Homeschooling Curriculum Options
Perhaps you are considering or have made the decision to homeschool, a choice you and your spouse or close family probably thought long and hard about. Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute describes homeschooling as “the fastest-growing form of education.” (1) Making the decision to homeschool is only the first step– next you need to select a curriculum that best accommodates all educational aspects for your child. Read on for an overview of the potential options to choose from!
Selecting one curriculum over another is a very personal choice based on goals and preferences, such as: what sort of educational philosophy or method you plan to use, or the amount of parental participation you plan to offer. The options range from the very “hands on” methods of building your own curriculum or following a set curriculum with you as primary educator, to the comparatively more “hands off” methods (needing less parental participation) of using a computer based curriculum or interest-led learning.
Let’s start with the basics! (Stay tuned for consecutive posts with more a in-depth look at each option.)
To narrow the array of curriculum choices, a good place to begin is to decide on your educational philosophy.
Are you looking for a Classical education with an emphasis on teaching your child to ask questions and how to process information? The Classical educational philosophy is based on the primary portion or ” trivium” (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and the secondary portion or “quadrivium” (astronomy, arithmetic, music and geometry).(2) This method dates back to the educational philosophies of Ancient Greece and Rome. Or are you looking for the familiar structure of a Traditional education? The Traditional approach is an organic “tried and true” approach to learning that, as John Dewey described, is an education to”transmit to a next generation those skills, facts, and standards of moral and social conduct that adults deem to be necessary for the next generation’s material and social success”. (3)
Perhaps you are hoping for a way to present studying to your child based on developing a passion for learning as in the Thomas Jefferson Education. Or maybe you are looking for the gentle individualized education of the Montessori method where the goal is “to provide carefully prepared conditions which foster love of learning, independence, self-discipline, and a joyous response to life.” (4)
There are also the dynamic and richly artistic aspects of the Waldorf Method that is based on three phases: imitation, imagination and truth (discrimination and judgement). Or maybe you are intrigued by the “living books” ideal of a Charlotte Mason education. Or perhaps you are interested in more than one of these methods based in a religious foundation.
Whichever philosophy you discover to be right for your family, this basis gives you the springboard for choosing a specific curriculum.
Build your own curriculum:
The sky is the limit for this option. There are limitless ways of tailoring your child’s curriculum to his or her strengths and goals. No matter what educational philosophy you use, this form of homeschooling can be tailored to you. There are many plans or outlines one can follow to assist in the process, and many wonderful parental guides which provide very popular book titles like Saxon Math or The Great Books, etc. This option is great for those who prefer to follow a curriculum that is “out of the box”. From children who are ready for an extra challenge, to those who need help in specific areas, this form of a curriculum can be as gentle or as challenging as your child’s needs dictate.
Computer Based Curriculum:
This curriculum is largely or completely based on internet courses. It may have separate reading material, but typically all tests, lectures and/or study units are online. Parents tend to be less involved with this curriculum, besides the necessary supervision, answering of questions and troubleshooting, particularly if the curriculum is based on lectures. There are many good programs that offer a balanced curriculum as well as curriculum that can be tailored to your child and to your family. An example of a complete computer based curriculum is Connections Academy.
This type of curriculum has lesson plans which follow a successive and connected format with the intention of engaging and immersing the student into a particular theme which focuses on building character traits through each lesson. Each lesson is drawn from different areas such as literature, history, science and music to form a cohesive lesson. Examples of this type of curriculum are Five in a Row and Konos.
Religious Affiliated Curricula:
For many families, homeschooling is also a matter of religious belief and there are a number great resources for the families that wish to have a set curriculum or build their own while incorporating their beliefs into their child’s education as much as possible. As with homeschooling in general, you can choose a religious curriculum that follows the different educational philosophies or is a mixture. Cathy Duffy has an excellent resource list.
It is, in some instances, most profitable for a family to have a way of sharing the challenges of educating and home with other families. In a co-op, families will typically meet every week or every month and different parents will take a number of children and teach a specific subject. This can be a great support system though you may have less ability to tailor certain aspects of your child’s education. You can do some research if a co-op exists in your area (here is an example from the Atlanta Co-op) and is if there hasn’t been a co-op established you may also look into creating your own with other families who are interested.
This is the most unconventional and controversial form of homeschooling, It is also referred to as “unschooling,” which is why we saw fit to have it as both an educational philosophy, and a method. Sometimes based entirely on reading and journaling, “relaxed schooling” or “unschooling” commonly has little to no conventional structure, is often child-led and does not follow a curriculum, but lets the child choose the subjects they want study. The basis of this form of homeschooling is allowing the child to explore and expand their interests and is referred to as “natural learning” (1). For further resources and information about unschooling see this list of resources.
Perhaps the two best ways to prepare yourself for the joys and challenges of homeschooling are to first to educate yourself as much as possible, but to also to take a deep breath, relax, and learn with your children on building techniques that work for everyone. Just as that moment when you were first given your child to hold, you may have felt unprepared or in awe of the great task ahead of you, but you soon discovered strengths you never knew you had. Homeschooling can be another marvelous adventure for your family.
Tags: books, Charlotte Mason, classical, co-op, curriculum, design, developing, Educational Philosophies, elementary school, high school, home education, home study, homeschooling, learning, Montessori, online, pre-school, religion, religious, school year, thomas jefferson, traditional, Waldorf
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