics in both public and private school. An open and go curriculum ultimately isn't going to be the right answer for us. If you're only planning to homeschool for a single year during the coronavirus pandemic, I firmly believe that this is the way you should go!
Final answer: Don't want
I don't plan to return Emma to public or private school at any point. This means it is very important to me that I choose a curriculum now that will cover the entire span of homeschooling high school. This is going to limit my choices, as many curricula end with 8th grade.
Final answer: We aren't. Curriculum must go to high school 'graduation'
Coming next: Curriculum Choice