Friday, January 17, 2014

Choosing the Perfect Curriculum for your Homeschool

-By Michelle

Last September you were probably all excited about the start of the new school year with the new curriculum that you had searched for since February. You did your research by visiting message boards and yahoo groups and talked to the actual users who loved the program. You were convinced that you had finally found the program that you were going to use for the rest of your homeschool years and if you had the money, you would buy the entire remaining years of curriculum they offered and be done with it. You were that sure.
The first few weeks had its issues, but there is always a learning curve with new programs right? But, by Christmas you are thrilled for the break and by January you are dreading starting back to school, so the search begins all over again. 

This time you are not going to leave anything to chance so you do a search to determine what your teaching philosophy is, whether it be classical, traditional, or possibly Charlotte Mason to name a few.  In my case, I lean towards Charlotte Mason. So you go to the all the message boards and you ask for all the Charlotte Mason curricula that is out there and you learn about…

  • Charlotte Mason Help
  • Ambleside Online
  • Living Books Curriculum
  • Heart of Dakota
  • My Father's World
  • etc…
So you begin researching, and one strikes you a little better than the others. Then you begin researching, asking questions and you feel like you have asked a lot of good questions. You've looked over the samples extensively and you feel confident that this is the program for you. 

Now since you are changing programs, you'll probably have some overlap or gaps from the previous program to the current one because you need to start at the beginning. Everyone says, "Oh, don't miss that! It is worth it. It is such a rich program." You might even try combining your kids into a program when previously they have worked separately from one another or vise versa. Now you have a whole new dynamic which you have just introduced into your children's lives. 

This is a cycle that tends to happen year after year after year until…
A.) You end up giving up and sending your children to school.
B.) You hand your kids their curriculum and watch from the sidelines.

The reason that this keeps happening is because…

Moms get bored, frustrated and overwhelmed. Let's face it, if you had stuck with a lot of these programs, they would have educated your children just fine and the they would have gotten out of it what needed to be gotten out it. They might not have enjoyed it every second, but they would have been able to learn from it. When we went to school, we weren't given choices about what textbooks and materials we were going to use and I would venture to say that if your reading this you are a reasonably educated person. The school system didn't tailor a fantastic individualized education for you. 

But see as moms, we are participating in this day after day, often with multiple children, and we find ourselves bored or the concepts seem to be taking too long for our children to grasp. We begin to think, "Hey, there has to be a better method out there."Or perhaps a project your child is working on takes 10 random items to create a really useless project that you may find a complete waste of time. Even if the kids enjoy it, you may not always feel you have time to dedicate to it. Let me assure you, there is no guilt in that. I am a busy mom, full time college student and I get it. I need to make the best use of time for my family. So that leads me to a really obvious thought...

There is no perfect curriculum - But I have a slightly different take. 

I am really drawn to the beauty of a Charlotte Mason curriculum but I am not 100% CM. I am unique as are you. The only person a program is perfect for is the person who wrote it. That is because they wrote it with all their favorite methods, and ideas. So if you find something that is just perfect for you, then you would probably get a long really well with the author who wrote it. 

There is nothing wrong with declaring your teaching style, but don't feel bad if you also find things appealing in other styles. Maybe something about Classical memorization, or history cycle appeals to you. Maybe the traditional workbooks seem really appealing for Grammar instead of narrating and dictation. You may not be one style so why should should your curriculum be one style?

How to choose then?

If you decide to go with an All-in-One program…
  • Don't be afraid to adjust the lesson plans to fit your teaching style. Maybe the program wants your child to narrate after every history reading but you want to add lap booking. Go for it! You're the boss, not the curriculum. 
  • Don't be afraid to only use part of the program that is working and supplement with something else in another area. If you really can't stand the science, use your library to supplement or possibly add some hands on projects if that is what is missing. 

If you decide to pick and choose among suppliers…
  • Keep your lesson planning simple. Watch my video at the end of this post to see how to make a simple one page lesson plan for 12 weeks worth of school. 
  • Don't spend so much money that you can't make adjustments later in the year. If the program you want to purchase is going to wipe you out till next year, maybe you need to reevaluate if it is really the right program for you. At least choose one that has a high resale value should you decide it isn't working. 
  • If you don't have the time and energy to use all you purchased, don't feel guilty, have a summer learning workshop. For instance, I have IEW that I am planning to have a writing workshop for a few weeks this summer. I will be able to be really focused on what I am teaching and have a lot more time to dedicate to it. 
Don't be afraid to write your own program that includes all the elements you love. 
  • You don't have to do this from scratch. Use the table of contents from a book or curriculum as a guide what to teach. 
  • Don't try to pack too many books into one week. Take your time and spread it out to start. If it is too light you can always add more, but if you burn yourself out, you'll likely give up. 
  • Use free online programs like Charlotte Mason Help to give you some ideas. Only take what you love and leave the rest. 
  • Don't try to write it all. Use some pre made programs if you prefer. I wrote my own for my youngest, but I still have a Math and Language Arts programs that are already written. 
And finally, Don't be afraid to not choose a curriculum at all. 

  • Sometimes it is good to take a step back and let your children explore and learn on their own for awhile while you reevaluate what is working and what isn't. 
  • Interest-led schooling is a very good choice for many families. You may find that you do much better following your children's leads rather than trying to anticipate them. So keep your $'s in the bank and buy your books and materials as interests arise. 


1 comment:

  1. so i guess you are Allison's mother. :)
    so my mother also interested in the idea to teach my younger brother in homeschool-way, because he's kind of 'special needs kids' but i thought my mother never had a curriculum or a module to organize the education programme. i thought my mother was confuse. She really wanted to teach my brother on her own but also very busy with her work.

    do you think i can do the curriculum my self?