3 Tips for Choosing Homeschool Curriculum

It’s homeschool curriculum shopping time! Whee! I am a complete planning nerd. I’ve probably spent thousands of dollars on curriculum over the past few years. But, even though I plan and purchase in advance, I generally end up with a problem.

The curriculum was either too boring, too complicated, too easy, or too much work. I got so frustrated that I started just giving away materials to try to thin out my “stock” so I could decide what I actually needed to buy.

And that’s when I realized that I had been going about curriculum shopping all wrong. So, I’m sharing three tips for choosing homeschool curriculum with you all today! Maybe you’ll learn from my mistakes. :)

Tips for Choosing Homeschool Curriculum

3 Tips for Choosing Homeschool Curriculum

1. Consult your kids.

Before I go any further, let me clarify what I do not mean. I do not mean that your kids should decide which curriculum you purchase. But, as we talked about in our homeschool planning post last month, our kids do have valuable input to share. And since they’ll be the ones actually using the curriculum, it’s good to find out what they like and what they hate so you can consider those things as you shop.

2. Consider your teaching style.

Another important tip for homeschool curriculum shopping is to think about the way you teach. Are you a lecturer? If so, you might not love a program that includes a lot of hands-on activities. Do you hate assigning worksheets? Maybe you could look for a curriculum that uses other ways to retain information (projects, manipulatives, oral reports). If you hate teaching a program, odds are you won’t stick with it for long.

3. Think outside the “box”.

It can be very, very tempting to purchase a packaged curriculum for your homeschool. These are generally “all-in-one” boxed programs that include books and materials for every school subject you’ll teach. And I’ll be honest – having everything already planned for you is a huge time-saver.

But it can also be limiting, especially if you like your kids to experience a relaxed way of learning. If boxed curriculum works for you, by all means go for it! But if it’s a bad fit, feel free to piece subjects together using resources that are a better match for your kids.

How do you go about choosing homeschool curriculum for your family? Share your tips in the comments!

Selena (11 Posts)

Selena is a homeschooling graduate, a former tax accountant, and a homeschooling mom to four super special kids. She and her husband, Jay, practice eclectic homeschooling to keep their ADHD learners engaged! You can keep up with Selena by following her blog Look! We're Learning! on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Plus.


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5 Tips for Planning Your Homeschool Year

It’s that time of year again! The summer season is upon us and, for many homeschoolers, that means summer planning time! I’ll be taking the summer to plan our upcoming homeschool year (our seventh!). So I thought I’d share some of the tips for planning your homeschool year that have worked for us.

And before you give me any credit for these, just remember: A lot of these were from trial and error. So I tried something, it didn’t work, and now I know what to do instead. Learn from my mistakes! :)

5 Tips for Planning Your Homeschool Year

5 Tips for Planning Your Homeschool Year

1. Look back at last year.

Have you completed your year-end homeschool assessment? Do that before you get started on next year. Take a look at what worked, what failed, and what you didn’t have a chance to complete. Use these ideas as a starting point for next year’s lessons.

2. Outline what you want your kids to learn.

Now it’s time to make a list of all the things you feel your kids should learn next year. Start with your state’s required objectives (if you have any) and then add on from there. You might base this on their grade level, age range, or degree of responsibility.

3. Ask your kids what they want to learn.

Next, have a family meeting and have your kids write down all the things they want to learn for themselves. Their answers might surprise you! And while you probably won’t be able to get to everything they ask for, you can try to weave in at least one of their desired topics a week.

4. Shop for curriculum.

Once you have your list of things to learn, it’s time for the fun part: curriculum shopping! Request a free catalog from every homeschooling curriculum provider you can think of. Then sit down with a highlighter and select everything that matches your educational goals. Set a firm budget, then go back and make your final selections.

5. Plan for the first six weeks only.

When you receive your curriculum or when you finish assembling your resources, get out your lesson planner and plan the first six weeks of class ONLY. It can be tempting to plan the entire year, but that has never worked for our family. Generally, we end up tweaking the curriculum and our schedule within the first one or two months, so I plan the first six weeks and then go from there.

Do you have any tips for planning a homeschool year? Share them in the comments!

