It was this time last year that I began obsessing with curriculum choices for this year. I had just decided to home school and the race was on to find the PERFECT curriculum. Of course, I had NO IDEA that the "perfect curriculum" does not exist. How hard can it be to create the perfect curriculum? Well, when you consider that all children learn differently, not all home schoolers want their school day running the same (imagine that!), not every home has a money tree growing in the backyard. If we did, I would use it to buy the $300 (for one subject) curriculum that I think we would like. In addition, not all home schoolers decided to home school for the same reason...this is why the perfect curriculum doesn't exist.
One thing that I have learned in the last 7 months, (this being our first year of home schooling) is that I now have a better idea of what will NOT work for my kids, what I don't want to do and how I would prefer our day run. This helps me weed out alot of different curriculum. In addition, I have found 3 pieces of our curriculum that worked really well for us this year, so we are going to keep plugging along with them.
In another post I'll share with you what programs we like and are sticking with. But right now I am going to share with you the process I go through when deciding which curriculum to research more about. Please remember that anything I say is based on my own personal opinion for our family and in no way has anything to do with what other people like or dislike. Also, since this is our first year, I am sure there are other, more seasoned home schoolers who have better advice!
First I make a list about which subjects each child needs to be on their own level with, such as math. I cannot teach my 1st grader 4th grade math, so obviously they need separate math programs. This holds true for language arts as well and even writing. So, for those programs I begin seeking a program that will work for them as well as for me. I would like to use the same publisher for both but this year we discovered that that isn't always going to happen. For example, so far Saxon math seems to work o.k. for our 4th grader (once we got past all the review the first 40 lessons) but Saxon moved way to slow for our 1st grader and the work bored her. So, we switched to Singapore a few weeks ago for her and are giving that a try.
After I decide which subjects they NEED to do at their own level, I start looking for the subjects they can do together - history, science, spelling and art. Believe it or not you CAN teach a 1st grader and 4th grader the same history, science and even spelling lessons.
Last year my next step was completely off! I began thinking of what home schoolers were "supposed" to do. Like unit studies. Take a subject and start reading books about the subject, doing art about the subject, start cooking meals around the subject, start dressing like people did during that time period (history), write about that subject, only have conversations dealing with that subject, free reading could only be done if it was about that subject (hmmm.."FREE" reading..doesn't sound very free if you are telling them what to read about), etc. I have finally began to realize that there is no RIGHT way to home school. What works for each child and each family is different. So, now I am trying to find curriculum that I think I will enjoy teaching and the girls will enjoy learning from.
Finally, it is sad to say that one thing I do think of is time. "How much time each day will it take us to get this done?" My children have not turned into the "school hungry" children I was hoping for. They are still young and just want to play together. Peanut does choose to read and write during the day for fun sometimes, but mainly they want school to be done by 1:00 so they have the rest of the day to play.
After I have all these questions answered in my head, I go to the experts. Other moms who home school. These moms have all tried the "perfect program" and found that it didn't work. They have also all found the "perfect program" and wouldn't change to another if someone paid them to! My first stop is my favorite yahoo group: A Home School Review. It is here that I can ask all the "experts" what has worked for them and what hasn't. I then go to my Rainbow Resource catalog and read a review to find out what type of curriculum I am dealing with. This is also a catalog you can order to have to lug around with you. It is a huge book, but I prefer leafing through pages to sitting at the computer any day! Next, I fret. I fret about the gaps the curriculum may have, I fret about how "fun" it will be to the kids, I fret about the cost. Finally, I pray. I pray that God will direct me to the perfect curriculum. Since God knows my children better than I do, and He knows me best as well, I pray that he will show us a curriculum that works for us.
I'll share in a few days about the curriculum's that we deem "perfect" so far. The ones we will be using next year, and I'll tell you what we like best about them...until then....have a great day!