Thursday, April 30, 2009

Guest Post: Three Tips for Curriculum Choices

Today's guest post is from Donna McHugh. She has been married to David for 22 ½ years. Her sons are 20 and 18 years old. Now that homeschooling is done, she spends her spare time writing special programs for churches, hosting traveling missionary families, and entertaining friends, hungry college students and others.

From my years of experience in homeschooling, I have learned a few things by the way of the School of Hard Knocks! I made plenty of mistakes over the years, but learned what worked for our family and what did not. Here are a few tips of things that I figured out that may be of help to you:

Tip #1: Early Springtime is the best time to make curriculum choices, and there are a lot of reasons why I say that. For one thing, waiting until the last minute can delay your school start time and put you behind with your school year. You will also miss a lot of good deals that are offered to early buyers.

You will want to know what you are really looking for when you go to the curriculum sales and fairs, so it is essential that you spend time researching and evaluating before you head out the door or online to shop for curriculum. It is easy to get overwhelmed when you walk into an arena filled with books and vendors vying for your hard earned money. You need to know how much you can afford to spend and what type of curriculum you really need. You need to look beyond the colorful covers to really see if that particular curriculum is the right one for your family. Be careful not to get talked into something just because it has a certain publisher's name on the cover. It may not right for you!

Look back over your homeschooling year so far. What have you accomplished? Was it a good year where you felt happy with the children's progress or were you unsatisfied that the curriculum was too easy or too hard for your child? Have you had a lot of frustrations with the little people in the household? Has your child struggled and struggled over certain concepts and simply did not get it? Was this year's curriculum particularly frustrating to teach? Why? There are answers to these questions. Just because you had struggles did not mean that you were not a good teacher. It may just simply mean that you may not have chosen the right curriculum.

Tip # 2: If your child is struggling with learning, this may be a clue for you. Do not go through the school year struggling every day over something that can be prevented because the curriculum does not speak their language. If it is not right, then start over with something that does speak the child's language. You cannot teach Latin by speaking Greek. If you do not know your child's language, then I would highly recommend that you check out Cynthia Tobias's books. Her book called, “The Way They Learn” , is excellent. In this book she helps you unlock the mysteries of learning and guides you through how to challenge your child to do his or her best. When you speak the child's language, they will thrive! A kinesthetic learner will not learn the same way that an auditory or visual learner will. They think differently than others do, but they are uniquely created by God to do a job that He has designed them to do. You will find that the more children you have, the less likely that they will learn the same way that their siblings do. Some subjects will always be a struggle for some students. For example, math has always been troublesome in this household, so we tried many different curricula. We used textbooks, manipulatives and hands-on curriculum, and math facts set to music (Sing, Spell, Read and Write series for math as a supplement). We tried Saxon math and hated it! We have used video lessons, CDs and anything else that we thought would work. Do not feel that you have to use the same curriculum that your friends use. Remember that every child is different and every family is different in their approach and it is okay to do things your way!

Tip # 3: In these difficult economic times, do whatever you can to stretch the dollars. If you join HSLDA, and I highly recommend that you do, they have a curriculum market that you can buy and sell new and used curriculum and educational materials on it. The advantage to the actual homeschool sites is that you can ask questions before you buy to make sure it is really what you are looking for. There are a lot of other places to get used stuff at reasonable prices too.

Also check out Christian and public schools as well as library book sales for older curricula. We found a lot of good stuff this way including, “The Homeschool Manual”, by Theodore E Wade, Jr. It was an excellent find! It was chock full of ideas and had a standard guide to learning concepts grade by grade. It is a good way to make sure that you are on track with what your child is learning and when they should be able to grasp certain concepts. If you see this book in any edition, grab it! I found it extremely helpful in our homeschool journey.

If you have several children and are limited on finances, then I recommend that you look into unit studies very carefully. Perhaps later on we can discuss the different styles of unit studies and show you the advantages and disadvantages of each. Until next time, have a wonderful, happy homeschool day!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post. We will be starting our formal first year of homeschooling this summer. We have had a lot of fun, but also a lot of confusion, picking our curriculum. We have it ready. It's simple, concise, straight forward, and kind of an all-in-one set. For this year, that's what we need. I thinking our second or third year I will want to personalize it a bit more and will do a pick and choose type approach. But I didn't want to complicate it unnecessarily my first rattle out of the box.