Spending hours poring over catalogs and websites to find the perfect best curriculum resources for your children only to find out mid-year that some are more time wasters than teaching helps is a huge disappointment.
The truth of it is that I could have saved myself hundreds of dollars through the years if I had stopped switching curriculum and switched my course of study, my approach or even my mind-set.
Are You Doing these Mistakes on Planning A Course of Study?
Now, I spend more time focusing on objectives and a course of study for my children. Finding a curriculum or tool that matches my goals is secondary to the plans I have laid out.
Course of study by definition is not overly intimidating to understand either. An easy definition is “the route or direction for a path”, “the way something progresses” and a “series of lessons in a particular subject.”
Who decides that? In public school the system is different for each school, but they all have one common thread and that is the almighty textbook. This is not a blog post about dissing the textbooks, but it is about deciding who determines what is best for your family.
I have learned that using a preset curriculum and doing every assignment in the textbook is still not a guarantee that your children will learn and remember it. Not once have my sons said oh yes I remember that textbook or worksheet, but they have remembered moments or projects that I created following their desire to learn.
Fear of thinking that we have to plan all our lesson plans or not knowing what to cover next may keep us magnetically drawn to textbooks. It did for me for several years. It wasn’t until my 5th year of homeschooling that I did the big switch over to thinking more about my course of study and less on curriculum.
In reality any curriculum is just a tool and that includes textbooks. Instead of switching curriculum, I have learned that adding better resources to my home library is the key to building my own course of study for my children.
4 Shortcuts to Curriculum Planning
Look at some of these things I have done over the years as I switched from changing curriculum constantly to planning my course of study.
1.) Limit my number of workbooks each year. Everybody is different on which subjects they decide to use workbooks for. I don’t want to print out math worksheets all the time, so a consumable math workbook is just fine for us.
Too, this year I’ve been using the books by Sharon Watson for teaching high school writing, The Power In Your Hands and I love them so much that Tiny is using the lower grade writing program too. But, they are both consumable. That is the extent of my consumables for this year. Here is the link to my review Review of The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School
2.). Choose Topical Helps. What I spend the most on each year are topical helps whether they are printed books, e-books or magazines. Investing in topical books like the Eyewitness Books gives you information to choose from through the years and it is an investment where you add to your collection and not get rid of them.
3.) Choose Reference Helps. The longer I homeschool, the more I also prefer reference books. Whether it is ideas on what to teach next or understanding curriculum, I’ve used these books below when I have needed them. They serve as a reference source through several years and it makes switching curriculum choices minimal when I use them.
4. Use Textbooks as Reference only. If you have budgeted your curriculum for the year, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of changing. But, you can change how you use it. When I made the switch to choosing more reference helps, I went through all my older text books and I tore out pages that I wanted to keep.
It was pretty liberating to tear the binding off and rip out sheets that I felt were worth keeping and pitch the rest of it in the trash.
I pick textbooks more carefully now.
Early this year, I purchased a textbook about teaching geography to use a reference. Too, I am not sure what type of library access I will have when we move to South America. Even if I have access to a library, sometimes I prefer to build our home library and so I may use textbooks for topical references.
Textbooks are good for putting a lot of different ideas into one small space. Those ideas serve as launching pads for our unit studies.
As homeschool teachers our job should be to think of what topics or concepts we are teaching and to view any type of curriculum as supplements to that study, not the other way around.
Time is in short supply when you are homeschooling, use it planning what YOU want to study by using topical references and helps and not switching curriculum all the time.
You won’t regret any of the purchases you make cost wise because you get several years worth of use out of each book.
Also, look at some of the links below to help you gauge some topics to study each year.
Scholastic has a site on what to know for each age.
Ambleside Online I have used several times to find good reading books for my sons. Too, it provides an outline for a rigorous curriculum through all the grade levels.
Are you thinking about adding any new reference books soon to help you plan instead of switching curriculum?
Hugs and love ya,