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Homeschooling Curriculum Choices
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The “art” of implementing a home school curriculum often involves satisfying two sometimes differing educational goals.  One objective is to meet the possible educational mandate required by law, and the other is to address the learning needs that are specifically fitted to your child.  In this brief article, we’d like to cover a few of the more pertinent details surrounding the choices that parents especially new to homeschooling face when it comes to curriculum choices. Webster’s dictionary defines ‘curriculum’ as “all of the courses of study offered by a school or educational institution”.  In writings and discussions about curricula you often also see the related word ‘syllabus’ which is “an outline or brief statement of the course of study or contents of the curriculum”.  Most local educational authorities mandate a specific curriculum for homeschoolers, so your choices often come down to how do you use them effectively?  You can sometimes determine this by asking what are some bad choices involving curricula?

Many will agree the the admixture of politics and/or radical and unproven beliefs into the selection of the curriculum may not be the best thing.  I am not speaking of course offerings in political science, civics, or logic and discourse, but about policy decisions that do not bear directly on the educational process.  These are some of the potentially negative issues for which to watch out when dealing with curriculum use.  When given a choice, though, I always prefer to take a positive approach, so my focus is generally on what aspects of the curriculum make it most effective for the learning style of my child?

If you consider that the Latin word curriculum originally had to do with guiding chariots around a race course, then you can get a sense of the practical role that the curriculum has in guiding the student along the path of learning in order to meet an academic goal.  And, here, homeschooling has some benefits that may not be available to other educational means.   The curriculum as applied to homeschooling can be tailored to your child’s needs because aspects of it can be designed and structured just for him or her.  And, through the monitoring of the curriculum’s learning activities you can better produce the educational outcomes that you desire.

Regarding instructional material choices, it has been said that textbooks are where the curriculum meets the child.  If you think of a curriculum as a body of knowledge, then what practical means are available to determine that it has been effectively transmitted to your child?  I like to focus on the notion of output-centricity when it comes to this practical side of learning.  Text books vary in the degree of output they require from their readers.  As a guide to textbook selection, I favor those that require output (exercises, analyses, etc.) that you can see, versus those that let students get away with just washing their eyes over the text with no proof that they have comprehended what the author has been trying to convey.

In my home state of Maine, our curricula are broken into two groups, one for K through grade 8, equivalent to kindergarten through middle school, and the other for grades 9 through 12, equivalent to high school.  The syllabuses are similar for both tracts, with basic subjects for:

• English

• Mathematics

• Science

• American History

• Social Studies

• Fine Arts, and

• Physical Education

• Health Education, and

• Maine Studies

The main difference being that the 9 through 12 curriculum also includes:

• Foreign Language

• Computer Skills

• Home Economics, and

• Other (An elective subject)

And the K through 8 curriculum includes:

• Basic Language Arts

The topic of testing will be dealt with more fully in another post, so the following will necessarily be just a brief introduction.  There is no way to assess learning without testing, so, try to relax and not worry about it unduly.  It helps to test regularly and to use testing methods that are standardized.  If you want to administer the test yourself, make sure that you meet the requirement for doing so in order for the test results to be accepted.  If you do not meet the requirement for test administering, then acquire the services of a certified tester.  You local homeschool group or school district cane acquaint you with low or no cost suggestions for standardized test administration.

So, why is the focus on curriculum choices important in the homeschooling setting?  I think it comes down to ‘predictability’.  Homeschooling is, at the end of the day, still school, and it includes the usual elements such as classes, subjects, lessons, teachers, et cetera.  And at the end of the process the same objectives are sought, namely, to meet the educational and academic needs of our kids.  Curricula are the means to achieve that, and represent one of the areas of focus at Academic Boot Camp Tips.  You are invited to paricipate in and share in our the experiencs of our community of homeschoolers as we pursue this endeavor.

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