That is usually the first question people ask once they have made the decision to homeschool and make sure they are aware of all the legal requirements. It is not a quick and easy question to answer however. Google the words "homeschool curriculum" and you will get 6,320,000 results, and that number will continue to grow as homeschooling itself continues to grow and more and more curriculum is being developed and sold.
There are a lot of different things to think about before deciding what curriculum to choose. One of the first things you need to think about before trying to choose curriculum is what kind of goals you have for your homeschool. What subjects do you want your children to study? What subjects do they want to learn? My children may not get a say in everything we do (regardless of whether or not they like it they will do math!) but they do get a choice in what topic we may be learning about that year in science or what books they would like to read for literature. Our first year of homeschooling my daughter was in love with the Little House on the Prairie series, so I chose the Prairie Primer for our base curriculum and added in Math. There also may be an elective like computer programming or a foreign language your child is especially interested in and you will want to add in to your curriculum plans. (*Note if you have just brought home a child from school who is not happy to be homeschooling it may not be the best time to ask their opinion.) You do need to check with the legal requirements for your state to make sure you are covering anything that is required.
Figuring out what homeschool methods you may like or identify with the most may help you narrow down what type of curriculum you want to us. Do you want to follow traditional methods and be a school at home? Or maybe you would rather unschool. Perhaps you would be interested in classical or Charlotte Mason curriculum. Or, if you are like me you might call yourself eclectic and just use a little bit of everything! This article gives an overview of the different homeschool methods if you are interested in reading more about them.
Each homeschool family is different. I would have a different approach to my homeschool and use different curricula than I do if for instance I only had young children, or just high school children, or only one child. Because I have such a wide range of ages in my house, I look for curriculum choices that can cover a wide range of ages as we work together in as many areas as possible. This helps me narrow down my choices quite a bit as many traditional grade level texts will just not work for my family.
How involved do you want to be? Another way of narrowing down curriculum choices is to take a look at how teacher intensive they are. How much planning ahead of time is required? About how many hours a day will you need to spend on this curriculum? Is it something that a child can do on their own? Since we work together as a family, we do our bible, history, and science as read alouds and work on hands on projects together. I know I will be spending that time in the morning doing that work, but I choose curriculum that does not require hardly any advanced prep besides gathering supplies for chosen experiments. For our afternoon school work, I have to work one on one with the younger children, but the older ones like to work independently so I choose curriculum that they can do on their own with very little help from me.
With all of the advances in technology, there are a ton of homeschool options that you can access online. Some options like K-12 require the child to do everything online. Other options you can pick and choose which courses you want to purchase. Some require you to be online at certain days and times for classes while others you can just go on and work when it is convenient for you. You can even take music lessons or a foreign language via Skype! There are so many options out there that you can take advantage of if it is something you can fit into your budget and will work for you and your child.
We have to talk a bit about cost. That can be a big concern for a homeschool family and it is a big factor under the "what curriculum should I choose" question. This is something that will vary from family to family. Homeschool families are often single income families and it can be hard to imagine how you are going to afford school books and supplies when you are already on a tight income. You do not have to spend a lot of money to homeschool. You can spend anywhere from next to nothing to thousands of dollars a year. If you are willing to spend the time putting your curriculum together, researching, and organizing what you need, you can homeschool with nothing more than a library card, the internet, and some school supplies. If you want to buy a "curriculum in a box" where everything you can imagine comes from one place and all in one box you will spend several hundred dollars. If you want to do several online classes where a teacher collects and grades work, it will be more expensive. Homeschooling requires a budget just like any other expense you have. You have to figure out what you can afford to spend and find curriculum to fit those needs. There have been times when I have wanted to buy some curriculum that I did not have the money for. I usually can swing it by selling some other things that I no longer need. Don't feel like you have to go into debt to provide the best possible education for your child, there is lot of great curriculum that is very affordable.
Definitely take the time to read reviews about curriculum as you are narrowing down your choices. Do not pay any attention to whether or not people like something, but instead to what they like or don't like. If for instance someone loves a curriculum because it requires heavy challenging reading but your child is not a strong reader, it is not going to work for you.
Don't be afraid to stop using something that is not working. Especially when you are just starting out it can be hard to figure out what will work the best. Often it is a case of trial and error and you will not know until you actually have been able to use it. Unfortunately new homeschoolers especially feel like they are failing if it is not working. Trust me you are not and it is ok to try something else!!