Doing some more thinking about the upcoming convention...
Perhaps I'm doing it all wrong.
Maybe I need to forget starting out from "what companies have to offer" (because my brain is about to explode with all the choices!) and focus on exactly what my biggest priorities are in a curriculum. Well, here goes:
I'm looking for something fifth-grade level to teach in a year or so. What we have NOW is working well, but I have several "extra" things lying about... history books, an almost complete set of fourth grade Social Studies LIFEPACs, a science textbook and half a set of third-grade science PACEs... a used Bob Jones Bible teacher's manual... well... I'm thinking that it would be a good idea to slow down and use what I have for a good long while in the humanities. The boys are only halfway through with third grade spelling, English and the like, and we have enough fourth grade stuff if we supplement with the 90,000 books available *free* at our library.
But we're ahead in math, almost halfway through fourth grade. And I'm not good at math. Maybe in math, we need to stick with what we have, which is working well enough so far. Which means I'll likely need fifth grade things by December. I've been buying the Singapore workbooks, texts and teachers' manuals from Company X. I've looked at the convention folks' MATH stuff, and so far, with Singapore Math, I'm not finding a good comparable deal if you want to teach two children and have an answer/ explanation book handy. Well, I shouldn't say that. I've found a cheaper place, but you have to pay a LOT more for shipping according to the books, and I know they collect taxes at the convention (7.9%, which may make the difference between my ordering THEN and "some other time") and it is a place I haven't done business with before.
You know, that means a lot to me. If I've done business with a company before and I've been happy with their service, you'd be surprised how much extra I'm willing to spend to keep that relationship going. I like knowing the books will arrive and the website isn't fake. Credit card info secure. American jobs. That sort of thing. So I'll almost certainly stick with Company X for math unless I get grabbed into buying a really, really amazing kit from somewhere else with math included. And it would have to be decent math. (The kind that keeps its clothes on LOL... my, I've been reading too many blogs today...)
So I guess if I had to advise curriculum companies on how to do business, I'd say this: Get to the customer as early in the homeschool process as possible. Your purchaser's autistic son (let's call him "Elf" for the purposes of this illustration) gets attached to the curriculum. He wants to know if it's from the "Company Y people" and uses only the "King James Bible." He gets upset enough that this year's workbook cover is a DIFFERENT COLOUR than the last one, and his mom is reluctant to switch because the next company won't have the little lamp logo on the back she can use to tell Elf that it's ok because all teaching and activities have been throroughly vetted by God/ Company Y.
She might switch anyway and shake up his world, because someday, this kid has to read information from various sources and sort the truth of it out for himself without Company Y's help. The child is getting older, and his dad would like him exposed to viewpoints that are not necessarily exactly what his parents believe.
We want exposure, but not immersion in, opposing viewpoints. That pretty well either cuts out other providers besides Company X, or ensures that I will be supplementing with Company X at least in the science arena. But Company X wants you to learn about the "human body" in fifth grade! Eeek!
Now, I was able to avoid this "teaching my older children about their bodies" thing because they were in public school and we just opted them out. I figure they can learn all that after they get married or if necessary listen to Pat Robertson opine about how he figured "it" out on a farm. (Which I don't get because it *looks like* the animals are having a gay old time. Maybe it is best not to inquire...)
Anyway, ironically enough, "homeschooling" is going to force me into making sure that this subject area is covered because we know the children aren't learning the basics from the other kids on the bus. Sigh. :]
I even have the layout planned for the convention. D tells me to make a beeline for the back end of the place and work forward, because most people do the opposite thing. And ask for "vendor crap." Fancy word for "free stuff." I don't know that there will be free stuff there, but I'll see. He also recommends bringing a big bag for all my purchases and tripping the other prospective buyers so I can get the best deals. Kidding.
But you watch: I'll come home without having bought a blessed thing. I can't tell you how often I've done stuff like that. It's like my husband with house-hunting. He just doesn't find the *perfect* thing he always wanted, so he doesn't buy anything at all. I should correct myself and say he hasn't found the perfect thing in our PRICE RANGE that he always wanted. Big difference. I still can't wait to get there and get my grubby, grimy hands all over the different curriculum thingies. Sometimes sample pages just don't cut it. Then, I will say something like, this curriculum here is grubby and grimy. Can I have a discount?