 

 

 

Selena (11 Posts)

Selena is a homeschooling graduate, a former tax accountant, and a homeschooling mom to four super special kids. She and her husband, Jay, practice eclectic homeschooling to keep their ADHD learners engaged! You can keep up with Selena by following her blog Look! We're Learning! on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Plus.


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Why Child Led Learning is About Chasing Rabbits (and 8 Ways to Make it Happen)

This post originally appeared on VibrantHomeschooling.com. Click here to view the original post.

Have you ever been on a “rabbit trail” with your child?

My guess is that you have. Kids are made to be naturally curious, and “rabbit trails” are what many people call “child led learning.”


How can child led learning happen... naturally? Check out these 8 ways to encourage child led learning (or what I like to call "rabbit trails"). Vibrant Homeschooling

 

At its core, child led learning is simply following a child’s learning curiosity.

I like to think of it as all the unplanned (yet exciting) adventures that Alice has following the White Rabbit throughout Wonderland. Child led learning brings freshness and joy to education. It really is the fastest ticket to creating life-long learners (and leaders), which are two of my top goals as a homeschooler teacher.

So why are we moms continually tempted to squelch this type of learning? Come on… I can’t be the only one out here.

Ah yes, because we’re the responsible ones. The ones who must keep the family engine humming along at breakneck speed so that everyone can get to swim class by 4:00 and dinner at 6:30. We know that if we do allow the kids to pull out that big box of electronic gear to tinker with, not only is there going to be a big mess to clean up, but some other “ultra-important” school worksheet isn’t going to get done.

Ahem.

About 2 years ago, I came to the realization that I’d sucked the fun out of our school. A big part of that was because, in order to maintain some sort of “control” over our school time, I’d accounted for every minute of our school day and deemed each and every assigned task as critical to complete.

So it was no wonder that I became unglued when the kids wanted to dig in deeper on a subject or to explore some random topic in the middle of the day. Everything on our “list” needed. To. Get. Done. (Been there?).

So I began experimenting. What if we chose to learn about dolphins for the day (based on my daughter’s whim)? Or spent the day collecting autumn leaves (because the kids were right—they were so beautiful outside) and made some sort of project with them? Would our little homeschooling world stop turning if we had to, in turn, not get everything done on our “list” that day? I mean, really?

Little by little, I began stepping outside my homeschooling box. Instead of viewing “rabbit trails” as burdens to push through, I began welcoming these unexpected learning adventures. Now I’m choosing to see them as God’s way of lightening and brightening our days.

Like any good rabbit trail, you never know when they will pop up, or exactly where they will take you. Here’s an example of one from earlier this morning.

One Example of Child Led Learning

This morning I found my eight-year-old coloring a picture of a peacock from a coloring book. “Mom, can we look up peacocks on the internet? I want to see the exact colors of their feathers,” he said as I was preparing breakfast.

“Sure, OK,” I said. He pulled up some pictures on his iPod and began ooohing and ahhhing as he shared them with me.

A few wheels started churning in my head. What if we… I began thinking.

Wait! Caution, interrupted my Type-A schedule mom-side. Rabbit trails ahead!

I consciously decided to ignore Ms. Type-A and officially showed my son the rabbit trail I’d found. “Well, what would you say if we went to see some real peacocks this morning… in person?”

His eyes brightened. “What do you mean? Like at the zoo?”

“No, I mean actually walk around with them. Take our own pictures of them.” I began telling him about an outdoor area literally 5 minutes from our house where dozens of peacocks congregated. (Then I honestly felt bad that I’d never taken him there before! I mean, it was super close!)

Of course he said yes. Then, as the news traveled through the house that we were going to “walk with peacocks,” the excitement for our rabbit trail grew.

Two hours later, the kids and I left the “peacock park” overheated from the late August weather (and from chasing our new exotic bird friends, of course) but beaming from ear to ear. We each held huge feather plumes, and had several amazing tales about our individual interactions with the peacocks:

“I got a great photo of one spreading his plumes open!”

“I saw a mommy one with three babies!”

Plus we got to talk to some of their caretakers and even I’d learned a few things (“Did you know they love to hunt for snakes?” I told my husband later). Back at home, we repurposed an old green bottle into a stylish vase so they could proudly display their four-foot-long iridescent feathers.

