Saturday, August 27, 2011

Curriculum Woes

Now that I have my brain (mostly) back, my mind has, over the past week or two, turned to the issue of homeschool curriculum choices. And to my dismay, I find that I am now having doubts about the selection that I have happily had in mind for the past year or more.

Great timing, considering that I should already have ordered and should be starting in the next week or so!!

My original selection is an award-winning package curriculum that is a "real books" curriculum - for literature, language arts and history, it relies almost exclusively upon real books - that is, books from or based on the time being studied - rather than textbooks.

I find this approach immensely sensible. When I look back over my academic career, I remember almost nothing of the history that I learned from textbooks. Zilch, zero, nada. But I can still remember vivid details of history that I learned from, say, Laura Ingals Wilder books, or Jane Austen, or other period literature. That sort of thing sticks. Textbooks don't, for the most part. 

So I love that part about it. No doubts as to the quality or the approach.

My nagging concern about this program is the time required to implement it. It starts out with a couple of hour a day for kindergarten and skyrockets from there. And while some people might be okay with that, I have always believed that one of the huge benefits of homeschooling is that one can obtain a top-notch education without spending all day doing school. After all, most (or much) time spent in public/private school is often wasted time - sitting and waiting, passing papers out or in, passing period, breaks, etc. It really is possible to get pure academics done in a short amount of time and then leave the rest of a homeschool family's time for "life" things - baking cookies together, going on trips, playing, going to the library, etc. etc. etc. - that's one of the main reasons for homeschooling!

So the thought of having a time-intensive program does worry me, especially as one can expect the time required to mount exponentially when one adds more than one child into the mix.

And then there's the question of whether or not young children even need a formal curriculum. There's a lot of comfort in a prepackaged curriculum, but a lot of my veteran homeschooling friends maintain that young children need only some very basic academics (math and phonics) and then learn the rest of what they need from an active family life that includes tons of activities and trips and other mind-stimulating stuff. And I do concur on that "life" part - kids learn SO much from just being exposed to activities and places.

A dear friend of mine (who has produced two utterly amazing sons, one a geologist and the other a seminarian) maintains that all one needs in order to homeschool young children is a math curriculum and a library card. Considering the results that she has produced, I'm definitely not going to argue with her!

So I'm thinking of just starting this year with a math book and a phonics program, and focusing on filling the rest of our time with fun stuff that's also good for learning - reading aloud, cooking, baking, board games, trips, MOMS Club activities, local events, library, parks, etc. - and then seeing where we go from there.

But I'm not sure. 

Homeschooling mamas out there, I would love to hear from you your opinions!!

Thanks for listening to my rant!!


  1. Just really getting started home-schooling myself (my boys are 5 & 6), bit I have to say that I find myself in philosophical agreement with your experienced friend. My one concern with this approach is that I may miss something, and if I had a set curriculum, I wouldn't. But I also recognize that I can change at any time, so I'm not too worried about it either, because if I find that I'm falling behind, or that I have some holes in my kids' schooling, I can sometime in the future get a "real" curriculum.

    I really, really love the idea of using actual books instead of textbooks to teach.

    Right now, I'm using books we already have to teach reading [these include some "readers" as well as simple books like the Dr. Seuss books, and other books my kids already enjoy being read to]. I use free online worksheets for math, and also flash cards -- and of course real-life situations!

    Here are my "homeschool" bookmarks I've saved [] -- disclaimer I haven't looked at most of these since I saved them, and I haven't actively sought out "the best homeschooling links" -- these were just things that happened to come to my attention, usually by a friend sharing them on facebook.


  2. Oh, yeah, gotta add -- I really like the website -- free stuff (can't beat that!), and this is what I use for the math worksheets, and I'm using their cursive sheets too [I've heard it's better for kids' handwriting if they learn cursive first, since cursive uses the natural circling motion of drawing, while manuscript, or "ball and stick" writing is unnatural].

  3. Last year I used Answers In Genesis for preschoolers and LOVED it! It was fun and easy and only took, at most, 30 minutes a day. It started out really easy and got a little harder as it went on. By the time he was basically doing K work. I can't wait to use this when Baby is old enough.

    For my daughter we have been using AOP (Alpha and Omega Publications) LifePac and Horizons curriculum. She is starting 2nd grade and I just came up with a very flexible schedule that should take us 4 hours to do 6 subjects.
    My son who did AIG last year will be doing 1st grade AOP this year and I have him on the same schedule.

    As a former Homeschooler myself, I would say that yes it does take less time during the day to get your work done, but I am finding that as the kids are young they need me right there being their teacher. I know as they get older they will need me less and less. I can remember being a teen and just doing my work on my own and only needing my mom to grade my work and give me a test.

    Homeschooling is wonderful and I'm sure you will come up with what works the best for you. You can try one thing and if you don't like it there are many others to try.

  4. On there is a code you can use for $50 off.
    Also does your little have a physical therapist? They might be able to get it through their medical equipment company cheaper

  5. Kathy and Janet - Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I will look into the resources and websites you mentioned!

    Juliana - Funny thing you should mention it, my MIL actually decided last night to buy it for us after DH mentioned it (she's combining Christmas and birthday for this one), and we found that coupon!! Didn't think to ask our therapists, but at least we did get the $50 coupon. Well, it should be good for years, at least! And perhaps have a good resale value at the end. :)

  6. I am just about to start loosely using a curriculum similar to what you describe. Because I'm only planning on doing it at half speed initially and I'm already doing various things on a semi regular/ad hoc basis I don't think it's actually going to add much to the work load but I do of course have the advantage that I will have at least a five year age gap so by the time I have to do it with two children, my older daughter should be reading pretty much independently. I went to school but my mum (who told me this because she is against home-educating and thinks you should go to school for socialisation) says that she doesn't think I learned anything at primary level (age 4-11) as she taught me to read/write etc before I started school and whenever I told her some fact and she asked if I'd learned it at school I would always say, "No, I read it in a book" so I figure that reading books is a good way of learning.


I love to hear from you! All kind and thoughtful comments will be published; all inconsiderate or hurtful comments will be deleted quietly without comment. Thanks for visiting!