As we look forward to the start of a new school year, there is usually much anticipation as well as a bit of anxiety. We all want to make sure we are using the “right” curriculum and doing this homeschooling thing the “right” way.
The truth is that there is not ONE right way that works for everyone. Some people like to be very structured and lay out their coursework much like a teacher in school would. They purchase grade-level-appropriate curriculum and plan to have their children work their way page-by-page, lesson-by-lesson through the curriculum. Other families choose to focus on skills, topics and behaviors they want their child to learn. They may or may not use a curriculum. They may use one that is more of a unit study, based on a particular topic or historical time period to meet their children’s interests and questions. They base their history, science, literature, writing and field trips around that topic and delve in deep.
Whether you desire a more structured, curriculum-based approach or enjoy a more interactive, interest-based approach to learning, these are some very important questions you need to consider as you plan for your new year:
Question One: Is this information/skill/behavior important for my child?
The core function of school seems to be to have a child sit in a seat for 8 hours a day, 9 months out of the year for 12 years and to complete 12 years’ worth of curriculum. As homeschoolers, it is often easy to feel that this is what we have to do, too.
However, the goal of homeschooling is NOT to be able to say they finished their curriculum. It IS to help children learn what they need to know to live their lives and to do it well. Curriculum is just a way to teach them what someone thinks every child should know.
So the question,again, is “What does my child NEED to know?”
Question Two: Since this is important for my child to know, what is the best way for them to learn it?
Sometimes a curriculum with the lesson plans laid out step-by-step is a good way to learn a particular subject. However, with a curriculum, it is easy to feel like you are behind and not doing enough because you can’t get it all done. The truth is that teachers in school do not try to do it all. If they get through 75% of the curriculum, they have had a good year!
The beauty of homeschooling is that you can choose which parts of the curriculum will meet your child’s needs. YOU have the freedom to slow down and make sure your child has learned that particular skill or speed up because they are understanding the material quickly.
Question Three: Is my child ready to learn this?
A tailor-made education that meets your child’s needs at their level is the best way to go. Don’t waste your children’s time teaching them things that they already know. Skip that part. Teach them what they don’t know and what they are ready to learn. Just because they are the age for third grade doesn’t mean that you have to use a third grade curriculum. Learning is asynchronous, meaning everyone learns at different levels and different speeds. Find out what your child is ready for and teach that to him or her.
Question Four is a question you need to ask your child: If you could know anything about anything, what would you want to know?
When you ask your children this, their answers might surprise you. Do not scoff or belittle the answers, whatever they are. Ask them what interests them about that subject. Then provide them with the means to learn what they want to know. This honors their natural curiosity and will help them find their passions.
So, as you are planning your school year, be sure to gear your child’s work to what he or she really needs to—or wants to—know, not just what the curriculum dictates. You can have a year filled with learning what is important and do it in a meaningful way.