Last Spring I found myself aggravated with the math program we had been using that year. My daughter was struggling in math, and I realized that part of the problem was her teacher (me), the student (her) and her math program. It didn’t give good explanations. It required too many problems. (I had her complete only half of the problems.) Every day’s lesson introduced a different concept, and she hadn’t yet grasped the previous day’s concept. The bottom line was: she didn’t understand math. I felt like a complete failure, especially because I love math, and I’ve tutored math for years. How could I fail my own daughter? Now that I was aware of her struggles, (I initially thought it was her laziness.), I was on a mission to find another math program. I began polling friends, searching websites, reading, reading and reading curriculum reviews on various programs. I finally decided to try a program which I believed provided what I wanted. After using it for a while, I was very happy that it didn’t have the problems that the previous program had. It does, however, have its own set of weaknesses.
Bottom line: There are no perfect curriculums.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like the curriculum I’m using, but it doesn’t replace the teacher. I need to add the missing components that my child needs. It’s my job to fine tune the program for my child/children. It’s been a great change for us that is working out quite well. (One day I’ll post an article about choosing a math curriculum.)
Here are some guidelines to help you choose the right curriculum for your children.
- Expect it to take some trial and error. Somehow it’s always easier to know what you don’t like than what you do like. However, once you know what you don’t like, it will help you formulate an idea of what you need. Of course, the more you understand about the learning process, your child’s needs, and the subject in general, the easier the process will be. Take advantage of my experience. I’d love to help
- KISS- Keep it Super Simple– Again, we’re focusing on teaching our children basic skills. We don’t need lots of bells and whistles for this. Feel free to be creative and have fun, but don’t feel the need to make everything you do entertaining. But do feel free to give them lots of hugs and kisses. 😉
- Don’t re–create the wheel. Education has been going on for 1000’s of year. You’ve been educated yourself as well. Start with what you know. Analyze the weaknesses and strengths of the programs and curriculum that you’ve been exposed to. What bothers you most? What do you love? What does your child struggle with most? What does your child enjoy most? This will give you some direction as you search. Use what’s out there and adapt it for your needs.
- Use curriculum and learning materials as tools. Don’t let them be your master. Your child doesn’t have to complete every page, every activity or every problem. If you know your goals, and the skills you want them to learn, you can use only those things which meet those goals. Also, if a child is struggling with a concept, you can feel free to use other materials outside of the curriculum, or go at a slower pace. If your child has shown mastery of a concept, feel free to move on to something else. Later on, you can use the pages you skip over as a review.
- Consider your time– Do you have time to create your own lessons, and activities? Do you have time to search the internet for supplemental material? Then perhaps you just need to general guidelines. Is your time limited? Perhaps you need lessons and activities already setup for you. Workbooks can be great to use when time is limited.
- Consider your budget– The less money you want to spend, the more time you’ll spend preparing and grading lessons. If you want everything pretty much laid out for you, or you want an online or computer program, the cost will be higher.
- Consider your lifestyle– Are you a family that travels a lot? Do you have lots of small children? Do you live in an area with very little homeschooling support? You may need workbooks if you’re on the go a lot. You may want a curriculum that allows all children to study the same material if you have multiple children. You may want to participate in online programs if there are no opportunities to connect with other families nearby.
- Consider your values– Do you want your curriculum to support your core beliefs? Do you want your children exposed to ideas that may oppose your values? Is it ok if the curriculum doesn’t overtly support any particular belief system?
- Focus on your educational goals– Always begin by reading the publisher, or author’s goals and values, and methodologies. This will tell you much about whether the program actually meshes with what you want to accomplish. There are so many curriculums out there that it can be overwhelming. Staying focused on your goals.
- Listen to the heart of the author. Does it resonate with yours? Do you hear an excitement and a passion for learning? Or do they seemed more concerned about promoting their agenda or methodology? What kind of support do they offer? Is that enough for you?
As we are choosing curriculums for our children, I think it’s important that everything not be perfectly suited for them. When our children leave our homes, they will need to interact with information presented in many different forms. It’s important that they learn how to take the material presented, and change it to a form that suits their learning style. We want to ensure that our children have the ability to live successfully beyond our homes.