Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum

What makes a homeschool curriculum? Do you buy it? Create it? Plan it? Evolve it? Ignore it? I think that if you asked a myriad of homeschoolers, you would get a myriad of responses. In our case, we are what is known as eclectic. We aren’t strict school at home people. We aren’t unschoolers. We kind of live our life in the middle. I have a plan of attack and we use Alpha Omega LifePac’s as our core, but I am willing to stretch, change, omit, or add as needed. I look around to see what is going on in the world. I try to use the kid’s interests as jumping off points. I try to become visibly excited about information I find to see if it might be contagious.

This is one of the many great freedoms that homeschooling can offer. I always think it is such a shame when there is something wonderfully curious going on and yet the school system is stuck getting through their curriculum. What else can they do though? 30 kids may have 30 different interests. What interests one may not another. Plus the hours alone prevent some of the excitement. It is very hard for me to get excited about anything when I have to get up at 6 am. Plus, did you ever realize how interesting things could be at 2 am? How would / could a class adapt if a student became fascinated with a subject for weeks at a time to the exclusion of his other learning? But as homeschoolers, we are free to do this.

Plus, as homeschoolers, I am not confined to judging my children’s accomplishments strictly by standard assessments of their knowledge. DD can write a blog. DS1 can draw a picture. DS1 may do his reading by pouring through cookbooks, creating a masterpiece, and then teaching another child to do the same. Frankly, that is about as tasty a final exam on technical reading that one can get. DD, on the other hand, may work in reverse and beg to learn how to create an PowerPoint with an embedded graph to show the growth of patrons at her library so that she can argue for additional funding.

Homeschooling, also, may include a far broader reaching curriculum than a traditional school. In addition to Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, I consider:



-Work ethic





And other such virtues that are very difficult to quantify. I consider the growth in these areas to be a better gauge of how we are doing than the grade level on their books (I still can’t quite figure out why we insist on putting them there in the first place) or the grades they receive on their tests.

One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the ability to monitor and adjust. In my job as the site facilitator for a program which teaches teachers, I often hear the phrase “monitor and adjust” used by the instructors. The phrase is used to explain how the future teachers how to show proceed in presenting their lesson plans if things are not going just as they had planned, but how far can they realistically adjust? When you homeschool, the ability to monitor and adjust is almost endless. I think of it like an old fashioned stage coach heading across country during the Western Expansion. If you were on a definitive path that you could not veer from, what obstacles might stop you from continuing your journey? What amazing sights might you miss? How many wagons would be able to finish the journey? But if you had endless abilities to “monitor and adjust” based on the needs of the horses, the stage, the road, the passengers, how might the journey be different?

So needless to say my advice for choosing a homeschool curriculum is fluid. Chose one if you wish. If it doesn’t work, try another. If something new or different catches your eye, don’t be afraid to try it. Think of assessment in a completely different way. What does it mean to be successful? And most importantly of all is have fun and find the joy in learning. Remember you chose to move away from the traditional methods for a reason: Rejoice in the freedom that you now have.

Helpful websites: Enchanted Learning ; Alpha Omega ; Calendar of Events ;

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