The Latest and Greatest Homeschool Product Ever

There’s nothing quite like strolling through the commercial buildings of a large county or state fair.  The vendors are energetic and enthusiastically make claims that each new product is the latest, the greatest, and the most spectacular.  I always giggle when I see 90% of the fair goers all leaving with the exact same product!  The latest, greatest and most spectacular mop!  The latest, greatest and most spectacular kitchen gadget!  The latest, greatest and most spectacular new bottled cleaner!  I think that we, as women, are particularly prone to falling prey to this sort of marketing.

With homeschool conferences now in full swing nation-wide, I want to take just a moment to caution you to guard yourself against the latest, greatest, and most spectacular claims that you will find there as well.  There is nothing wrong with a curriculum author proclaiming the merits of his or her product.  There is nothing wrong with a homeschool vendor telling her customers that Brand A will help their student’s math scores.  That’s just good marketing!  However, browsing through a large curriculum hall at a homeschool conference can sometimes be almost as daunting as running the gauntlet of commercial booths at the local fair!

After 18 years of homeschooling, I can tell you that I’ve seen a lot of the latest and the greatest fall by the wayside.  Many times the most spectacular product ever has turned out to be just a flash in the pan.  An item purchased for $100 at this year’s homeschool conference, might not even attract an opening bid on e-bay next year.  Worse, there have been times that “Volume One” of a promised multi-part curriculum has been published, widely distributed and then never completed, leaving buyers shaking their heads in frustration.

I am not saying that all new products are bad.  I know that there are many brand new products coming onto the homeschool market this year that are wonderful.  I’m anxious to check a couple of them out myself.  My point is that we need to be cautious and not fall prey to a cunning sales pitch.  Carefully consider your goals for your children in the coming homeschool year (or years).  Think about each child’s strengths and weaknesses.  Bear in mind your own strengths and weaknesses, too.  A curriculum that requires a lot of mom’s time in planning and teaching may be wonderful for the mom of one or two, but could spell disaster for the mom with many little ones. A program that is “self-directed” would not be a good choice for a child who still needs a lot of parental supervision, even if it is the latest and the greatest.

Another exhibit hall pitfall is the seller’s claim that you will need to purchase the entire product line from his particular company if you wish to use any of it.  For example, you may have decided that your family needs a change in math programs, but you are quite happy with everything else you are currently using.  You may have heard wonderful things about a math program from a particular company and feel that this is just the math program for you.  The company’s sales representative may insist that all of the components of his company’s curriculum are crucial your child‘s success in math.  He will try to convince you that you will be short-changing your child if you buy only the math.  He will insist that the math program is an integral part of an entire package.  One large curriculum company even ran quite a print ad campaign a few years ago making just such a claim!  If you are sure that their math curriculum is what you want, buy it; but do not feel pressured to buy their grammar, science, history, etc. as well. You can mix and match and choose what fits your family and your budget despite the salesman’s claims.

Oh, my, let’s not forget about all of those accessories!  If you’ve ever made a purchase from a booth at the fair, you may have discovered that your wonderful $29.99 “bargain” purchase suddenly became $100 at the check out once all of those little extras were added on.  This can happen in a homeschool exhibit hall, too!  Here’s an example – You’ve just discovered what looks like a great science curriculum.  The price is right and it fits your budget.  You happily take your book to the check out to pay.  The vendor might then ask if you saw the companion CD ROM.  It’s just $19.99 and would enhance your child’s science study enormously.  How about the study guide?  No, it’s not “necessary”, but it will save you hours of planning time over the course of the year. Test booklet?  Answer key?  Companion flash cards?  Science-is-Fun Game?  See my point?

Have fun browsing those exhibit halls!  Check it all out – the good old stand-bys, the things your best friend has used successfully, and even the “latest and the greatest”.  Prayerfully consider each and every purchase before opening your wallet.  Has your husband delegated the responsibility for buying the curriculum solely to you, or should you check with him first?  Does the curriculum fit into your budget?  If you just aren’t sure, don’t buy.  You can always order the product later.  Yes, there may be a convention “special” at the conference, but chances are that you can find that same price on line or from a competing vendor.

If you are a new homeschooler, or if you will be attending a homeschool conference for the first time this year, you might find the following articles helpful, too.

Surviving the Homeschool Conference, Part 1

Surviving the Homeschool Conference, Part 2

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6 comments to The Latest and Greatest Homeschool Product Ever

  • Excellent advice! I attended our HS fair this year and bought only a tote bag for me, a model for the 4yo, and a book for the 12 yo…I remember earlier years when the hype pulled me in! Lots of money…gone!
    Sunydazy… http://www.sunydazydays.blogspot.com

  • Great cautions and advice!  I remember those years of coming home with more than we actually needed….or used!  The effects of advertising can definately be felt in the homeschool and Christian community as well!  I’ve enjoyed looking over your blog this morning.  Blessings, Diane

  • Great post! Such good advice! To be honest, I buy very little at the conferences. I usually use that time as an opportunity to check out/compare programs I’ve already researched and narrowed down to a couple of choices. Then when I get home I order online. Rainbow Resource, my favorite (who almost always has the best prices), does not charge shipping when an order is over $150.00. On the few occasions I’ve fallen below that amount for school books, I find Christmas or birthday presents I can add on to the order to take advantage of the free shipping.

  • I’ve attended the Valley Home Educators Conference for 10 years – this year will make my 11th. Even though my daughter is finished with high school I’ll attend anyway because I have 40 families in the umbrella program and from time to time they ask my opinion about curriculum, etc. One bit of advice I always offer is this – – – LESS IS MORE. 😉

  • Jenny

    There is an outstanding homeschool product and you CAN sometimes find it at the conventions, but usually at a drive through or you may find it in one of your handy kitchen appliances.

    COFFEE!!! COFFEE!! COFFEE!!

    ** It is compatible with all curriculums and all methods/philosophies of home education!

    Pick up a cup today!