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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

WFMW: Choosing 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.


kel said...

Great post. This is my first year homeschooling and I went crazy this year and bought full abeka curriculium then started using and there were a lot a liked but some I didnt so then I had to get other things too. I am learning and will do it different next year.

Mama Duck said...

Definitely, being homeschooled growing up, we did a lot of this ;). Happy Wednesday - our tip is up as well!

Pass The Torch said...

This is great information. My husband and I just had a discussion about this last nigh, because we're in a new school and not sure about the class my son is in. It takes so much commitment to homeschool well. I don't know if I have it. But obviously you do!

My WFMW is about forts.

Home of Pass the Torch Tuesday

Overwhelmed! said...

Excellent post. You've obviously taken a considerable amount of time to do this research. Thanks so much for sharing!

I've posted a WFMW baptism gift tip. Stop by and take a peek. :)

Holly said...

I wish I had read this last year. :) I am using a mix of things this year and I love what we've chosen. Enough structure to satisfy dad, but enough flexibility to suit my style and the kids' needs.

Great advice!

sa5ra said...

Great tips, sounds like you put a lot of time & thought into giving your kids the best education possible.

Gina said...

For the first year I just used a hodge Podge of workbooks for my kindergartener. Now in first grade, I bought used curriculum for math and phonics and find that I'm skimming through many of the chapters.

So I would add to this great advice. Don't feel you have to do everthing the curriculum says. Use it as a guide and supplement with library books, your own creativity and your child's natural curiousity.

My WFMWis about saving time and money.

Jessica said...

What a great idea for those who do homeschooling too...I don't homeschool but I would imagine that this would come in handy for those who do!!!

:-)Ronie said...

The first year, I bought all ABeka. The next year, BJUP. From there, I hodge-podged it. This year is very eclectic and varying according to my girls' needs.

Mary said...

Being homeschooled (off and on) myself was a big advantage...and when it came time to homeschool my girls, I went with the great recommends of my sil. It all worked great with my oldest, but I'm sure finding out that all children learn differently! So, like Gina said, you don't have to do everything the curriculum lays out. I used Spell to Write and Read "by the book" for my first child, but am going at it a bit easier with child #2. Very happy with it, but you're right, the reading curriculums all seem to cost upwards of $100.
I loved your post, found it very interesting and informational. Thanks so much!