Create your own homeschool curriculum

So much to say & so many places to begin as we are all individuals with our own goals, past experience, interests, strengths, & weaknesses.  Logically then, the 1st place to begin is within ourselves.  There is no shame in admitting where we may fall short, only shame in denying ourselves the effort or opportunity.  Therefore, honesty with ourselves and others is paramount to progress.

After nearly a decade of homeschooling, I recently came across a wonderful used book for sale at an out-of-town library.  You see, used book sales of any variety are my weakness.  A borderline hoarder, I compete with the best of squirrels and bears as I constantly scan titles for current or future useful material whether it be for myself, my 2 sons, or now, our new expected son.  It turns out with alot of experience you can judge a book by its cover…well, almost.  I also do a quick scan of chapter titles along with vocabulary and syntax used by the author.  The older and more sophisticated the abilities of my kids, obviously the better versed I expect their “teachers,” unless it is a subject entirely new to them and then simple language and metaphors can be a breath of fresh air.

For $1.50 I procured “The Well Trained Mind:  A Guide to Classical Education at Home” by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.  Hardcover and in excellent condition, it is the best $1.50 I’ve spent in years.  Not only does it reveal very structured guidelines (allowing plenty of variance in choice) for each grade level, but it came with an even bigger surprise:  validation.

Little did I know, not only does the classical method offer the strongest college prep foundation, but I had unwittingly been creating and following the patterns of the trivium ever since I pulled my 1st kindergartener out of public school & began teaching him scientific anatomical terms for skeletons and dinosaurs.  Yeah, I know….I laugh myself when I think of my expectations at the time, but seriously, it’s how it’s done and it works.

I based my own teaching theory on:  exposure, repetition, demonstration, verbal explanation, written explanation.  While I did veer away from memorizing facts for the sake of memorization, I did emphasize that those facts be drilled in every sensory aspect I could derive.

My tests for the majority have not been traditional multiple choice/fill-in-blank tests, but 1st- a verbal test.  If my child can verbally explain or teach me the concept they just absorbed, then we are halfway there.  For the record, I also do not grade papers, but I do check them for mistakes.  That means anything written should be spelled correctly for their age level and if not, it’s a new spelling word to be learned and rewritten several times.  If a math problem is incorrect (or not legible) then it is redone on the pages following.  If notes taken are not appropriately thorough for the age, topic, and content derived from then they are required to reread & add to them until I feel their personal best has been reached.  That, afterall, is an A student, and there is no sense in moving on to points 2, 3, or 4 if point 1 is fuzzy.

As they grew older, beginning around 3rd grade, I began asking for written explanations.  In general, 3rd grade should master the paragraph, 4th grade the 3-paragraph report, 5th grade the 5-6-paragraph essay, the 7th an 8+paragraph analysis, and 9th grade the multi-page research paper.  In truth, a paragraph, report, essay, analysis, and research paper are just growing extensions of the same thing:  putting rational thought onto paper as if having an intelligent verbal conversation.  Facts, details, conclusion, citing sources….It is merely the maturity level of the student that determines the appropriate length.

However, a lesson I did learn pretty quickly was that scheduling specific daily lesson plans months or even a full week ahead of time and expecting that schedule to be followed prudently made very little sense if 1) my real priority was comprehension and not thoughtless parroting and 2) I were ever to acknowledge that kids learn best about what they are truly interested in.  Of course there are always some things that may just be flat boring that are still absolutely necessary, but if we just change our perspective of say…math and grammar…changing them from rule-filled doldrums to number riddles, symbolic messages, and creative tools, then voila! our attitudes will follow along with the ability to grasp, retain, and use the vast amounts of knowledge.

Another priority of mine was to be able to think critically — to examine a topic from all angles, brainstorming solutions or descriptive details until I had wrung my options dry.  Assuming nothing and researching everything, I sought to find correlations amongst topics that crossed subject boundaries.  To this day, my sons marvel aloud sometimes when a conversation leads from 1 tangent to another, crossing the realms of math, science, social studies, and English.  Usually we find ways to throw art and music in there too.  Literally ANY interest can be picked apart in this manner.

My final priority is interest and innate talent.  Curiosity does lead a vast majority of our school days, which is the exact reason (coupled with speed of grasping a topic) why scheduled, strict lesson plans have never worked for us.  Knowing what direction we are headed in is uber crucial.  In what manner we get there, however, is not so much.  Innate talent should be encouraged ad nauseum — as long as the child is interested.  When or if you see interest waning, reassess are you seriously cramming it down their throat, or are you reminding them of their skill and actively encouraging development of that.  Usually it means the parent/teacher/tutor needs to just chill and make sure that there is as much if not MORE praise regarding the talent than criticism, even if it is constructive criticism.  It may also mean that they are simply just lonely,  having found themselves isolated in their talent, and simply want you to join them even if you well, suck at it.

So exactly WHAT is the trivium, and how does it compare to my own intuitive methods?  Catch it here.

What subjects and how long should I expect my child to study each day?  Well, here’s a start.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Homeschooling My Four-Year-Old Son « mindfulconsideration

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