When you buy new homeschool curriculum, how do you know what you should buy?
This all depends on how we understand what an education is anyway.
When you buy new homeschool curriculum, here are five suggestions for you.
“…Education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element
What better place to learn than a home environment?
And if this is education, then the hunt for the perfect curriculum will not be required.
And in my experience, finding that perfect curriculum won’t happen.
It will be as elusive as the Rosetta Stone.
(Wait, we saw the Rosetta Stone in a London museum in 2012.)
Okay, it’ll be as elusive as my attempt to write this simile.
So how do we decide how to buy new homeschool curriculum?
Much curriculum exists, but a perfect curriculum does not.
One can learn snippets of information from…
- biographies and memoirs,
- experiments and observation,
- apprenticeship positions and play,
- and solitude and within big large groups.
But a perfect curriculum, you’re not going to find it.
1. First of all, what IS curriculum?
Perhaps that question is goofy to you: if is, you may move on and ignore it.
But for those who ask, what constitutes curriculum?
Anything someone learns from.
Which, as you know, can be a whole lotta possibilities:
- I see it in a Wii system when my child learns hand-eye coordination playing Wii tennis.
- I see it in a tennis racket when my child learns the game in real-time.
- I see it on a chess board when my child learns strategy.
- I see it in a book, obviously.
- I see it in an Usborne-internet linked book, a historical narrative like To Kill a Mockingbird or Jan Hudson’s book, Sweetgrass, a fun poetry book by Shel Silverstein, a chemistry textbook, graphic novels, an atlas, or any book whatsoever, yes, whatsoever.
- I see it in my child’s Mac laptop when my daughter edits and creates videos for her YouTube channel.
- I see it in the daily use of math workbooks, using a calculator for play, using measuring cups in the kitchen, or doing word problems calculating tax and tips at a restaurant.
- I see it in a can of paint when my child decides to paint over her childhood favorite-fuchsia walls for a teenage white.
And you know where else I see it?
- I see it in a measuring tape, hammer, and circular saw when my son and his dad build a goat barn.
- I see it in games, like Professor Noggins, Scrabble, Pictionary, Scattegories, Monopoly, Chutes & Ladders, math dice, or any of the one bazillion games we have in our family room.
- I see it in the arts and crafts closet when a child learns to draw with Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad or the girls start their own slime business online or they’re into creating beaded friendship bracelets.
- I see it on the internet when my son researches the purpose and value of democracy as his dad enters politics.
- I see it in Kiwico builds where I end up with a homemade pencil sharpener, ring light, ping pong ball spitter outer, and a date and time flipper. (Check Kiwico online to see those in real life, and no this isn’t an affiliate link).
- I see it in a guitar when my daughter decides she’s done with violin lessons and wants to learn Taylor Swift songs.
- I see it when the entire family, except me, memorizes the entire soundtrack of Something Rotten, Hamilton, or any other Broadway musical known to my husband (which is all of them).
- I see it in the hours the kids while away caring for the Alpine and Nubian goats, the barnyard chickens, the kitties, and the great pyr, learning about how to care for animals, learning what animals need, learning to process chickens, feed them, deal with stubborn horned animals, barking, territorial large guardian animals (though fluffy, also annoying), and cannibalistic chickens (also, I love eating chicken, but is there a grosser animal out there? I don’t think so).
But I see it in their writing too…
- I see it in unfinished NaNoWriMo novellas written every November.
- I see it in long discussions about politics, discrimination, black lives matter, abortion, human life, women’s rights, patriarchy, democracy, war, responsibilities toward families fleeing countries, masking, anti-masking, vaccinations, media exploitation, inflation, communism, consumerism, tax evasion, insurrection, political power-mongering that serves me and political power-mongering that doesn’t. And the power of a listening, non-violent communicating ear, an empathetic heart, and a will to pursue peace over being right.
- I see it in writing contest submissions or weekly published blog posts by the girls when we travel or when they want to make their way through Julia Child’s recipes.
- I see it when the kids are making mud patties in the backyard under the semi-arid Canadian sun (yes, semi-arid, in Canada).
- And I most certainly see it literally any time we leave our home, whether we chat with the post office clerk in our town or we take five plane flights into rural Africa for six weeks, a Cessna flight to the Arctic Ocean, or attend a Chicago Cub game at Fenway Park where my son and husband run the bases.
The curriculum is everywhere.
2. When you buy new homeschool curriculum, choose a curriculum for a specific child.
You’re choosing to educate a child, not an anonymous roomful of children. You are choosing to education a child, not USE curriculum.
Keep the child in mind. Because halfway through the study season, your child might get bored with the curriculum. That’s okay. (ps so might you). That’s okay too. You also may have learned that you bought a whole bunch of stuff that you like, but your child does not.
Lesson learned: you’ll continue to learn about how she learns. Your starting point should be your child.
3. Observe their learning tendencies.
Pay attention to how they approach their learning when you buy new homeschool curriculum.
- Does your child prefer reading on her own?
- Reading with you?
- Completing workbook pages?
- Working together with you?
- Working with others at the co-op?
- Does she prefer games?
- You might discover that your child does not prefer to be self-directed.
- Or you find she never wants direction at all.
We learn many things about our children and how they learn too.
Just as we learned there is no textbook for parenting, there’s no textbook for homeschooling. (Okay, actually, there are, but they weren’t written for your child.)
4. What are your child’s interests?
Perhaps he’s really interested in dinosaurs.
- Could you add and subtract dinosaurs?
- Could you read about dinosaurs?
- Does he like to draw?
- Would he like to paper-mache dinosaurs? (Ha, good luck cleaning that up.)
- Do you like to bake? Shape salty pretzels into dinosaur shapes.
Unit studies of nearly every topic are easy to find. Incorporate their interests, and they’ll engage more closely. (Just check Pinterest for ideas).
Remember that your commitment is to your child, not to the curriculum: does the curriculum serve your child?
Child-led learning is a useful way to determine your new homeschool curriculum choice.
5. Spend a lot of money, waste a lot of money.
I know there’s a library around the corner, there is a roomful of boxes with the curriculum I purchased in my early years of homeschooling, and there are more online resources than I’ll ever need. Maybe the kids are tired of reading our Apologia Aquatic book, and they want to pursue a little anatomy. We can do that, and later on, we can go back to it.
So if we don’t spend the money on curriculum, resources, or books, we don’t feel compelled to use them all. Hence, the handy library benefit. You can just return it if you don’t like it.
When we deschool our homeschools, we instill more freedom, individualization, and purpose in our homeschools (& lives).
I love sifting through books and curricula, games, and tables of homeschool offerings. For the few years our kids are with us, we’ll personalize an education and build on their individual talents.
And we’ll try, just try, to choose the best curriculum for them.
Reimagine your Homeschool Workbook
Introducing the Reimagine Your Homeschool Workbook! Reflect on the past year, assess what worked and what didn’t, and build the homeschool you truly want. Evaluate curriculum, routine, philosophy, and plan for the future. Get renewed inspiration and fresh ideas.
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Call to Adventure by Kevin MacLeod