Monday, August 2, 2010

NOT Back to School Blog Hop ~ Curriculum!

This is a re-post of an article that first appeared back in May.  It's far more useful than anything 'new' that I could share!

I have said the same thing about a dozen times over the last few days in various venues and it's finally occurred to me that if I'd just post about it, that would be an easier way to communicate the thoughts.


Yes, I am a slow learner.

Curriculum choices . . . I have a catalog that boasts 1300 pages of book/curriculum choices. How does one sift through all that? How can you wade through the stuff that you're not interested in and whittle down the decisions to a manageable few?

Yes, teaching methodology (classic, government model, Thomas Jefferson Education, Charlotte Mason, etc) will help direct you a bit. But even then, how do you sharpen the focus on your curriculum decisions?

Parameters are your friend!

Think about what you want for your children, for your family, your budget, your teaching style, your sanity, etc. Write down the kinds of things that are important to you and find curriculum that fits within as many of your parameters as possible.

Here are the parameters for my family - just for an example:

1. Timelessness.

We're building a family library. The government libraries are falling hard and fast, and I would like to make it a little easier for my children to home educate their children, not only as far as finding great books, but also financially. I've already paid for the curriculum, why not keep it and bless my grandchildren with it as well? (Certainly my children may choose something else, but at least they'll have the option.) Can you imagine how great it would be if you could just say, "Mom, I'm starting Johnny's academic career this month, can I swing by and pick up some entry level curriculum?" Fabulous! So - for us, curriculum has to be timeless. No trendy fluff that will be outdated in 5 years.

2. Primarily Non-consumable.

I'm not interested in having to buy the same book for each of my four children, when a more careful purchase (or management of said purchase) will enable me to get through all four plus some of the next generation. If it's wonderful, but I can't legally copy it, then we use it as a text book and copy work onto loose leaf paper. Slipping pages into sheet protectors to work with a dry erase pen is also an idea.

3. Does Not Require Full Purchases Every Year for 12+ Years.

There is enough money to be spent through out the academic careers of your children - why reduce yourself to secular humanism's 'grade levels' and thus sign yourself up to have to buy full loads every year for 12 plus years? Yes, there are things you're going to have to buy every year, but I really like to avoid this like the plague.

4. Curriculum is conducive to teaching several levels simultaneously.

I have four children, on about 3 different levels, give or take. I'm not interested in juggling explorer history on a grammar level over here, creation history on a dialectic level over there, and ancient China with my rhetoric student on the other side. That's insane!

5. It must encourage the child to eventually take over their own education.

6. Must be teachable by someone who only carries a mediocre education at best.

So, given our family parameters, here's what we use ~ these things meet at least two of our four parameters . . .

SPINE
Tapestry of Grace
1. Timeless
2. Non consumable
3. Only major purchases 4 times
4. Lower Grammar through Rhetoric
5. Lends itself to student initiative.
6. VERY teachable.

SCIENCE
Apologia Science
1. Timeless
2. Non consumable
3. 15 choices - purchase as you are interested, not "K-12"
4. Lower Grammar through Rhetoric
5. Lends itself to student initiative. 
6. VERY teachable.

MATH
Saxon Math/Math U See
1. Timeless
2. Non consumable or can be made so.
3. You're going to have to purchase as your child's ability advances.
4. Can't really do this with math.
5. Lends itself to student initiative.
6. VERY teachable, Saxon via DIVE cds, and Math U See almost teaches itself.

PHONICS
Explode the Code Workbooks
1. Timeless
2. Non consumable or can be made so.
3. You're going to have to purchase as your child's ability advances.
4. Can't really do this with phonics.
5. Lends itself to student initiative. 
6. VERY teachable.

SPELLING
Spelling Power
1. Timeless
2. Non consumable.
3. One purchase for entire academic career.
4. Can't really do this with spelling.
6. VERY teachable.

WRITING
Write Source Handbooks
1. Timeless
2. Non consumable.
3. One purchase can cover a few levels.
4. You can double up a bit here.

5. Lends itself to student initiative.
6. VERY teachable.

No, I'm not saying everyone should use what I use. I'm just trying to share how to take your parameters and fit curriculum within them. It really is nice to automatically have loads of choices sorted out, and only be left with a few to really consider and pray through. It's much more manageable!

Interested in more thoughts on curriculum?  Look here!

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Please . . . Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Eph 4:29