The next decision families what to make, after deciding to homeschool, is “what curriculum do I use?” Though I believe that there are other things to get sorted first, and these relationship based activities will be a good place to start, eventually you will want to choose curriculum and resources to use, especially to address the academics.
Because my focus is not so much to do school but to disciple my children I want to choose resources that enable me to do so. Though I buy curriculum I tend to use the word resources as this helps me look broader than a set curriculum that gives lesson plans and covers all.
Choosing curriculum for the whole-child, heart-focused Homeschool
Books are my first and foremost resource – I look for books to teach my children everything (though at times we need to learn to get our head out of books and enjoy the real world around us!!) The library is a wonderful ally. When I see an academic need in my children I check out the books on my own bookshelf first, and then the library and then the homeschool suppliers or internet. I keep an eye out at the Christian Bookshop too. I have found many books – both picture books and chapter books, along with music to support many of the themes/topics we have studied.
Life itself is a wonderful resource that will educate your children. As you spend time with your children and especially as you talk and talk and talk with your children you will impart to them a deep education that is based on values and life skills.
As your children get older they may attend seminars and workshops, along with any adult who wants to improve their understanding on a particular topic. The community is full of learning opportunities and people who are happy to impart their knowledge to your children. We need to tap into these resources.
There is also a place for Curriculum. I use several, have tried or used many others. Before I look at curriculum I ask myself the following questions:
- Why am I looking at this? What “problem” is it going to solve?
- What time is it going to take to implement
- What time will it take in preparation
These questions are valid for the veteran homeschooler as well as those just starting out. We must recognize that our children grow and that family dynamics change. A curriculum choice we make today may not be the best in a years time and yet we need to keep a balance between being flexible and going with change and being good stewards. Investigating thoroughly will help you keep that balance.
Things to Consider when choosing Curriculum
Christian or non Christian? It is important that the resources that we choose are based on Biblical foundations and principles but they do not have to be Christian in content, nor published by Christians (though mostly will be). We need to look for resources that support the essence of what we want our children to grasp in their education. To our family this has been
- that God is involved in the universe,
- that God has a purpose and plan for the world and all the people,
- that God is a God of order,
- that God is!
And so forth…
Who wrote the curriculum? I find curriculum written by homeschool families to be far easier to integrate into my family life than those written by professionals. It is worth considering when you are making a curriculum choice. Who wrote it?
- Did they write it expecting a Mum to teach it? (This is pertinent not because of her level of training and understanding but rather because of the time constraints and multi-demands on her time)
- Did they write it with the idea that students could use it independently from a teacher?
These expectations of the author have a direct implication on the ease to use even if you do use it as a “classroom” resource with you upfront teaching. There are underlying expectations when you read a curriculum and these will either work for us or against us.
For example: I love the idea of learning centers. Corners set up in the classroom that involve a lot of role play and interaction with real life situations, such as banking, or cooking, or posting a letter. Early in my homeschool journey I was so excited about this learning tool that I set out and planned 3 different learning centers that I could create. The plan was I would make one center during each of the school holidays and the kids would play at banking or shopping for a term. I caught myself at the bank one day explaining to my children what the tellers were doing. It dawned on me that I didn’t need to create a bank environment in my home, so the children could learn about banking – they were here with me! But that is exactly (though fairly overtly) what many school resources will do to us. They will plant an expectation for us to create and teach our children beyond what is necessary (or viable) in family life.
Know your child – Before you purchase anything you must know the situation you want to use it for. Which child are you considering this curriculum for? Or maybe you want it for the whole family?
When you know the focus for each of your children, when you know where they are at developmentally, you can ensure that what you buy suits their needs as an individual. The Discipleship Scope and Sequence helps you keep the balance between life/discipleship and academics. The Development of an Independent Learner guides you in the skills that you should be focusing on with each of your children. These guides aren’t necessarily guiding you in content but rather in skills and focus. This helps us keep academic content in its right place in our family life.
Though I struggle with boxing my children I have found it helpful to understand temperaments, learning styles, and to acknowledge any learning difficulties. Whenever I consider these things it is always with the understanding that the Holy Spirit is there to help us learn and grow, with the ultimate goal to become more and more like Jesus.
Do your research – With the explosion of online support for the homeschool mum, it is important that when we talk to other mums that we don’t fall into the trap of “because it worked for you it will work for me”. So I ask these questions:
- What worked for you? Or Why did you choose this?
- Why did it work for you?
- What did you like?
- What did you struggle with?
- What ages were all your children when you used this curriculum? What other family circumstances were affecting your family at this time (Pregnancy? Husband’s work situation? Hubby involvement in the home? etc)
- What learning styles do you as a teacher prefer?
- What learning styles do your children lean towards?
When I ask these questions I can start to consider the real things that affect the success of a curriculum or resource in our home.