I think one of the most daunting things about homeschooling is choosing our curriculum. I am a big fan of choice. As many of you know, when we began homeschooling it was a spur of the moment, gut decision, based on the fact that my husband and I felt one of our children was really being damaged within the school system.
Now, this is an unusual entry into Homeschooling. After bringing my child home, I first felt elated that we would be able to protect him. A few minutes later, I was terrified! What have I gotten everyone into? But, throughout, I did have a true feeling of peace about this decision. After praying and I suppose while praying…I immediately began looking up information on the internet about Homeschooling laws and curriculum…anything that could help me help my son.
Luckily for me I easily found several sites that brought me some real help. I found the HSLDA website, where I could research the homeschooling laws in our state and I found The OldSchoolhouse Magazine Website, where I saw many options for teaching resources. I read everything I could find and signed up for tons of email newsletters.
After spending the beginning days figuring out paperwork so I was legal, I continued researching curriculum online. It was already almost May, so I did not return my son’s school books and we just continued to complete the courses my son had been doing at school earlier that year.
Little by little I began to read about different curriculum styles. We hung out at the library–in fact, where we lived they had a Teaching Resource Center at the University. It was awesome–as a homeschool teacher, I was able to use all their supplies, even laminate items:) As part of their program for teachers they had every curriculum that was used throughout the state available to look at by grade. This was very helpful to me, to actually see all their choices–being able to see and hold all those books/dvds/lab stuff–all that gave me information I could use.
As Fall approached, I knew I would need to develop a strong curriculum for my son for the following year as he would be in 8th grade. I prayed a lot and did more research. I have to say, I was relying heavily on the Lord for help…and as usual, he came through for me.
My husband heard that there was a Christian Bookstore in town that sold Homeschool curriculum, so one Saturday, we went in—and got a miracle! We met Kia, who had been a Homeschool mom for years and was also very involved with the local Homeschool group…and she was teaching her 8th grader!
I almost started crying with relief, when she told me what ages she was teaching and offered to help me make some curriculum choices–because she really knew her stuff! She was able to get a feel for our style and keep within my budget (which was very slim:) We left the store that day with a hand-written list for a wonderful schedule for my son. It is funny, looking back at the list, because it turned out to be almost perfect for him. I really suspected the woman might be an angel when she also hand-delivered some curriculum to me so I did not even need to purchase it. One book, Educating the Wholehearted Child, was given to me by Kia and helped develop my overall thoughts on education.
Looking back, I now know Kia recommended the eclectic teaching style—we were drawing from many different types of resources.
Well, that year passed very quickly—and we all survived…and in many ways, also thrived. We got involved with our co-op and were able to take some classes with that. My son met other teens he could hang out with and I quizzed each one of them about their curriculum! We all learned a bit about what type of curriculum worked for him. (I learned about his need for auditory and kinesthetic curriculums).
When I began to plan this year, I was feeling much more knowledgeable about making curriculum and extracurricular choices. I loved having the freedom to choose items like Mystery of History, where we got to read aloud and build things while learning our history. At this point, I had some expensive curriculum tastes…but my husband was laid off. So, I had to go back to the drawing board and I began my planning by seeing what resources I already owned and what might fit that was inexpensive.
Yet again, God provided a miracle for our curriculum. I was able to participate in the TOS Crew–a group I absolutely adore! In this capacity, I get to review homeschooling products and curriculum. So, I get to see all kinds of learning goodies. And this year, some of our plans have changed because of products I received. But, I am getting ahead of myself!
To nail down a plan for this year’s curriculum, I went to the HSLDA website and read everything they had on Homeschooling thru High School, and downloaded the information they have on “Developing a Plan for High School.” I used that information for a rough outline, making sure that we cover things that follow a college bound path over the next few years.
I also pulled out some planning sheets—I basically used a top down approach, listing the big courses he would need for college and then getting more detailed with which exact courses worked for us and would fill the requirements.
I have gone through a few different types of planning sheets, but I ended up using some from The TOS 2009 Schoolhouse Planner—Anyway, on these sheets my husband and I brain stormed about our overall Educational Objectives– then went to Yearly Goals and finally, draw up our actual Course of Study for this year. I really love the ideas and forms from the Clarkson’s on Whole Heart Online. You can even find some free pdf’s to help you plan. You can also find some free planning resources here on Donna Young’s website.
During the first semester this year, my son also worked through a college and career course. During this course, I had him make some decisions about his future plans and he worked on figuring out what electives and foreign languages he would like to take. He went ahead and filled out a rough Four Year High School Plan and began looking into what courses he can take at the local community college while he is still in high school.
We continue to tweak our schedule as I get products to review and as we become aware of new opportunities in this area. For example, I recently got an email asking if my son wants to join in a Page Program at the State Capitol. I’m looking into this as he would certainly learn some things about government while he did this. I also changed his math this year when I reviewed ALEKS. He did so much better learning their way that we chucked his old math and bought that one. (And that one is nice for me as a record keeper, because they meet state standards and send me records).
Now, with my preschooler, I have even more options and more time…some very different plans…but that’s for another post! I have focused so much more on my older child, as I knew I did not have much time to get in there and teach him to love learning. But, now I am gearing up to do more for my 4 year old. It helps a ton that she already knows how to read–something she picked up herself! (Well, kind of…we read out loud alot during school and her father has always read to her at bedtime–one night she just picked up the book and told him she was going to read. We were surprised and thought she had memorized it, but after testing her with some new books, we realized she can read!)
I know our path for Homeschooling, so far, has not been a clear cut one. There are so many paths out there. I think the main thing I’d like to share is that you can teach your child. You know what your child is like and from there it is just a matter of research to figure out what tools they need in order to succeed. There are so many resources available in this internet age.
I’m looking forward to reading some other people’s ideas on how they decide what to teach!
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