I recently helped a friend of mine with the decision to homeschool their daughter that just entered kindergarten. They were unhappy with their school for various reasons and decided that they would keep her at home for school. My friends are very excited yet nervous about the decision and asked for some guidance and help with where and how to start.
We sat down and covered the basics:
- Homeschool method of choice – Classical, Unschooling, Waldorf, Montessori…so many to choose from! (BTW, this is a great place to start because this will lead you to the kind of teaching/learning style, curriculum, and environment that will fit your family)
- Co-op or no co-op? What are the local options?
- Curriculum and materials – What to buy? What can I make? There’s so much out there!
- Reading instruction – Quick intro to Phonics vs Whole Language and the latest research
- Daily structure – or lack there of if unschooling
- Daughter’s learning style
- Mom’s teaching style
- Starting points and assessments
- And other such things that come up when talking about homeschooling
Anyway, she had some great questions about planning for subjects and on how to be sure that she would be teaching the things that her daughter needed to know for her age. This is a really common concern and there’s a super easy and free resource that you can use to help guide you in the general direction. Your state standards.
I know, I know…many families homeschool to get away from the state school system. Yet the state standards can be a really helpful guide for parents because it shows you what kids should (developmentally) be learning for each subject by grade level. This doesn’t mean that you have to teach those things or that you can’t go above and beyond those things – but it can really help to give you a big picture of where you want to go for the year and might even give you some ideas for what you want to teach.
So if you have these same concerns as a new homeschooler or if you’re a veteran looking for ideas on what to teach for a certain grade level or subject, then you can definitely get some ideas from this free resource. Check out your state’s standards online by going to your state’s department of education website.
What are some things that you all have done to help you organize or decide what you teach? We’d love to hear from you!
A new school year means a new curriculum for many families. Whether you are just starting out or you’ve decided to try something new, there’s a ton of curricula to choose from. Although I have my favorites, I don’t like to recommend any particular curriculum to anyone because families and children are so different. What works great for one family (or child) might not for another, so it’s really important that you take your time choosing the one that’s best for you and your kids.
So how do you decide? You can start by asking yourself the following questions about the curriculum you are considering for reading instruction (although these could be used for any subject). I’ve put them in order of importance for me…which of course may be different for you!
- Does it fit my child’s learning style? As the learner, your child’s learning styles and preferences should play a major role in deciding what type of curriculum you should buy. Is she more hands on or does she enjoy listening to and discussing stories? Does she do well learning with technology or does she prefer more traditional approaches? Look for a curriculum that uses methods that work best for her.
- Does it fit my teaching style? Although your child’s learning style is a really important deciding factor, you are the teacher and therefore must be comfortable in how you teach the material! Do you like to have things laid out for you in a very structured way (day by day plans, lesson procedures, suggested/provided materials, etc.) or are you more interested in having freedom to choose the what, how, and when of it all? You might even fall somewhere in between – check out question # 5.
- Are the instructional methods solid? By this I mean…Is it a trusted curriculum that has shown good results for many kids? Is it based on reading research? Is it thorough or does it just skim the surface of what you want to teach? Try to do your own research by visiting curriculum fairs, talking to other parents, and reading reviews online (on sites other than the publishers’!).
- Is it fun and engaging? This is huge! This is where schools sometimes have an advantage…there are many fun things a teacher can do with a class of students that parents may not be able to do to at home to keep interest high. So it’s really important that you find something that is fun and keeps your child’s attention. Try to look for curriculum or methods that include things your child loves to learn about. It’s so important for kids to have fun reading!
- Does it allow for flexibility? If you home school, then you know this is a must! Flexibility allows you to change, add, or leave out certain things from your instruction. Some programs only work well if they are followed as is, so you may not see the best results if you decided to tweak it. Just make sure you chose something that lets you have some wiggle room if you need it.
Starting a new curriculum can be very exciting for parents and kids, so have fun with it! Check out what these homeschoolers have to say about it:
A to Z Home’s Cool has some great resources put together to help you avoid wasting money.
Home School Curriculum has descriptions of curricula along with comments and input from parents about each one.
PEAH shares great resources to help you save money and keep you updated on the happenings in the world of homeschool curriculum.
Have a great year!