February is at our door, which means it is time to start looking for next year’s curriculum. Over the years, I have followed these 5 steps to guide me on my research to select a curriculum.
When the first day of school comes, it is the result of months of work and research. The amount of information available is overwhelming. I heavily rely on my strengths and life experience to narrow down the choices. This is my foundation. Homeschooling is a challenge, so I broke it down into a step by step process. This has aided and clarified my decision making. My passion is to share it with you, to help you down the path of homeschooling…
I know following these steps will build a solid foundation for my daughters’ education. It gives me confidence in the multitude of decisions on their upcoming curriculum. It is that confidence, my foundation, and months of research that will lead us to a successful first day of school in August.
How do I do it!
STEP 1: OUTLINE the year with my mission statement and our GOALS
In my first year of homeschooling, I didn’t do this step. Don’t take me wrong, we reached our goals, learned and finished everything on time.
I opted for a box curriculum (Timberdoodle) and followed it. I needed this basic approach to get my feet under me and see if this was the right educational choice for our family. It also gave me time to do more research into various methods of education here at home and around the world.
Why an outline?
Outlining our year gives us the big picture of what is to come. We mainly highlight days of school, days off of school, Holidays, vacation time, field trips, testing, whatever else life might bring.
Mission Statement and Goals
Take the time you need to define your yearly mission statement. It focuses on your family’s educational endeavors. For us throughout our school year, we will have ups and downs. The motivation might be harder some days. Or simply when I’m wondering exactly why I am doing this, and the girls are losing focus. Our mission statement brings it back to basics. It is typed on the wall to see.
What do I write in our mission statement?
- I prioritize our core values and how we visualize our upcoming year.
- Reasons why we decided to homeschool.
How do I determine our goals?
- First, what are our goals? (Reading a favorite book or that challenging Math concept)
- Short term goals (Focusing on an educational strength to be able to focus on a weakness)
- Long term Goals (Learning a Foreign Language or Cursive Writing)
Look at your goals in the context of:
- What do I want to achieve?
Then, we discuss goals with the girls. Each of them has their own goals written down. Their goals are academic, personal and social. This gives them a point of accomplishment when it is reached.
With this on the “chalkboard”, now it is time to head to step 2
STEP 2: How I personalize each educational program?
Throughout the years my daughters’ learning of subjects, attention span, and concentration has changed. My daughters learn differently and even their learning patterns have changed, slightly, but there is a noticeable difference from year to year.
Now, I take into consideration what grade they are going into?
What were their successes and difficulties from the previous year?
How are they learning now? Do they like to work sitting or standing? With music or in silence? Understanding your children’s learning style(s) and applying it is crucial to a successful journey.
Through them and their results, I have been shown what works and what does not. Following these steps over the past few years has led me to our Math, Literature and even English Grammar programs. These programs work for us and best of all the girls love them. You must find the right educational program for you and your children. So, take the time to see what works best. Personalizing their education is the beauty of this opportunity to homeschool.
Step 3: What subjects will I be teaching and how do I want to teach them (approach)?
Depending on the grades of your children, what subjects you will be teaching can differ. For example, in grades 4 & 6 we are going to cover these subjects.
- Language Arts
- History & Social Studies
Once I have narrowed down my list. I take every subject and figure out how I want to teach them. Do they need more manipulatives? Do we want to do hands-on science with a little writing? For handwriting practice do I use a text where they already love talking about it? Homeschooling gives you the knowledge of your children’s learning style, and soon these questions will start answering themselves.
Once I have organized all my thoughts, then I am ready for step #4.
STEP 4: What is going to be our trips, activities, …
This is my favorite step to plan. Are we planning any trips, field trips, special activities? We love learning in our curriculum but learning on the go, doing activities or games is a fantastic change. These alternative learning opportunities are so much fun. It is a great affirmation to see in the “Real World” how your children are progressing.
We have a good list of “outside” home learning experiences, and it is part of our normal routine. Also, taking the time to change the learning environment through other methods. You do not need to leave the house, all the time. Something I started not too long ago is Gameschooling. It is a great example of changing the learning dynamic. In our weekly routine, we plan time for board games. Our schooling does not stop while we go out and about. We will do Carschooling. It is as simple as bringing some schoolwork that the kids can do on the way to and from the destination.
And here is a great tip. A list of those activities that bring joy to your family is very useful. Especially, when you need to take a break to refocus or celebrate finishing a block of instruction early. These activities make for memorable family time and even better learning experience too.
Step 5: What method(s) will I choose to teach these subjects. SHOPPING TIME?
This fifth and last step is by far the most overwhelming and confusing step of all. Take a breath and believe in the plan you developed.
There are so many ways to introduce new subjects to the kids. Therefore, taking the time to do the first four steps is critical. Those steps will give you focus. It is less difficult to go through the volumes of information out there when you have a plan. You will be able to determine what works best for your family. Is it going to be…
- Workbook curriculums
- Online Curriculums
- Hands-On manipulatives
- Or a mix of all of them
For us, we do a mix of workbooks, hands-on manipulatives, and trips. It has had the most positive impact and is very motivational for the girls.
This is a journey so start simple and find out what works. You will have good and bad days. Every day will give you more information on how to educate your children and you will become a better home educator. Keep at it and start working on the first four steps. The fifth will become a breeze, as you develop more experience and confidence as an educator.
Let’s talk about workbooks and curriculums.
Where to buy?
Now let the fun begin, which curriculum and where do I buy it?
Online you have a wide variety of sites that offer great resources. Over the year I have my favorite go-to sites. They offer great books that suit the method the girls excel at while learning.
- Book Shark
Also, these sites offer a curriculum in a box. If you choose this, a site can give you all your subjects and activities. I did this my first year and it is a perfect starting point. It will let you settle in and the children to have a structure to follow. Now, this is important, use the time to educate yourself this first year at home. Your education as a home educator will not stop. You will discover so many other amazing resources out there and of course, you will learn from your children. This is what I love about being a home educator. I hope you will too.
For us, I have found out it is easier to make our curriculum from different providers. I love browsing through Rainbow Resources, Homeschool Buyers Co-Op,…. I didn’t develop this level of confidence in my daughters’ education from the beginning. Just like my daughters, I am learning. The adage of learning from your students is so true. I have developed into an educator, a coach, a principle, and of course a better Mama.
For all of us, if it is your first or 10th year of homeschooling, finding the next year’s curriculum is nerve-racking and overwhelming. Ask questions, use the resources that are available to you. Get organized and start early! Believe in yourself and find what works best for you and your children.