We're new to homeschooling and I'm a little frustrated by having to order stuff online. Is there any way I can go see stuff IRL? I'm in the Northeast near NYC.
I'm not sure how new you are to homeschooling, but if you're quite new, as in, less than a couple of months, I'd suggest not buying anything anyway for a while. Use non-curricular resources for a while -- interest-based fiction and non-fiction books, websites, documentaries, pencil and paper, art supplies, the natural world, field trips, community activities, the library, etc. etc.. Why? Because you'll need time to decompress after school, and to begin to discover real interests and learning preferences. And because investing money in things tends to make you committed to getting value out of them, and you're less likely to let go of things that aren't a good fit.
That being said, you may find some stuff in the library. Local homeschool support group members would probably be happy to recommend, describe and show off what they're using. And there are lots of places that will allow you to look at sample lessons, page scans and other examples. There are often homeschool conferences with vendor's fairs in the spring (or sometimes early fall) that help parents with planning the upcoming year's curriculum choices. I'm in the west and in Canada, so I can't help you with specifics, but I'm sure there must be something like that in your area.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
We have a thrift store in our area where a volunteer organizes the books by topic and the home school section has allowed me to preview lots of different curricula and resources. I just buy them by the box for really cheap flip through at my leisure and donate back what I don't like. It may be worth looking for a resource like that near you if you are in an area where there are lots of homeschoolers.
Really second the idea of not buying anything yet. I'd consider us reasonably structured homeschoolers in our way and yet we just do not use much that you would not have lying around anyway. The only specialist stuff we really use are a few maths schemes that happen to click well with my kids (Singapore and Miquon) - aside from that, all our homeschooling resources come from the library, the bookshop or charity (thrift?) shop, and the supermarket and of course Amazon. We are not in an area where homeschooling is necessarily even something people have heard of and the idea that you might be able to go to a thrift store or library and get information about it is kind of mind blowing! (in a good way!)
For me, personally, one of the beauties of homeschooling is that you are able to use materials that are not specifically designed for teaching kids or even teaching at all.