Designing Your Own Curriculum
As parents, you'll want to consider your children's wishes and input for the homeschool curriculum during the decision-making process. Children will often surprise you with the wonderful ideas and learning suggestions they come up with! Together, you and your children can create a curriculum that is fun, interesting, and challenging to ensure a well-rounded education, year after year.
What is the difference between a curriculum and a lesson plan?
A curriculum focuses on the knowledge, skills, and abilities your child should achieve. The lesson plan is comprised of the activities or studies that complement and carry out the intent of the curriculum.
Components of a Curriculum
A curriculum is based upon your educational philosophies, educational aims or ambitions for your child, and the learning goals or objectives necessary to achieve those aims. We'll describe each a little more fully.
Educational philosophies, as noted in Chapter 3, center on what you feel your children should learn in order to achieve happiness and success in their lives. This can include morals and values, respect and responsibility, manners and kindness toward others, faith and spirituality, a love for learning, and a love for life.
Educational aims or ambitions for your children could include solid life skills and self-reliance, critical thinking and reasoning skills, creative thinking abilities, the ability to work well with others, to enjoy one's work and career, to show love and respect for one's family, to be a responsible and upstanding citizen, and/or to contribute to the community.
Learning goals and objectives should support your educational philosophies and aims for your child. For instance, learning self-discipline and self-control is critical to a happy family life and career. Proper manners, social skills, and speaking skills are important when working with others or when contributing to the community. Good reading, math, and science skills are imperative to all areas of one's life, from daily living to getting ahead in one's career. Artistic and creative skills can add joy and meaning to one's life. Learning and maintaining healthy habits can contribute to a long, productive life.
Writing a Curriculum
Once you've determined your family's philosophies, your aims and ambitions for your child's education, and the goals or objectives to support those aims, you can begin designing the curriculum. But don't forget to consider your children's interests and learning styles! (You may want to review the different learning styles mentioned in Chapter 2 to determine what method works best with each child.)
To write your curriculum, you'll want to record your educational philosophies, aims, and objectives, and keep them in a special folder, entitled “Curriculum.” On those days when you forget where you are headed with your child's education, this written curriculum will be a great reminder.
As you consider the subject areas your child will study (math, science, social studies, language arts, fine arts, health, and life skills), you'll want to slant them toward the goals and aims that you have for your child's education. For instance, a goal for your child might be to have a healthy, productive life. In studying the human body in science, you might want to emphasize the lessons on health and nutrition. Therefore, the objectives of the science lessons could focus on the way the body functions, how the bones and muscles work in tandem, how blood carries nutrients and oxygen to all parts of the body, how the respiratory and digestive systems work, and how proper nutrition, exercise, and healthful habits help the body function as it was designed to function.
As you can see, once you have your aims and goals established for your child (for example, a healthy, productive individual), you'll be able to focus on the objectives that you want the lessons to convey (in this case, how to achieve and maintain a healthy, productive body).
Children master skills at varying rates. One child may grasp the relation between decimals and fractions at age eight, while another may not grasp the concept until age ten. One child might write well in cursive at age nine; another may not display attractive penmanship until age twelve. Consider your child's unique skills and abilities when setting educational goals and objectives.
Following a Less Formal Curriculum
Designing a curriculum similar to the one above may seem like a lot of work. Yet most parents already have an idea of the educational goals for their children, even if they haven't written it down in a formal outline. Many parents are already in tune with their children's interests and learning styles, so it may not be necessary to document the objectives of each lesson or the manner in which the studies will complement the child's interests and the parent's goals.
In an unschooling environment, the curriculum tends to accommodate the children's curiosity and their interest-led activities. If you need to present evidence of the curriculum you use for your unschooled homeschool, illustrate how your children's interests and activities (such as their hobbies, games, experiments, talents, research, discussions, educational travels, creative projects, or books read) accomplish the goals and philosophies your family believes in.