Choosing Homeschool Curriculum

 

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“Education costs money, but then so does ignorance.” Sir Claus Moser

Before you purchase curriculum, do some homework! There is a lot of curriculum available to homeschoolers and it can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you are doing. Here are some steps you can take to help you choose the best curriculum for your family.

Try this simple Step by step guide to choosing curriculum.

Assess Your Child's Current Level

Access your child's Learning Style.

Choose a Teaching Method

Here is an interesting video to watch before deciding on your curriculum. Although this is told for a school audience, there are a lot of good points in here:

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Determine What Courses Your Child Needs:

  • Oklahoma law states children must be taught reading, writing, math, science, citizenship, U.S. Constitution, health, safety, physical education, and conservation. These requirements can be met using textbooks, library books, hands-on projects, or through a co-op, online, or correspondence class. See Curriculum Recommendations for more information. Read over Oklahoma PASS (Priority Academic Student Skills) for your child's grade level. Keep in mind that we are not required to keep these standards; however, as homeschoolers, it is not difficult to meet these requirements and more.

  • Check out the Typical Course of Study (created by Worldbook) for information about what subjects are taught when in a typical school. You are not required to follow this nor do all schools teach according to the same sequence. Use this for a guide only.

  • High school graduation requirements for Oklahoma public schools are posted on the Oklahoma State Department of Education website.

  • Other states - check out the HSLDA websites for requirements.

What is a Scope and Sequence?

A scope and sequence is a road map for what to teach when. Scope and sequences are written by educators/publishers who have predetermined goals or outcomes that they desire their graduates to attain. They base their scope and sequences on these predetermined outcomes, which is a good plan. However, the specific goals chosen by these educators may or may not be the same as you desire for your child. Secular curriculum publishers ask themselves questions such as: What do children need to be taught in order to benefit society as a whole? What will train these children be be good servants in a global economy? There is no consideration for God or His gifts and callings on the child’s life. Christian curriculum publishers do better in that they make room for God and plan for their graduates to know how to serve Him; however, because they are writing for classroom situations, it is necessary that it be mainly a “one-size fits all” type of curriculum.

The homeschooling family has the advantage in that they can customize a scope and sequence to meet the specific needs, gifts, and callings of each of their children. Here are two examples:

  • Mrs. Green has twin, six year old boys, one who loves school and workbooks, the other struggles with reading, writing, and arithmetic. Children mature in different areas at different ages. Some children learn to read early, as early as four years old; others struggle for years and finally click in sometime between age eight and eleven. (This "delayed learner" is often gifted in some other areas that schools do not necessarily address.) This is normal. (For more information on this, read Dr. Raymond Moore's book, “Home Grown Kids.”) The child who is an early learner and works well with workbooks will do great with curriculum such as Horizon Math, A Beka reading, and similar curriculum. The child who is a delayed learner will not do well with this type of curriculum. (Thomas Edison was this type of learner. He spent his early years being read to and working in his “lab.” Read his biography if you have a delayed learner.) If Mrs. Green follows a scope and sequence from most curriculum publishers, both children would take nearly the same subjects in elementary school; one would get good grades and appear to be a great student; the other would get bad grades and appear to be “learning disabled”.

  • Mrs. Brown has two teenage children, one who desires to become a lawyer and the other who wants to start his own graphics art studio. The student who wants to become a lawyer needs to study more history, government, and college preparatory math than the one who want to be the business owner. The business owner would benefit from taking more courses in art, advertising, marketing, accounting, and business management. If Mrs. Brown followed a scope and sequence from most curriculum publishers, both children would take nearly the same courses during their high school years.


The best solution is to create your own scope and sequence and mix and match curriculum to suit each child’s individual needs. The Checklist was written to help you with this. (Be sure to read multi-level teaching for more information on creating your own lesson plans.)

If you're not that brave, and most of us weren't when we first started, the next best solution is to purchase a curriculum written specifically for homeschoolers. I recommend using one of the unit study programs written by home school families such as Tapestry of Grace, My Father's World, Five in a Row, Sonlight, or TRISMS. (I do not recommend school curriulum - Christian or Secular - for first-year homeschoolers. It has been written for classroom use and becomes very overwhelming to new homeschoolers.) Once you get the idea of how to do it, you WILL get braver your second year. You will be better able to judge how to use whatever curriculum you purchase or even create your own!

Questions to ask before purchasing textbooks:

  • Are you the type of person who likes to "do it yourself?" If so, you will prefer a mix and match curriculum and writing your own lessons plans after you figure out how to do it. You are the type of person who will love using The Checklist! See Curriculum Recommendations for specific curriculum suggestions.

