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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Classic WFMW: Choosing a Curriculum

The natural reaction of most beginning home school parents is to run out and buy a curriculum. The thinking behind this is that "I, the parent, have no idea what I need to teach my child so I need to rely on outside help." The trouble with this is two-fold. First it is expensive--a basic reading curriculum can cost upwards of $100. Two, it is likely that the curriculum will not suit either the child's learning style, the parent's teaching style, the family's lifestyle, or all of the above. It is impossible to find the perfect curriculum and even if you find one that works perfectly for yourself and one child it is highly unlikely that it will suit the needs of the second child. For the most part the curriculum business makes a pretty penny because parent's will move from one "perfect" curriculum to the next trying to fill the needs of all involved. One of two things eventually happens, either the family quits home schooling in frustration or the family adjusts gradually, taking bits and pieces of the failed curriculums and creating that which is suitable to each child's needs. In the end you end up spending hundreds of dollars to develop your own curriculum.

If you really feel you must get a full curriculum, research, research, research. First find out what your child needs to know at each grade level, both on the state level and from your personal point of view. For this information look on-line or check out one of the many books on the subject. Next, ask every home school parent you can find the pros and cons of what they use. Look online, there are plenty of resources and articles that can give you all the background you need on any curriculum. Borrow some and try them out (often you can do this either by talking to fellow home schoolers or visiting a local home school group.) Some churches and schools will even lend a hand. In Pennsylvania the school district is required to supply home schoolers with the texts used within the district. If your state does this take them up on the offer, you can discover what works and what doesn't before you run out and purchase a curriculum that doesn't suit your needs.

Watch yard sales and thrift shops. I find some great old text books and activity books this way. If you purchase 20 text and activity books for $.10 a piece you can't go wrong, even if you only learn what you aren't looking for.

Make friends with teachers. I come from a teaching family. All my parents friends were teachers so I not only ended up going to school to teach but also made many friends that are teachers. Public school teachers are often initially weary of home schoolers, from their point of view you are saying that they can't do their job right so you, an uncertified teacher, are taking their place. If you show that you are educating yourself, willing to learn from their experience, and not only respect them but are trying to do what they are, the best thing for your child, they will come around. Be friendly and ask questions. Having teachers for friends are one of a home schoolers best resources. A seasoned teacher has probably run into many of the problems you are running into with your own child and will be able to look at it from a different point of view. Also, teachers love to share lesson plans and motivation ideas and will be thrilled to have another to share with.

Search out other home schoolers. Having friends that home school is great as you not only have people to commiserate with but also to share experiences with. If you must you could join a home school group or just form a loose get-together-every-so-often group of friends to share resources and field trips with.

In the end, before you even think curriculum, figure out your style, your child's style, your family style, discuss what you think will work, test out some different philosophies and curriculums, and pray, pray, pray. May the Lord guide you towards the wisest course of action for you and your household.


toblerone said...

Thanks for sharing this! Good stuff to know.

Pass the Torch said...

This is an excellent point. I think we can use this line of thinking in many areas - not just choosing curriculum.

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Trish Ryan said...

For New England folks, Christian Book Distributors has a giant warehouse sale 3x a year where they have discounted/slightly dinged up books, bibles and other products. They have entire tables devoted to home schooling materials, so that's another inexpensive way to check out materials.

Tammy said...

Great advice, Heather!

Last year, I was so wet behind the was my first year and I was soaking up all the info I could from other seasoned homeschoolers, as well as info on-line and books. I ended up buying a few workbooks in various subjects, but each from a different I supplimented a lot from free worksheets you can print from on-line. This helped me figure out what worked best for my oldest daughter and for me...we're still in the discovering process, but I like the freedom of choosing!