academics / home educating planning / homeschooling / what is an education

3 guidelines to choosing homeschool curriculum

I went to a homeschool conference last spring, and I didn’t buy a thing.

I must be…

a. No longer homeschooling.

b. Already in possession of enough books to occupy a public school library.

c. Homeschooling ten years and have learned that I just don’t need it all.

C it is! (Oh, and obviously also B, cause I’ve been homeschooling ten years).

One of the two most common questions I’m asked about homeschooling: “Where do you get the curriculum?” The answer: the same place everyone gets stuff, book stores and on-line, the library or friends.

Asking about favourite homeschool curriculum on a Facebook page will garner oodles of opinions. Word of mouth is a powerful sales agent.

What you like might not be what your friends like or what your kids like…or what just one of your kids like. Lots of experimenting is involved. If you’re not eager to spend money, then borrow, lend, go to the library, used book store, or trade resources.

Even the most exciting curriculum gets boring by the middle of November, or the beginning of February. Something what looks enticing now may be loved for a season but less enticing later, and you move on to something new just because it’s novel.

Be thee encouraged: the rightest curriculum will not be found. It is not a treasure to be found. Because it doesn’t exist.

If there is no magical curriculum, how do you choose it? If you’re not locked into a prescribed program of learning, I suggest three principles for choosing it.

1. Follow their interests.

Easiest way to get someone engaged in writing or math or any subject is to pursue their interests.

You have a kiddo Minecrafting like my son? There are writing prompts for that. There are math games for that. There are history books used in conjunction as building prompts. There’s even an online school for that!

Your kiddo likes mixing stuff together? (Watch out kitchen!) Chemistry experiment books and experiment sets and slime sets abound for such a purpose. We have purchased this one twice and used it three times.

If I had to sell anything, it would be Usborne products, because they would sell themselves. Their format, vocabulary, illustrations are excellent entry resources for any subject area from chemistry to Shakespeare, Roman history to US presidents.

An interest in history? Have you seen the Kingfisher Encyclopedias? The Usborne On-Line Encyclopedias? The Horrible History DVD series?

If your kiddo has an interest, there’s always a resource for that.

2. Follow your interests.

Who says homeschool needs to focus only on the interests of the child? Homeschool is a family affair.

If you’re passionate about gardening and writing, like I am, incorporate your interests. For years, I’ve included my kids in spring planting. They’ve grown to not love it.  Yes, I said not love it. When they were little, planting and harvesting oodles of carrots, and digging in the dirt was a delight. This is less so as they grew older. But they get to be with me in my element. They learned by osmosis all the things I read or practice. And now I have a quiet space.

Football and baseball, all things Canadian and American politics, Broadway theatre and presidential history are my husband’s passions. At bedtime and breakfast, in transit or at campfire, our kids have had all manners of discussions or games about these topics with him. In his own words, “You need your own savvy, and then share your savvy (with your kids), and let your kids do things with you.”

No matter the interest, you can spend a few minutes a day engaging your topics of interest. When they watch you passionately engaging in your interests, they will see that learning continues throughout a lifetime.

3. Trust that the way they like to learn is the right way to learn.

Which will greatly influence your choice of curriculum. And frankly, make your life easier.

I was primarily taught in a lecture, record, study, regurgitate approach. Most of us were. These modes have value. Being told something, writing something on paper, reviewing it, and being quizzed on it have their place in learning.

But there are a thousand ways to skin a mouse. (Ummm, ok, idioms aren’t my strong suit, might need to incorporate that into my learning).

We have all been taught we have preferences in learning styles, but Tesia Marshik believes the notion of learning styles is a myth. That maybe we learn in many modes. Scratch my head, really? This runs counter to what I’ve been taught.

So much to learn about learning. Tesia Marshik makes me think: How do we learn then?

Barbara Oakley gives insight in how we learn to learn…

Umm, well that makes me think. Learning about learning helps me learn how my kids might be learning. (Hee hee. I’ll leave that sentence as it is.) Learning about learning might be more important than time spent perusing curriculum choices.

How does all this influence our curriculum choices? You will know. Watch your kids. Ask your kids. Trust your instincts. Continue to learn from what is useful and what is not.

Follow your children’s interests, follow your interests, and learn how they learn.



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