Thursday, May 3, 2012

Creating Your Own Curriculum, Part 2-- Information Gathering

(This is part of a series of posts on writing your own curriculum. Please see Part 1 for more information.)

Goals direct your choice in curriculum materials.  They help you make decisions when faced with more than one resource or class.  They guide how you apportion your time on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis.  While they serve as “driving directions” for your learning, they are like their transportation counterparts in that they may change due to the reality of construction and new development.  In that sense, homeschooling goals are also flexible, you can change and adapt them as needed.

The first step in writing goals is to do some personal information gathering.  On a piece paper or in your head (because, hey, who has time to sit down and write?), consider your response to the following questions:
  •  Why did you begin homeschooling in the first place?  What was different or special about the experience that you were looking forward to?  
  •  Is there a particular philosophy of learning that you try to incorporate into your homeschooling?  What are your beliefs about children and life?
  • What is your child’s learning style?  Is your child very physical?  Does he love to read?  Is she fascinated by numbers?  Does your child tend to pick things apart to see the details or get the big picture first?  (An excellent resource for exploring learning styles is Discover Your Child's Learning Style by by Mariaemma Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson.)
  • What kind of structure is your family accustomed to?  Do you have a very regular schedule or does it vary?  Does everyone get up and go to sleep at the same time every day?  Do you tend to be “morning people” or “evening people”?
  • What is your child doing and learning right now that is exciting?  What mistakes do you notice that show he is trying to figure something out or apply something new?  What do you notice that your child can do independently now and what does she still need assistance to do?
  • What curriculums and resources have you used before with success?  What didn’t work
  • What is coming up in your life in the next year?  New baby?  Big trip?  A move?
  • What does your child think?  What is she interested in right now?  What would he like to learn more about? 

By now you should have current snapshot of your child in your head, some ideas about where you’ve been on your learning journey, and some thoughts about where you are going.  To further develop a picture of where you might be going, consider looking at a  “scope and sequence” or list of skills for each grade level.  This optional step is most useful for those who favor a more structured approach.  World Book describes a typical course of study for each grade level.  Rebecca Rupp’s book, Home Learning Year by Year, also lists skills for each grade level.  Your state’s standards can also be used as a resource.  The Well Trained Mind by by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise describes the sequence of a classical curriculum.  As you look at these resources, also consider a grade or two above and below your child as grade listings can be fairly arbitrary.  Mainly, you are looking for some ideas of what skills tend to precede and follow each other.

In the next post, I'll describe how to write goals for your homeschooling.

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