Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Homeschooling Curriculum

If you are just starting to look into homeschooling, you may have run across the
term "homeschooling curriculum" on Websites selling curriculum or in articles about the virtues of one curriculum over another. Many of these don't exactly define this term, especially not in a neutral manner. So, what exactly is a homeschool curriculum?

In standard educational terms, a curriculum is an integrated course of study that the teacher follows when preparing lessons for her class. In homeschooling terms, it can mean the same if you are planning your own curriculum; however many curriculum-based homeschooling methods (opposed to unschooling, which is child led rather than curriculum led) make use of pre-packaged curriculum.

This pre-package curriculum often includes everything from an outline of each course to teaching guides, student's texts, worksheets, and testing materials. Of course you can always modify or supplement a pre-packaged curriculum to fit your child's interests and learning style.

Whether using purchased curriculum or your own, you may need to be making sure it fits the state's requirements. If due to an oppressive state homeschooling law, you must be in sync with the public school's curriculum, you can do so rather easily. Your state's department of education probably has a Website where it posts its curriculum for the appropriate grade levels. If not, call your district office and request a copy. Then look at the objectives and goals for each subject and build your curriculum to include them.

In some instances, you may even want school textbooks. Many districts will loan these to homeschooling families, especially if it is one that requires you register your child as homeschooled, because they are likely receiving some funding for homeschooled children.

You can also pick up free textbooks from schools that have changed to a new text. Remember, the "obsolete" stamp on these books generally doesn't mean the text is not a good one. In our old district, they changed from a math program to a "modern" and highly controversial one because a respected school district in another state did so (peer pressure at the administrative level!).

The library is a wonderful, never-ending resource. Also check with your homeschool group for book exchanges. Other resources for curriculum include local bookstores that cater to homeschooling families or teachers. Homeschooling events such as conventions are another resource.

Once you seriously start looking for homeschooling curriculum, you may get overwhelmed. To make decisions easier, first spend some time contemplating your homeschooling goals and looking into state requirements.

Remember that one of the beauties of homeschooling (unless squelched by your particular state law) is that you can choose the curriculum that best fits the needs, learning style and interests of your child as well as your values and even your schedule.

About.com has a page with links to curriculum resources, including a forum where parents discuss and trade curriculum:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Homeschooling - Balancing School with Life

For the homeschooling family, balancing school with life is a cinch compared to trying to
balance a child's formal school day and homework with family life, friends and personal interests.

If you are just starting to think about homeschooling, the question of how to balance this with life may be a big question mark. After all, if your children have been in public or private school then the school has laid out the schedule, and your task, difficult as it can be, is one that you are accustomed to – squeezing in the other aspects of your child's life wherever you can.

Or, perhaps you've been homeschooling a while and are finding that too much of your child's day (and yours) is consumed by schoolwork. It can happen, but the good news is that you have control of this time. If you happen to be unlucky enough to live in a state that makes strict demands on homeschooling families (such as requiring mastery of specific subjects at certain ages), you may want to consider making some changes – either in where you live or by seeking legal counsel to fight for your homeschooling rights.

That said, in most cases there is a great deal of freedom in how you can balance school and life, and even if you are under the thumb of a restrictive state, you still have the say in how you plan your days.

If you're new to homeschooling, then you may be overwhelmed just thinking about how on earth you can teach for 8 hours a day, spend time lesson planning and assessing your child's work, and even have time for life!

Let's set those worries to rest. First of all, you will not need to mimic the school's hours. It's no secret the time it takes to learn at home is far less than the time it takes to learn at school. Even teachers are told in their education courses that they will spend very little time actually teaching. Most of the time is spent on "off task" matters such as getting the class to settle down at the beginning of a day, transitioning from activity to another, getting the class to settle down after recesses and lunch, dealing with numerous interruptions, doing busy work for nothing more than the sake of order in the classroom, and then after every long vacation, spending days settling down again and days to weeks in review because retention was lost.

It's estimated only 1/2 hour to 2 hours is spent on task in school. This goes along with the estimate that on average, a child can do 8 hours of school work in 2 hours when done at home.

You will also have the huge advantage of knowing your child's strengths and weaknesses and learning style. This means that when you child is stuck on a problem you will be much more able to effectively help your child figure it out then a teacher who doesn't know your child very well, if at all. This is of course another big time saver.

Given that your child may spend a couple hours a day on formal school work,
Monday through Friday, even with vacations. You may spend, depending on the curriculum used, around 1/2 to one hour daily, Monday through Friday on lesson planning, assessing, etc. If your child enjoys learning and wants to do more, then you can adjust for this.

As you can see, this leaves plenty of time for the rest of life. With many activities out there that your child may want to explore from dance to martial arts classes, just be sure that your child (and you) has plenty of free time – just for thinking, daydreaming, and just being.

If you are looking for a science project to use you can have a look at my Hub: 

Science Fair Projects, Grade One To Seven