Homeschooling – Choosing a Curriculum

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,528
    Homeschool expert Leslie Nathaniel discusses choosing curriculum materials for homeschooling.

    Leslie Nathaniel: Hello! I am Leslie Nathaniel, homeschooling, mother of two, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. I am talking about how to begin homeschooling your child, and in this segment, I'll show you how to choose curriculum materials. After the decision to home school itself, choosing curriculum materials is the next daunting step in homeschooling. There are so many option, so many methods, it can be tough even knowing where to begin.

    The first step is to relax and off-repeated adage in homeschooling is, there are no educational emergencies. There is time to figure out what comes next, and time to make adjustments, if you find things aren't working, as well as you would like. In fact, determining what curriculum suits your child and family is an art and can require some trial and error, before you get it right.

    Some of the best advice for newcomers is to start with just a few items and see how well they work for you. Don't invest a lot of money until you're sure a particular approach will work for you child. The next step is to think in general terms, about what is likely to suit your situation. At a very high-level, here are some options that can help guide your choices. Distance learning options allow you to enroll your child in specific courses or a full curriculum and are taught by the course provider. Some of these options are similar to an old-fashioned correspondence course, or school, and some feature computer based instruction. With distance learning the instruction, assignments, tests, and grades are done by the course provider. Some programs provide report cards, transcripts or accredited diplomas upon completion. It maybe easier to transfer credit for these programs, if you expect your child to return to school in the future. Distance learning is popular with families who want to spend little or no time planing their own courses, and with those who find accredited diplomas to be a value. It lacks some of the flexibility that typically comes with home schooling, and it is not usually possible to customize much of the course work.

    Distance learning options can also be expensive. One popular program provider charges nearly $2000 for grades 5 through 8. High school courses are 875 each from the same provider, while another provider charges $279-$475 per high school credit, depending on the options you choose. Prepackaged curriculum materials allow you to buy a course or an entire school year's materials at a time. Like having your child's school year delivered in a box. The materials may include detailed instructions like how to teach the content, even scripts for parents to read or videos for parents and children to watch.

    Prepackaged curricula usually come with a suggested schedule to follow, so your child can complete the work in a typical semester or a school year. Parents determine assignments and handle grading. Prepackaged curricula can provide a familiar echo of the school room structure that most of us remember, others can find the structure and schedule too confining and rigid. Some Prepackaged curricula are sold by grade level, making it difficult to meet the needs of a child who is on varying grade levels in different subjects, such as a fifth-grade math level and a fourth-grade reading level. Costs vary widely, one popular three-year math program costs $60, others cost more than $100 for a single year, an entire year's school in a box from one provider is $500, another provider charges $1050.

    Parents can also design their own curriculum, picking and choosing from a wide variety of materials, your local public library and the internet are bound with free resources including study guides and curriculum outlines to use as starting points. You might use a prepackaged math or science curriculum to design your own for other subjects. Choosing your own curriculum can let you blend the interest of your child with your family's educational goals. Now, it's time to take a look at your child's learning style. Some children learn best when they learn a few small facts at a time, slowly learning more and figuring out how to put the pieces together, a part to whole sort of style. Other children learn best when they first have an overview of how things work and fit together. Then they fill in the details with the smaller facts, a whole to part sort of style. There are many sources for a curriculum materials, it can help to see the materials in person and to talk to someone who has used them. Ask your home school acquaintances and investigate home school conferences and resource fairs in your area. Many communities have teacher resource stores that stock a variety of curricula. Some communities even have stores that focus specifically on homeschooling and may carry both new and used materials. You can order almost anything online with product reviews to assist you in choosing. Many companies cater to homeschoolers, and their catalogs maybe useful to you. Another excellent resource is membership in a local museum, zoo, science center or living history site. With a one year membership, your family can return again and again, to soak up all the resource has to offer. Repeated short visits help keep enthusiasm alive, and can increase learning retention for younger children.

    Next year you can choose a different membership and make that one the center of your learning theme for the year. Don't forget the resource of your local public library. It can be a great place to find books, audio books, videos and other resources. Don't hesitate to let your librarians know you are homeschooling. Many libraries are happy to help patrons find library resources to support their goals, and they can assist you with interlibrary loans, if your own library doesn't have what you are looking for. Some libraries will even extend the checkout period for books, teachers using teaching. Remember, don't spend a lot of money when you are starting out. The curriculum that looks so good on the shelf may not be as wonderful, when you begin using it. Begin with one or two resources and try them out. As you get a sense of what works well for your child, you can add a few more with greater confidence. If a curriculum isn't working, don't hesitate to try something else, especially if it's making you or your child miserable. The chance to present something a different way or at a later time is one of home schooling's greatest benefits.

    Now that you know how to get started with curriculum, let's go onto our next segment to talk about socialization. It's frequently a big concern for people unfamiliar with home education.