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Friday, December 28, 2007

Choosing Curriculum Part 1

The Lost Files
Prologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1


In writing about choosing a homeschooling curriculum, I did not do it to promote any
programs I might be using, but to show the amount of thought, work, and flexibility
involved in choosing one. A whole year into the process, I am still not settled completely on the curriculum we will be using in the long run for homeschooling. Though I am comfortable with what I am using right now, I remain prepared to change directions if the need arises.

On Saturday, May 03, 2003, I went to the GHEA (Georgia Homeschool Educational Association) local homeschool curriculum fair. My instructions from other homeschoolers were to buy nothing, but to examine everything. In my mind, I had already planned to do unit studies based on history with religious references, but I had no idea as to what I was going to do with math.

I spent the entire day at the curriculum fair. It was exhausting. I spent most of the time talking to strangers about my children's education. Every vendor needed to know my children's ages and names, strengths and weaknesses so they could better sell me their program or learning tool. A couple did exempt themselves based on the information I gave, as their product was not appropriate for my child. These people were well trained in marketing skills.

Immediately after attending the fair, my train of thought was that I was pretty much on the right track with the idea of writing my own curriculum. The only subject I felt I really need help with was math. I also came across a full kindergarten to 12th grade curriculum that seemed exciting, inexpensive and easy to use called Lighthouse Academy. I filed it away for future consideration. The next thing I had to do was review and sort out all of the information I received today so that I can better compare them.

The curriculum fair was the first time I was in a room full of homeschoolers. As I looked around I realized that some fit the dreaded homeschool stereotype, and some did not.

There where people there who where obviously devoutly religious, people there who
where new age, and even people there for strictly academic reasons. Personally, I came in near the academic side, with a handful of religious reasons for homeschooling as well. I surely talked myself hoarse that day. From competing with other homeschoolers to talk to vendors, to striking up conversations with other homeschoolers, I doubt I ever took a breath. I remember never taking the time to eat. There was so much to observe, and so much to learn.

Being alone in this environment was a blessing. I was able to eavesdrop on curriculum
conversations as well as familial conversations. I observed the children around me as
well, and must admit to the truth of one stereotype. To be a crowd that big, the kids
where handling it very well. I noticed no temper tantrums from kids older than three, and a level of great maturity from those from about age 7 and up. I ended the day by making a couple of purchases at the curriculum fair. I purchased a history book called The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, which I have mentioned earlier and a couple of dictionaries. Other than that, I managed to keep my money in my pocket.
After careful consideration, I decided to take the advice of the homeschoolers I knew, and did not purchase a ready-made curriculum for our first year of homeschooling. The main reason I have decided to compile my own curriculum entirely is the fact that most parents abandon the curriculum they purchase in their first year. I did not want to throw away that kind of money as full curriculums can cost as much as $1000.00 or more.

In compiling information on curriculum for my children, I also decided to write my own lesson plans using the classical method and Core Curriculum What Your __ Grader
Should Know series. I already knew that I this was most likely my plan before I went to the curriculum fair, but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing something. Before the fair, the only subject I did not know how to approach was math. Afterwards I had the confidence that I can use online resources and purchased manipulatives, to get through the first year intact. This is not to say that many of the programs and curriculums I found were not excellent. At times, I got so excited I could burst!

However, I chose to take the next year to decide if my homemade curriculum works for our children while also deciding what complete ready made curriculum would work ... If any.

Most of the decisions to this date that I made about curriculum had come from reading
books by homeschooling veterans and listening to the advice of my friends. The curriculum fair gave me a chance to test my decisions and theories. At the Homeschool curriculum fair, I had the opportunity to grill several math curriculum providers about their programs. Then I had the task of sorting it all out later when I returned home. The four curriculums I will discuss here are the ones that left an impression on me and that I plan, or hope to use at some point in the future.


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