  • Consider the time you have available. Do I work part time? Have an in-home business? Volunteer? Have a newborn? Many young children? Children on several grade-levels? If time is short, you will need to incorporate multi-level teaching as much as possible. See Multi-Level Teaching for more information. You are the type of person who will benefit from using The Checklist, depending on your own learning/teaching style. Check into homeschool co-ops, local community courses that are open to homeschoolers, and online or video courses. (Caution: Watch your travel time. Driving to courses here and there can take up more time than you have available.)

  • What budget do you have for buying curriculum? If you are stretched thin in your budget, look for used curriculum and make use of the local library. Unit studies can be cheaper than traditional textbooks. You may be the type of person who will benefit from using The Checklist depending on your own learning/teaching style. You might also benefit from using freebies on the Internet. If you have a larger budget, you'll want to take advantage of technology, educational games and other enrichment resources.

  • Is your education lacking in a particular subject area? Don't be afraid to homeschool if this is you. I learned as much as my children did during our homeschooling years. We learned together! If you are willing to learn together, you are the type of person who will benefit from using The Checklist. See Curriculum Recommendations for suggestions of textbooks. If you don't have the time to learn together, I suggest participating in a homeschool co-op (check your local homeschool group for info), enrolling your students in local community courses, online classes or video courses. Perhaps you have a family member who is skilled in a particular subject who would be willing to teach that subject. PLEASE NOTE: Hiring a tutor for every subject is NOT homeschooling. Paid tutors fall under different regulations than homeschools. Check your state laws for information.

  • What is your learning style? What is your child's learning style? For more information on choosing curriculum based on learning style, go to Choosing Curriculum Based on Learning Styles. You may or may not be the type of person who will benefit from using The Checklist depending on your own learning/teaching style.

  • Does your child have a physical disability or a diagnosed learning problem? If so, you will need to seek help from professionals and experienced homeschool parents who deal with these problems. See Special Education. You may or may not be the type of person who will benefit from using The Checklist, depending on your own learning/teaching style.

  • Do you need step by step instructions? You will probably prefer a correspondence course such as Sonlight, K-12, Alpha-Omega, Bob Jones, A Beka Books, Calvert, and prepared unit studies. See Textbook Publishers. You probably will not be the type of person who will benefit from using The Checklist, at least this year! Much of the Oklahoma Homeschool website is geared for the do-it-yourselfer. For more information on tradition curriculum, I recommend that you attend a curriculum fair, local bookstores, or a local support group for more information.

  • I recommend that you go through this Step by Step Guide to Choosing Curriculum before purchasing any textbooks.
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Plan Your Year

Set Some Goals. The Bible says in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, my people perish.” (Perish means to go wild in the sense of wandering.) Write up a list of goals you want your child to accomplish by the end of the year. Ask yourself questions such as these:

    Is my child able to read fluently?

    Can he communicate clearly in writing?

    Does he know his basic math?

    Is he able to do the math needed to take care of his personal financial needs?

    What do I want him to learn this year about God and His creation?

    What are my child's specific gifts, strengths, and weaknesses?

    Does my child have the necessary spiritual training to serve God personally, in his family, in his church, and in his community?

    Does my child have good work habits and the skills needed to support a family?

    What courses does he need to complete high school?

    What kind of post-high school education will my child need in order to pursue his professional, technical, or ministerial career goals.

Use The Checklist to help you determine what your child has already mastered and give you an idea on what to focus on this year.

Based on the answers to the questions above, design a scope and sequence that will meet the specific needs of your child. Look over the Sample Curriculum Plan.

Keep in Mind That No One Can Learn All There is to Know. We are in the Information Age. Statistics show that the combined knowledge of the world (all the knowledge acquired since the world began) has doubled in the last two years and will double again in the next two years. Curriculum publishers pick and choose what topics they will cover each year based on their perception of the needs of the school community. Frequently, in order to make it appear that the students are learning “everything they need to know”, they condense a topic that should be covered in several chapters into one or two paragraphs or sentences. I recommend that you cover less topics per year but spend more time covering those topics in detail. Your child will learn more and retain it longer. See Multi-level Teaching for more information.

Stick to your plan. Make a list of curriculum you want to purchase each year. Don’t deviate after talking with another mom who uses something different! She has different children with different learning styles and different goals.

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Read about Multi-level Teaching or Recordkeeping or Go to Curriculum Recommendations or Curriculum - How to Purchase

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Copyright © 2004 - by Cindy Downes