Day 17: How To Choose Curriculum Other than the “Looks Good” Method
Day 18: Teaching Young Children
Day 19: Guiding Older Children
Day 20: Lesson Plan or Lesson Journal?
Day 21: Time Tested Teaching Tips
Appreciating the fact that our children come “pre-wired” helps us to be a lot more selective when it comes to choosing curriculum. We accept the fact that we cannot change our children. Instead of seeing our children for what we think they should be, we start accepting their God given personalities.
Also instead of choosing A Beka, Bob Jones, Rod & Staff, Sonlight or Tapestry of Grace because our best friend uses one of them and it seems to work for her, we want to determine our needs/wants as the priority.
I have found at times that best friends or seasoned veterans find it hard to reach back to the time when they were new and give advice based on that time. Much of the advice they give you is based on hindsight. While hindsight can certainly be of value, you will still need to experience the “newness” on your own.
I don’t want you to discount advice from seasoned veterans, I just want you to think about your needs. Following another homeschooler exactly is not your goal. You came to homeschooling because you have unique needs. The same goes for my advice here on my blog. Though I love you, you are better off by applying the tips you find here that will work for your family now and discard the rest.
5 Tips for Choosing Curriculum:
In the beginning focus most of your time and energy on the subject your child struggles in. There are free placement tests that will give you a better idea of what grade your child is in.
I have said this over, over and over again each year and that is please don’t assume that you take your child out of one grade and that he is in the next one up. Even if your child places at a grade lower, it is better to have an easier year your first year instead of tears the whole year because you thought they would get behind. They will not. Many homeschoolers can testify to the fact that children learn like an ebb and flow pattern. They can move a couple levels ahead one year and then one year they need longer to dwell on a subject. But, most all of the families that struggled wished they would have taken the advice to choose something a little more relaxed the first year.
Focus your energy on the one or two things you want to accomplish. If it’s math, then spend extra time focusing on that right now and leave off science, history or art. Though they may be fun and exciting, you have time to add those. The more children you have, the more time this takes.
Purchase only the 3 R’s right now. Fold in Other Subjects Gradually. With the growing number of subjects that you may want to teach, remember that the basics are the core of any year. By spending your time focusing on math and language arts, you have time to purchase history or science after you boot up your school. Any routine needs a warming up period. Forget pulling ALL your material out on Day 1 of your school and be stressed out by trying to get through it all. Day 1 can include math and some writing and then glow in the fact that you got that done. That is a simple doable two thing checklist for the day. Gradually, over the next few weeks fold in the rest of your subjects. You will LOVE this!
Be aware that there ARE differences between subjects in the order you should teach. For example, when teaching a child to read, it is a natural progression to recognize the ABC’s, then to associate a sound with the letter and then to put those sounds together to make a word.
However, does it really matter the order if you study about the ocean versus the Amazon rain forest? Absolutely not. It does matter the order of the 3 R’s. Again, lap up this time to learn to focus on making good choices for the 3 R’s for your children.
Don’t overload yourself in trying to purchase everything by August because there is no need to. There is NO race. You have now gotten off the little school bus and guess what? Curriculum providers sell curriculum year around. tee hee hee
Actually there is a huge advantage to start homeschooling with just the core subjects because you can slowly read the teacher’s manual and get familiar with the schedule. Your focus is not torn between trying to start the science experiment right away and getting in the core subjects. Then after a few weeks or longer of doing your core or 3 R’s, you will be a little more discerning when choosing history, science, art and anything other subject that your family has a desire to learn. You can now give those subjects your utmost attention and make better choices. Avoid beginning all your children on EVER Y subject on the first day. There simply is need to do that and it is a first timer’s mistake. You are now becoming a little more experienced following this series.
If a Teacher’s Manual Makes You Feel Secure, Purchase One, Two or Three. Most new homeschoolers that I have helped do not feel totally secure with their new found freedom. They derive some comfort from a teacher’s manual that has perhaps suggestions on scheduling and teaching.
