Thursday, February 10, 2011

10 Days of Getting Started: Choosing Curriculum

Now that you have a vision and know some things about yourself and your kids, it's time to choose the curriculum, program, and method you want to use! Hmmm...come to think of it, perhaps this is a two post topic.

There are a lot of homeschooling methods out there. Some of my 10 Day colleagues are writing about some of them now! Make sure and check the link list below! There's Montessori, Classical, Unschooling, Charlotte Mason and Unit Study methods to name a few. There are homeschools that look like classrooms in a home. There are homeschools that look nothing like a classroom. And there's everything in between!

Some homeschoolers like to build their own curriculum and some like it all boxed up for them. Some of us are somewhere in between all of these. We pick and choose from different methods to give our children the best of a lot of worlds.

I think the easiest way to figure out what curriculum to use is to see how the different methods and curriculum line up with your vision and your style- both your teaching style and your children's learning styles! If you and your child are rule followers who like a routine, unschooling is probably not the way to go. Likewise, if you and your child are relaxed and want to explore, then a more scheduled day with a boxed curriculum is probably not for you.

My advice for beginners? Just get some basic things going so that you can see how learning takes place with your kids in your home. There is no rule (even in highly regulated states) that tells you what materials to use and how to use them. So you have time to discover some things about yourselves before you make a huge decision. When I first started homeschooling I was rather convinced that I had to know all about who we were going to be right away so I could buy an awesome program and get moving. My husband, ever the voice of balance in my life, simply said to relax. To work on some basic skills with our son and to enjoy each day. He knew there would be plenty of time to figure more things out and to make bigger decisions down the road.

We have another "rule" at our house that is a corollary to that first tenant. We don't hop from thing to thing to thing. Once I do purchase something, I stick with it for some time and if I'm not sure how we will fit with it, I don't buy it. Now there's good and bad to this corollary. The good is that we don't waste money on something that never gets off the ground and it saves us from the disruption of curriculum angst. Moving from one program to another is not easy for kids. Each one has a set of expectations and flavor that is distinct and some kids do not change gears well. Consistency is key! The not so positive side effect of this corollary is that sometimes we wait too long to make necessary changes.

So, if you don't buy a "program" right away what do you do? Well, you teach and practice math facts. It's a given that primary school kids need to know their math facts so it's a good bet that you can make a program from this when you start out. There a lot of basic math concepts to focus on with household items. We've taught all of our kids the concept of even and odd by using duplo blocks. No special programs required nor did we use special "math" manipulatives.

Spend time reading with your children. If you haven't read The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, I encourage you to do so! It is a compelling read about how reading aloud to your children is the best guarantee of reading success. Reading needs to be practiced in order to improve and all of my emerging readers have gotten quite fluent just by reading to me often. I still have my kids read to me. If things start out slow that's just fine. Alternate by sentence or paragraph. Again, this requires no "program" just plenty of library books.

I have always done writing on my own with the kids. We just write every day. I've written a lot in the category of teaching grammar through our studies. Feel free to click and read from the bottom up!

This relaxed method doesn't have to continue forever. But if you are just starting out, this is a great way to get your bearings and see what types of things you and your children enjoy and what your children respond to. There are a lot of really great programs out there, but they are not one size fits all! You have to find your niche as a homeschooling mom.

In the end, when you do commit to buying something, stick with it. The same, by the way, is true for homeschooling! Some beginners are tempted to quit by the end of one year. You have to wait it out long enough to see some fruit! One year is not long enough- in my humble opinion!

At this point, I will encourage you to visit some blogs below to see what it's like to be a Charlotte Mason homeschooler or a classical homeschooler. Frugal homeschoolers will share how to homeschool without spending gobs of money which I'm inclined to think means no "big box" type programs. We are unit study folks who use Five in a Row as our core curriculum.

I'd be happy to recommend some programs and to do a post on some of the big players in the world of homeschooling. I could give you some good information on using unit studies too. I couldn't decide whether to get into actual curriculum or stay with general advice though next week I plan to share various programs for specific subject areas.

Would you please leave a comment and share your opinion on what you'd like to learn more about as a beginner choosing curriculum?

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned tomorrow for: Supply Central...What's Essential?

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori |  Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool |  Delightful Learning

6 comments:

Jessica Chandler said...

I found you through Confessions of a Homeschooler. I am planning on starting homeschool next year. Your posts are very helpful! Especially the "Rules" post...yahoo! I was so excited about sharing it with my husband! I have some experience teaching Abeka at a private school. I don't LOVE it, but it got the job done. I'm looking for more info on other curriculum. Just wanted you to know that I am finding your posts helpful. Thank you!

Jessica Chandler said...

Duh! So "rules" was someone else's...still reading and learning from ya!! :)

Ambra said...

I would love hearing about different curriculum and the "big players" as you put it. And hearing about how you do unit studies. In my mind's eye, that is how I see our homeschool someday but the thought of putting unit studies together is daunting! Thanks for the great info you've already given!

By the way, I've been checking your blog for the past year as I've been using BFIAR with my preschooler, so thanks for all those ideas I've 'stolen' from you! :)

musicalmary said...

I read your blog as I was deciding what curriculum to choose for my then five year old a year ago. Five in a Row has been such a gift for us! I find us all approaching all literature through FIAR "glasses" if that makes sense. Thank you for such great and encouraging posts!

I have a FIAR section on my blog now because we love it so much!

~Mary

EM said...

I have been doing as you suggested and just trying some things out as we get started (my kids are prek (4yo) and K (5yo), plus 10 month old (so I'll be keeping my eyes open for preschool stuff). I stumbled upon Homeschool Share and LOVE unit studies. Yes please do share your experiences with Unit studies. I'm all ears...er.. eyes!

Cinda said...

I can't afford a traditional curriculum, plus I am not good with schedules at all! I do a lot of what you posted, we practice math facts, and have horizons Math Kindergarten math books, and we read, practice Dolch words, practice phonics, and I spend time answering questions. She's 4 1/2 and brilliant. I love this post, thanks., it helps me know that just cause I don't have the different curriculums for the different subjects doesn't mean I'm not teaching my daughter.