Deciding to homeschool is usually an easier decision than deciding how to homeschool. The how involves many things and a big one is deciding curriculum. It can be very overwhelming.
There are lots of issues to consider and, after having to do this many different times in the last fourteen years, I’ve learned some things (sometimes the costly and painful way). Honestly, the curriculum that works when homeschooling one child, may not work with four, or even with a particular child or even a particular year of life.
Before choosing or changing curriculum, it’s important to consider some issues.
I’ve learned the hard way about drawing lines and saying that a particular kind of curriculum is “wrong”. I’m not going to do that here, nor am I going to tell you which one to buy.
My goal is to give you a series of questions when considering curriculum with the hope that they can help you narrow down what you should use. Use this list every time you want to change or buy homeschooling products.
Here’s what I suggest. Make a list with your answer to each of these questions. Then, when considering a curriculum, see if it fits with all your answers. If it doesn’t, don’t buy it.
1. What is your educational philosophy? This sounds lofty, I know, but it does affect your homeschool and deciding it is important. It is closely related to #2, but, though many confuse the two, they are different. The philosophy is what you believe about children, learning, and education.
2. Which educational method to you prefer? There are many different methods out there. The method correlates to the philosophy and how that plays out.
3. What is your preferred mode of teaching? You really need to know yourself a bit here. If you like to be very involved, or you like to supervise, but not actually teach because it stresses you out are important aspects that will greatly affect your homeschool. Do you prefer living books or textbooks or are you ok with a bit of each? Do you want to avoid computer use? Do you want hands on activities often? Do you want to be the one teaching every subject?
This can actually change. A mode of teaching that you prefer may work with a certain number of children, but not with another. It can also be affected by your health and life situations. It’s very important to be honest about your preferences as compared to your “I’m willing to do this” mode as well as your “I disagree with this mode”.
4. How many hours in a day are available to spend homeschooling? I know this sounds like a silly question, but it’s not. There are many issue that affect this number. You need to be realistic when figuring this out, for yourself and for your child(ren).
a. Outside activities/extra curricular activities: You have to factor in those hours, or your kids will be overwhelmed and you’ll feel like you are failing as a teacher because you won’t finish your tasks and they will feel like a failure because they never finish either.
b. How long it takes to run the other aspects of your home: You still have to do laundry, sweep, feed your family, shop, scrub various things, etc. I am a big fan of having the kids involved in this, but it’s still your job to supervise and it requires time. If you are less efficient, time wise (like me), at home keeping tasks, then you should make sure you do not use a curriculum that requires you to be involved ten hours a day.
c. Transition time: Moving from academics to activities (including c0-ops or library days) require time. If you plan your day so that as soon as you finish academic work, you leave for something, then there is no transition. You are likely to have a frantic feeling home life, especially if this is most/every day. So… look at your day and build in a buffer time for transition (including transition from teaching to home keeping). This may not sound like something that affects curriculum, but it is. One of the biggest comments I hear again and again is, “I never seem to finish.”
5. Which subjects are to be included? This is not a cut and dry decision. It depends on several factors: your philosophy, your wishes, and your student.
a. Which subjects do you believe must be covered? Take time to write down the non-negotiable. These are for YOUR HOME, not every one else’s, not for the conference speaker’s, not for the leader of your homeschool organization. Just yours.
b. Which subjects would you like to be included? There is a difference between what your top priorities are and what your secondary subjects are. Some years, the secondary subjects have to be cut down or out. It doesn’t mean your student doesn’t learn anything else, it just means they won’t be formally taught that year.
c. Which subjects would your child like to be included? I do not believe that a young child should dictate the school subjects or the day, but there is nothing wrong with including these as appropriate and possible. There is also a time and place when a student’s talents and giftings should be a part of their schooling.
Alrighty, that’s the first five questions to ask yourself when deciding curriculum (current or future).
Come back next Tuesday for the final five!
Which question have you neglected when choosing curriculum?