Did it take long? Maybe an hour out of our day, tops. But it did take me being willing to (possibly) let go of other scheduled homeschool tasks. But look at all we got out of it: a hands-on science lesson, some great photos (not to mention really pretty room decorations that they can’t stop talking about), and some great memories together.

I didn’t know that simply saying yes to this rabbit trail would net all of this. I just chose to be open to it and watched the learning experience unfold.

Making Child Led Learning Practical and Possible

I’ll admit that our family can’t chase rabbits everyday, but when we do, I’m always amazed at the blessings we incur.

So, fellow homeschoolers, I’m officially giving you permission to ditch the schedule (even if only for an hour or so) and to chase some rabbits with your kids. Here are some tips for helping you discover, embrace and enjoy child led learning with your kids!

1) Follow their current whims.

Maybe it’s something they’re into for the moment (like my son’s very random interest today in peacocks) or something they’ve loved for a long time. Be sensitive to their cues.

2) Be on the lookout for child led learning adventures.

Be on the lookout for rabbit trail “entrances”—experiences or activities that could turn a kid’s fascination into a great learning experience. I am a Christian, and I am always blown away at the number of times that I hear God whisper in my ear about some cool resource or project to explore that I know my kids would love (like today’s foray to the “peacock park”). Pinterest is a great place to collect all those potential rabbit trails (you can follow my ideas here). I love when rabbit trails come out of left field (and when we have the time and patience to go on the hunt).

3) Be willing to let go of the reigns a little.

Child led learning opportunities are good practice for me in letting my kids lead in their education. Where will we go? Where will we end up? What exactly will we do? Usually I have an idea of how things will play out, but they almost always turn out differently then how I’d imagined and that’s because I allow my kids to follow their own wanderings and discoveries.

4) Give yourselves a timeframe for the child led learning.

Sure, allow them to do X, Y and Z but tell them that we’re only going to do it during this timeframe. You don’t have to completely abandon your lesson plans for the day (unless you want to). However, be willing to sacrifice something else (or to accomplish it at another time if need be) so that you can enjoy the beauty of the learning “chase.”

5) Start out small.

You certainly don’t have to chase rabbits every day. Maybe you only choose to follow the winding paths of exploratory learning once a month. As the months pass, you might choose to slowly incorporate more times, or once-a-month might be enough for your family.

6) Give yourself permission to not follow every rabbit trail.

Honestly, there are days when I don’t have the extra gumption (or patience) needed to let child-led learning take over. Relative structure and rhythm are still vital elements in our school because I see how they too help my kids thrive. So I try to strike a balance between the structure and unstructured, and give myself permission to say no if it just won’t work out that day.

7) Make your own “rabbit trail” on days when the regular plan just ain’t workin’.

We’ve all had those difficult days when grouchy attitudes, the “but I don’t understands!” and “I don’t want tos” become front and center. When frustrations are mounting, it may be time to ditch the lesson plans and let the ease of exploratory learning become a balm for the tension. Tomorrow is a new day. You can always pick up the regularly scheduled lesson and try again.

8) Be willing to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Remember that these child led learning moments are one of the privileges of homeschooling! Our kids can’t have these moments if they’re sitting in a classroom of 35 kids all completing the same lesson plan. Embrace and enjoy this wonderful benefit of homeschooling.

Your Turn:

Been on any good rabbit trails lately? We’ve love to hear about it! Share your stories in the comments below. We’ll see you out on the (rabbit) trail!

 

About the author:

Alicia Kazsuk writes about living the beautifully imperfect homeschooling journey at VibrantHomeschooling.com. She has been married to her best friend for 14 years and together they spend their days lovingly guiding their four passionate and creative kids.

Alicia is also the author of Plan to Be Flexible and the creator/producer of Vibrant Homeschooling’s online video courses “bloom: A Journey to Joy (and Sanity) for Homeschool Moms” and “rhythm: Guiding Your Family to Their Ideal Learning Flow.”

She believes each day offers new opportunities to grow in grace and to trust God in unexpected ways; and that “acceptance with joy” is one of the hidden secrets to a full, contented Christian life.

You can find her at Vibrant Homeschooling (http://vibranthomeschooling.com), as well as on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/VibrantHomeschooling), Twitter (https://twitter.com/VibrantHmschool) and Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/VibrantHmschool/).
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