Monday, April 28, 2014

Choosing Curriculum

I’m not terribly dogmatic on which curriculum is “best”.  The best curriculum is the one which functions best for your family and situation.  I have utilized every learning style during my 13 years of Homeschooling and every method of teaching.  In the early years I was very Charlotte Mason minded.  You saw a LOT of art prints, nature identification guides, and living books in my home (You still do.)   This is probably, hands down, my favorite method of educating my children.  My older boys tell me that they felt they had a “first rate” education in their early years and learned to LOVE learning.  However, when I was deathly sick and nearly bedridden with my third pregnancy, I bought Rod and Staff for the following year and the boys adapted and did quite well with a more traditional approach.   In recent years, we are very eclectic.  I use many different publishers and sometimes create studied based on my children’s interests.  My older boys are both in high school.  We purchase curriculum based on their individual God-given paths.  The high school years are among the most expensive.

With that rather long-winded introduction, here are my thoughts on selecting curriculum. Although these suggestion were written with new homeschool families in mind, those who are veterans will, perhaps, also find them helpful

1.  "Look, look, look, and listen."  If you are "of a certain age" (as I am) you'll remember Mr. Rogers singing this song. Do a lot more looking and listening than buying. DON’T purchase right away!! Gather materials, ideas, and samples. You can often download samples from the internet or ask your friends to see samples of their children’s work with that specific curriculum. There are also product reviews on-line. 

            2.  Create a curriculum file.  Place clippings of interesting curriculum from on-line resources, homeschooling catalogs or magazines in a manila folder.  Consider subjects you think your children would enjoy both now and in the future.  Basically, if it intrigues you, put it in the folder.  You can utilize this folder when planning school for subsequent school years

3. Get with other homeschoolers and ask questions: Why do you like it? How much instructor preparation time is required? Have you used it for all of your students? If you have several students that span a number of ages, you may want material that you can use with several of them, rather than purchase individual curriculum for every student. How much does it cost? What additional costs are required for additional materials to use this curriculum?

4. Consider your time. In general, pricier curriculum will often need less teacher preparation time, and less pricy curriculum will require more of your time to prepare.

5. Consider your budget. If you really feel strongly about a certain curriculum, check used sites and you may find a bargain.
eBay, Amazon
6. Consider your “season”. Are you moving, having a new baby, or nursing a sick relative? These will all have an impact on the curriculum you choose.   DON’T consider a curriculum choice as a mandate that you must purchase that curriculum year after year. Life changes, needs change, and your curriculum might too.
7.  Consider the 5 different Methods of teaching, learning, and schooling.              I have written a separate post on these teaching methods entitled:  Five Teaching Methods.  
8.  Consider how your student learns best: There are a number of websites, which will allow you to answer questions to determine your child’s learning style. A very basic division is:  
- Tactile (hands on – they learn by doing) These students love Legos, erector sets, gears, and science experiments
- Visual (They love pictures, graphs, pie charts, and well-organized text). These students love worksheets
- Auditory (They learn through listening.) These children love audio tapes and read-alouds. 
Note:  Although the primary curriculum that I choose for my student may be geared toward a specific learning style, I insist that my children do some tasks cross-directionally. So, eventually they WILL  learn to use skills that belong to the other two learning styles. For instance, ALL of my children are required to learn public speaking and good writing techniques, whether these are their preferred forms of communication or not.

Do all to the Glory of God, 


Five Teaching Styles

When choosing curriculum it is important to decide how you want to present the material to your children.  For our purposes, we will discuss five different teaching styles.

Charlotte Mason was a 19th century English Educator. She taught with “living books”, nature study, classical music, narration, and famous artist picture study. Example: 

 Classical – Teaches utilizing the Trivium - from the Latin “tri” (three) and “via” (road or way). The literal meaning is the “Three fold way or road”. 
Stage 1: Kindergarten through 3rd grade is the grammar stage.  This is the information and fact gathering stage.  Children are capable of memorizing large amounts of information.  Catchy tunes teach them everything from the Presidents to the Monarchs of the Middle Ages.  
 Stage 2: Middle school - 4th through 8th grade is the dialectic stage.  Children learn to reason and begin to utilize all the information they memorized in the Grammar Stage.  
Stage 3: High School is the rhetoric stage.  Now it's time for apologetics, reasoned expression and argumentation
Throughout Classical education Latin is emphasized, logic/debate skills are taught, classic literature is read, and a four year history rotation itilized. (Example: Veritas Press, Memoria Press)

  Unit Study – (cross curricular) – Topics are approached in depth and all areas of study are incorporated. You may choose multiple areas of study for the year and then study them in-depth for 1- 6 weeks at a time. Shorter periods of unit study are very useful, even when primarily using other methods of schooling. (Examples: Amanda Bennett, Konos)

 Traditional Workbook – Gee, this speaks for itself, doesn't it?  Personally, being a visual learner, I LOVED worksheets as a child!  My mother would purchase workbooks at the beginning of the summer break just to keep me busy and happy for those three months.  She bought me a set of 10.  I think I did them all in about a week.  They were supposed to last for all three months of the summer break.  Oops!!  (Examples: Rod and Staff, Abeka, Bob Jones)

Unschooling questions the appropriate nature of keeping students in a classroom all day long and “feeding” them all the same information. Unschooling sees the individuality of students as paramount and recommends letting students set the pace, content, and nature of their educational experience. It proposes that all children are curious by nature and will WANT to learn if allowed to pick their own topics. Example: there is no curriculum. Rather, a variety of enrichment materials like books, atlases, art supplies, carpentry and gardening tools will be standard fair in an unschooling home.

Whatever you choose, remember
 Do all to the Glory of God!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

APACHE 2014 Convention

Welcome to all who heard me speak at the APACHE 2014 Convention.  I'm writing this ahead of time, trusting that we all have an informative and fun weekend.  See?  I walk in faith!  LOL!  If you have any questions which you did not have time to ask over the weekend, feel free to send them to me.  See the contact information on the blog.

Do all to the Glory of God,


A New Frontier

For years my boys have been asking me to begin a blog.  I kept saying that I didn't have the time.  Well, they finally convinced me to "go forth boldy ... into a new frontier."  So, casting aside all doubts, we march forward.  I hope to post lots of thoughts which are helpful for new homeschoolers.  Also, no doubt my passion for living debt free, consuming whole foods, and passing on a legacy of faith to the next generation will come through as well.  So, join me on this journey.  Pass along any questions and I'll do my best to give you a well-thought-out response.  

Do all to the Glory of God!