When we first start homeschooling, the first consideration we naturally gravitate to is the choice of materials we will use. Somehow, through our perception of “school,” our own experiences, or what we see others do, we equate teaching our children with textbooks, workbooks and “school” materials. So that is where we start. They become our lifeline and foundation. If we can only get the right books, our children will turn out OK.
No set of curriculum materials makes a total education system. They contain only academic content, and even that is not tailor-made for your children. They do not meet the heart and soul needs of children as parents can. You constantly are pondering psychological matters such as readiness, interest, and ability to study a particular format. And you almost intuitively judge whether the lessons fit into your biblical philosophy of life. That psychology and philosophy are major underlying components of education, and curriculum content sits on top of those. This puts curriculum in perspective. It is not the driving force of your homeschooling; it is more like a servant.
Ruth Beechick, A Biblical Home Education
And that is in a nutshell the role of curriculum: servant. The materials we use will be our tool to accomplish our goals — not determine them.
You may be thinking, OK, if I’m not picking out books, what am I supposed to be doing? Here are a few ideas for places to start, thoughts to consider, and options to try.
- Try our Step-By-Step Guide to getting started. We walk you through determining how you will gauge success, building a firm foundation, creating a learning environment, choosing an approach, developing a road map, THEN choosing materials that will encompass these considerations, determining a schedule and evaluating your progress.
- Educate yourself. One way to take the focus off of the curriculum we use and put it where it belongs — our children — is to educate ourselves, developing our confidence, which will allow us to break from tradition and use those materials that will meet the needs of each child. We will also be freer to modify, substitute, and tweak as needed.
- Begin with Beechick Basics. There is no brighter voice in the homeschooling community than Dr. Beechick’s. Not only does she exude encouragement to homeschool moms, her wisdom and practical advice shows us how we CAN do it!
- Look for real learning opportunities. The more natural the learning environment, the less reliance is needed on the materials that are used. Think of how an adult learns history. He doesn’t go out and purchase a textbook! Instead, he finds a well-written biography, for example. If Grandmother knows how to draw, perhaps she can pass along her art skills — without an art text. That reptile that crawled into the house provides an opportunity to learn ALL about it! Why wait until the topic comes up in the biology text? Look for ways you can provide these opportunities for your children. You will also be providing your child with the ability to learn for himself — a skill highly valued in today’s job market.
- Try living books. For content subject areas such as history, geography and natural science, living books not only provide a less textbook-reliant environment, they also provide a means to practice language art skills such as reading, thinking, writing and researching.
- Read 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. This book by Cathy Duffy, another homeschool veteran, walks a homeschool mom through considerations — such as the content needed, a methodology that will work within the family, and the amount of time available — that will help her make wise curriculum choices.
- Don’t become overwhelmed with choices. You know that you have curriculum-itis when you are in total angst over a decision between two programs! If the focus becomes the child, the choice will work itself out.
It is the child you are teaching, not the book.
Ruth Beechick, You Can Teach Your Child Successfully