I have often heard seasoned veterans recommend to new bees that they don’t need a teacher’s manual for teaching a subject. While this may be true, you are the only one to decide if you need one or not.
However, one reason veterans may encourage you to not purchase a teacher’s manual is because it may only be an answer page and not really give you any background information or teaching tips. It is important at this point to understand that not all teacher’s manuals are created equal. Some teacher’s manual have turned out to provide gold nuggets of information and others I have pondered why I purchased them.
One more factor to determine if a teacher’s manual is an asset for you is how much background information you have on the subject. Maybe you are a public school teacher who formerly taught math. Obviously then, math is your strength and you will not need as much assistance. To help you narrow down your favorite teacher’s manual, I have a printable check off list as you hunt through curriculum.
Determine which subjects you need more help in and examine each teacher’s manual as you choose curriculum. They can really help or hinder your progress as a home educator.
Boxed Curriculum Can Help Boot Your School Up or Box You In. Back on Day 1: Learn the Lingo – Then Go, I encouraged you to get familiar with the definition of a boxed curriculum. Just so that you don’t have to click back there right now I want to remind you that it basically is a “curriculum or grade in a box”. The lesson plans are laid out day by day for you and the teacher’s manuals tend to be scripted. Every subject you need and every book comes in the grade level.
A lot of new bees find this comforting and there is value in having a pattern to follow as you learn to homeschool.
A mistake a lot of veterans make in the beginning is to feel the need to complete EVERY assignment. Instead of remembering that they are teaching a child and not trying to cross or mark off a check box for each day, they became a slave to the curriculum.
If you decide to use a boxed curriculum keep in mind that you ARE the teacher! This means you can skip, yes SKIP and even THROW AWAY and yes – TEAR OUT pages that absolutely make no sense to do. Boxed curriculum providers do provide busy work too. Avoid the I-am-only-on-Lesson-70-and-I-SUPPOSE-to-be-on Lesson-90 mentality.
There is no suppose to be place, there is only where your children are suppose to be. Balance is needed because boxed curriculum can provide relief when life is stressful and you do not want to lesson plan. Following a well laid out lesson plan has its advantages because then as you move away from a boxed curriculum, you learn what a well planned day can feel like.
Does it fit the Approach You want to follow? For example, if you decide that you feel more comfortable with laid out lesson plans then do not spend time on curriculum that requires you finding material and lesson planning. You can give them a peek as you start to school. This very simple tip will keep you from looking right now at EVERYTHING. Believe me when I say this, but you will have LOTS of time to swoon over books and curriculum and to feed your love of curriculum. Right now, you need to focus on the 3 R’s and the subjects that your children struggle with the most. Conserve your energy so that it lasts the whole year. Curriculum providers are ALWAYS ready to sell anytime of the year.
There are many approaches to curriculum. You do not have to take an “all or nothing” attitude toward curriculum choices. In other words you do not have to be ALL textbooks OR ALL unschooling. Pick and choose what you like in each approach and avoid an “all or nothing” thinking. Focus on the elements of each approach and see what fits your family’s lifestyle and apply it. Because we have different learning styles, we might be using multiple curriculum even within the same family. Be willing to adjust along the way.
The last thing I want to share is a quote from a book by Sally Clarkson Educating the Wholehearted Child that I really liked because of how much curriculum I had hoarded needed my first year:
It is nearly a rite of passage for new homeschooling families to buy curricula that ends up gathering dust on the shelf. Usually, it turns out to require more preparation and involvement than they are willing to invest, or it doesn’t fit their lifestyle. It becomes an investment in experience. What we all learn, though, is that any curriculum is only a tool — it doesn’t really “teach” anything. The attitude and commitment of the teacher is far more important than the tool. So if it doesn’t work, don’t worry. Put your unused used curriculum on the table with everyone else’s and buy real books next time. You’re experienced now.