Choosing a Homeschooling Curriculum
Homeschooling can be extremely beneficial and rewarding to both you and your children, but it can also be extremely terrifying. You are in control of your child's education, and have a huge responsibility to make sure they get the best education and access to the best opportunities possible. One thing you'll notice right away is there is SO MUCH available for educational materials, it may seem impossible to choose. This is a problem with no clear-cut answer, but I would like to offer some suggestions based on my history as a homeschooled child and now as a parent preparing to homeschool.
First off, I'd like to discuss a few of the options that are available to homeschool parents. There are satellite schools, companies that sell complete packaged curricula, and "freestyle" curriculum selection that lets you personally choose all of the books and create your own plans for classes and your own schedule for learning.
Satellite schools and package plans
If you're strapped for time or honestly have no idea what you're doing, satellite schools and pre-packaged curricula can be a great option. They offer a lot of guidance, select age-appropriate books and have plans that allow you to easily stay abreast of the public schools. It's an easy way to ensure you're fulfilling all the requirements set forward by most states that are designed to check that homeschooled children are still getting an acceptable education.
Most satellite schools also provide you with a schedule of the same standardized tests that public schoolers take so you can keep your kids up to standard. Some satellite schools are accredited high schools so that there is little trouble or additional testing involved in gaining admission to college. However, there are some drawbacks.
A set curriculum allows for little flexibility to cater to your child's particular gifts or interests, so there is the risk of boredom or not reaching full potential in the education plan. The lesson plans are also structured very much like those of public schools -- they only use a couple ways of learning that may or may not be the best for your child. This plan also tends to be similarly-paced to public schools, which can be too slow for children who catch on quickly or who enjoy learning enough to devote a lot of time to school.
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Custom freestyle plans
Freestyle planning does require a little more knowledge about what you're doing and the education requirements in your state, but it can be much more rewarding in the long run. In creating a freestyle plan, you can look at all the textbooks, literature, DVDs and internet resources available to put together something that is well-suited to your child and engages his or her interest.
A good freestyle plan is something that both you and your child can enjoy and that helps teach a child to seek out self-determined avenues of learning. At the same time, it reinforces that learning is enjoyable and helps foster a lifelong love of learning. In order to achieve this ideal, great pains must be taken to work with the child to eliminate things they do not like or are easily bored by. Obviously this is not always possible, because some people just can't get into certain subjects no matter how hard they try, but they're still requirements in a well-rounded education. With consistent tweaking, a good balance can be struck between "interesting" and "not interesting" -- and experimenting with different approaches may even manage to transform the "not interesting" in your child's mind.
Find a good local homeschool group
Resources are available. Ask around in your area to see if there is a homeschooler's group nearby. This type of group is a community-based support system for homeschoolers, and it's often very useful for education plan suggestions, help in subjects you may not know well, and planning cooperative community events and field trips.
In my own education, the homeschooling group was responsible for many opportunities that would not have otherwise been available. Those community additions included ceramics classes, ski trips, special teachers such as local college professors and professionals, mentorships and much more (my personal experience is further detailed in my hub "A Homeschooler‘s Tale," linked below).
If there are no groups in your area and creating your own is not an option, there are a lot of online homeschool groups. These usually include message boards where you can connect with other homeschoolers for new ideas and solutions to problems. Another primary resource used during my education were homeschool conventions, which allow entire families to preview textbooks, attend various seminars on education, and shop a huge variety of support materials.
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Who says school is boring?
The type of curriculum planning you use will depend largely on your state's requirements and your child's particular needs and style of learning. My own mother used a freestyle curriculum that combined standard textbooks with hands-on training, creative PE classes (ballet, skiing, ice skating, etc.), community-based projects such as 4-H and much more. This combination worked very well with my sister and I, and was constantly revised and polished to bring us the best possible education even with limited financial resources.
As you may have gathered, there is a lot more work involved in homeschooling than in simply sending your children to public school. It's certainly not for everyone thanks to the investment of time and constant work it requires. If you have a desire to homeschool your children and can put the required effort into it, though, the result can be immensely satisfying and well above the public standard.
Thank you for taking the time to read my hub; I hope it has been helpful to you. Choosing a homeschooling curriculum can be the most challenging part of getting started, and the biggest task before the beginning of every school year. It's also the single biggest factor in your child's educational success going forward. What about you? Please feel free to leave a comment if you've found some really outstanding educational materials that work great for you. Alternatively, what challenges are you still trying to overcome in getting started with homeschooling? Let's share some information and help each other design a better learning environment for our kids.
More on the ins and outs of homeschooling
- What to Consider When Deciding to Homeschool -- Or N...
Deciding to homeschool is a big choice that will greatly impact your child's education. Whether you decide to homeschool or not, the best possible choice for your individual situation is critical.
- Homeschooling: Benefits and Rewards
Wikimedia Commons I think we can all agree that, as parents, what we want most for our kids are a healthy, happy life and a good education. Sadly, with severely declining educational standards in the US this second one is becoming increasingly...
- A Homeschooler's Tale: My Experiences as a Homeschoo...
Personal homeschooling experience contrasted with public school experience from someone who was homeschooled until 8th grade.
- Homeschool Legal Defense Association
An excellent resource for information on state-by-state homeschooling requirements and current events related to homeschooling
- Homeschool Central
Online resources...message boards, classifieds and more