Sunday, September 22, 2013

Do You Really Need a Curriculum?

This is our second year of homeschooling and one of the things I have been most indecisive about is whether we really need a curriculum.  The short answer is no.  We don't.  We are perfectly capable of gathering what we need in order to prepare our child for the skills and knowledge that we view imperative for progress at their age. 

Obviously, if you are unschooling, there is less strain with this decision, but if you are anticipating that your child will be in a conventional school setting at some point, this issue might have other emotional layers for you.  So how have I managed without a curriculum?  I've had the advantage of checking with my sister, a retired kindergarten and first grade teacher, but I have also just dug around the internet looking for things that would clarify just what my child needs to know.  Below is a short list of options on finding the information you need.

Where do I start?

Your state education website likely has criteria and explanation for each grade level and subject.  In Texas, these are called TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).  Even for a teacher, these can be heavy on the professional jargon and are really, really wordy, but it's an excellent place to start.  When we lived in Arkansas, there was something called "refrigerator curriculum guide" which was basically a list of what was expected to be mastered by the end of the year.  These were for parents of public school kiddos, but convenient for homeschool parents too! 

Other options:

Google Search:  I have found a lot of success with doing a Google search for "First grade curriculum map" (insert the grade you want, but make sure to include the word "MAP").  There are a large number of schools all over the country that have accessible documents online in various formats.  Some of them are more lengthy, but they are all likely to be less cumbersome than the state education website information.  Many of them even break down the skills to be covered by each session, semester or six weeks.

Curriculum Sneak Peaks:  Checking the "skills covered" lists of different curriculums that are for sale will be useful.  They obviously aren't going to give you the lesson plans, but most of them offer a sneak peak of some kind to prove to you that they are, in fact, covering what you want them to cover.  It's easy enough to translate that into a list of skills that YOU can cover with your child.

Workbooks:  Buying workbooks can be handy.  It's all in one place and you don't have to think too hard about it, but if you would prefer to do hands on activities you could still use a comprehensive workbook to guide the skills you cover.

Pinterest:  Go to pinterest and search for your grade level and subject and there will be loads of links available.  This is not as concise as the previous options, but will likely give you a wonderful set of options and ideas!

Your Public Library:  Your public library may or may not have books that would provide you with a concise set of skills and knowledge for grades or subjects, but you are likely to find plenty of information in one form or another.  Don't neglect this option!

Sometimes, I feel like not buying a curriculum is over rated.  I find myself wanting the ease of having someone else make the plans for me.  My teacher training, after all, was for grades 6-12 and anything below that is foreign to me.  But so far I have enjoyed the freedom of doing what we choose, what I know is useful to us, and not investing a large sum of money in a curriculum that I am uncertain about.  Of course, if a Waldorf based curriculum came my way I certainly wouldn't turn it down!

Your turn!  What have you done to avoid using a purchased curriculum? 

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