You made the big decision to homeschool your child and now you have to come up with a curriculum. Where do you even begin to start?
Clarity. You need clarity and a distinct starting point. But how do you find that? It’s going to take some brain power on your part. You are going to have to ask yourself a few questions and then reflect on your answers. Keep in mind, this is a process, no one answer is the correct answer. Six months down the road, your answers may change and that is OK!
We suggest using the following questions to help you untangle all the different thoughts and questions racing around in your head – find a thread and pull!
What subjects do you need/want to teach?
Think about your child’s current skill levels and interests:
Do you need to teach your child how to read?
Do you want to expand your child’s knowledge of different world cultures?
Do you need to teach your child how to use money and the math behind money?
Does your child have an interest in the stars and you want to teach them about astronomy or maybe the stories and myths around the stars, sun, and moon?
Next you have to take into account where you live. There are two major elements that may affect what you choose to teach in a given year. Ask yourself these two questions:
Does the state or territory you live in require certain subjects, even if your child is homeschooled?
Is there a state/national assessment all children (even homeschooled) must pass?
What are your current goals/priorities?
Look back at the list of subjects you need/want to teach in the upcoming year. Now place stars next to the subjects that meet your child’s current needs (Are they between the ages of 5-7 and need to learn how to read?) and any subjects the state or territory may require you to teach at a certain age/grade level.
Next, you are going to take your starred subjects and place them in order of highest to lowest priority. Look at your top three subjects. Which subject are you most comfortable with the idea of teaching? I suggest tackling this subject first. Why? Homeschooling is a learning process for both you and your child. If you start with a subject you feel comfortable with you will more easily be able to adapt and roll with the punches when they come, and they will come.
Once you get the rhythm and routine of your first subject down, layer another subject on top of it. How many subjects you ultimately layer on top is up to you and your child. Can you only handle prepping for 2-3 subjects right now? That’s OK! It will take time for you and your child to figure out what works best for you both. The beauty of homeschool is the flexibility and freedom it allows in how and when your child learns.
What are your child’s current levels?
You now have a good idea of what subjects you want to teach and which one you want to tackle first. You start looking at potential curricula and realize most of them tend to package themselves by grade level. How do you choose which grade level best meets your child’s needs?
A little data mining is in order to determine your child’s current baseline (i.e. this is what my child can do right now). You want to build from their current skill levels. Just because your child may be ‘going into’ the fourth grade, does not mean they are reading at a fourth grade level. Unfortunately, when school went to remote learning earlier this year, many parents discovered their child’s academic skills were woefully behind, you may even be one of these parents.
Many curriculum companies provide guideline for each grade or level of their curricula. Companies that sell math curricula are especially helpful, and often have a placement test to help guide you with your decision.
Reading levels can be a little more difficult to ascertain – many children mask their reading deficits through memorization and guessing. I would suggest first finding a book that you think is at your child’s current reading level (not one they are familiar with and may have memorized). Then have them read it aloud. See if they get stuck or falter anywhere. When they’re done reading, check their comprehension skills by starting a conversation about the book and asking them questions. You’ll find you can learn a lot this way. To further winnow it down, you may want to also use the free San Diego Quick Reading Level Assessment Test or the DIBELS 8th Edition. The DIBELS is an excellent way to start drilling down to uncover any decoding gaps your child may have.
Once you have mined this information, you now have a starting point for your chosen subject.
How does your child best learn?
Take a moment and try to recall a time your child learned a new skill/task naturally.
Did they watch a video and then go off to try it on their own?
Did they enlist a family member or friend to help them?
Do they like to take new information in by reading or listening to a podcast? Do they need to draw things out in order to gain a deeper meaning?
All of these examples are valuable and viable learning experiences that can be incorporated into the delivery of instruction and learning process – don’t fight it! Your big, hairy audacious homeschooling goal is to teach your child how to learn AND how to utilize their newfound knowledge. Teaching your child how to learn can be fun!
If, after reading this, you feel like you need more help to walk through the process, please reach out and set up a time to chat. We are here to help you and your child have a productive and successful school year!