It’s that time of year again! Yep, the one where people have decided to homeschool because ___________ (insert reason), and they are terrified of messing it all up. Is this you? I completely understand how you feel, because I was too!
You did what any caring parent would, and started researching accredited curriculum and other online programs. So did I. Through that research I realized, that because of the sheer volume of curricula choices available, we had way more control over our kids education than the system would have us believe. Seeing that basic fact helped me come to the conclusion that that a curriculum didn’t have to be accredited to be challenging, thought-provoking, and growth-minded. Heck, there didn’t even have to be a physical, published “curriculum,” and we could choose our own homeschool adventure. So we did, and continue to do so, every day.
Just in case you’re not sure just what a curriculum is just yet, here’s the definition, according to Meriam-Webster
cur·ric·u·lum | \ kə-ˈri-kyə-ləm \
plural curricula\kə-ˈri-kyə-lə \ also curriculums
Definition of Curriculum
1: the courses offered by an educational institution
//the high school curriculum
2: a set of courses constituting an area of specialization
//the engineering curriculum
//the biological sciences curriculum
//the liberal arts curriculum
In any of that definition, do you see a requirement for accreditation? Me neither. Since most of us are taking a more general educational route, at least when our kids are young, we’re not going to look at the specialization part of the definition, although we certainly could if our kids had a particular fondness for a subject. A curriculum is just a course of study. It could be for elementary or middle school, high school or college. It doesn’t have to follow a published curriculum, be accredited, although it could do or be either and both of those things – or neither.
I’m not anti-boxed curriculum – we’ve used some for science, programming, and math and loved them – but I am in favor of choosing your homeschool curriculum wisely. It’s better to spend a couple of months getting to know your kids and their unique styles, than it is to buy a boxed curriculum (or any curriculum) in a panic, or print every free thing you can find. Try individual unit studies, note-booking, and other small purchases that will help you figure things out. There are a number of free resources online, but I stopped downloading freebies unless it was a sample, because I wasn’t using them. I didn’t value them the way I did when I spent the time to research and decide if it was something that would really work for us. It doesn’t have to cost money, it just needs to be something that you have spent the time to research whether it’s right for your family.
Learning is an adventure
I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to teach children as a music teacher, specifically the very young. What I noticed during the last 7-8 years of teaching, is that the best curriculum is one that mimics how they naturally learn. One that is sometimes sneaky in the teaching, and that the teacher can present as an adventure or even a puzzle to solve. Older kids are similar, if more focused in one area or another. This is also natural, because we all encounter things that capture our attention, making us want to learn more – everything we can – about the topic. Their natural desire for exploration and adventure drives their learning; kids are inquisitive, open-minded, and eager to learn. It’s not until they’ve been boxed in by a rigid structure that they learn to be spoon-fed information.
One thing all age groups have in common is the desire to follow the rabbit hole to its logical end. It’s an adventure, complete with twists and turns, “Ah-ha” moments, and more! Every decision you make takes you to a different place. The journey is different for each student, so why would we do the same thing everyone else does? How we get there – whether we prefer hands-on (kinesthetic) learning, visual, auditory, or reading & writing or some combination of several – is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the curriculum we follow or create honors our primary preference for how our kids learn.
So before you decide whether to buy something, buy chunks, or buy nothing – try to understand how your kids prefer to learn. Understand that accreditation does not equal quality or the right approach for your family, and that in most parts of the U.S. you have the freedom to choose – and you can choose your homeschool adventure.