Managing Your Homeschool Curriculum
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After more than ten years of homeschooling, two college graduates, and four girls currently at home, we have learned much about making our curriculum work for us – and not the other way around! The beauty of homeschooling is that each child can learn in a way that is as unique as they are. This may sound strange coming from someone who uses full-service BJU Press Distance Learning for each child, but we’ve found a way to customize the curriculum to provide each of our children with the inspiration, excitement, and interest they need to enjoy their homeschooling adventure!

Don’t be afraid to cut things out: testing, activities, and schedules are often needed - but sometimes it’s good to take a break so children (and mom) can have a change of pace and be refreshed. We’ve all heard the admonition, “don’t choose the good over the best,” and that applies here as well. Sometimes a child’s time may be better spent on a challenging topic rather than plowing through another day of material that they have well in hand. I constantly reassess my children’s schedule throughout the year based on their current performance, what we’ve studied in the past, and their personal interests and needs. For example, BJU Press Pre-Algebra will cover geometric figures and basic statistics – both topics that are minimized in more advanced algebra. We’ll cover both chapters as scheduled. But the last chapter is studying polynomials – a topic introduced at the beginning of Algebra 1. Why not just move on to that class – and spare the introduction? You know your child’s needs better than anyone else! Teach your older children to assess material for themselves – to “own” their education and avoid spending time on repetitive teaching, and to challenge themselves and take the time where they struggle. One of my daughters regularly combines lessons that are easy for her – yet willingly repeats a lesson where she had difficulty with the material. Last, but not least, not all education is in a book, and time for an artistic or musical child to pursue their interests is well spent.

Don’t be afraid to add things in: I prefer to evaluate my child’s progress without tests occasionally; either discussing the topic and asking questions orally or assigning a composition or project that’s both fun for my student and easy for me to assess. I enjoy reading their papers with opinions on history – and our curriculum gives me plenty of critical thinking questions and topics at the end of each chapter. I use ideas mentioned as optional for fun projects in place of a test, or I cut science boards in half and use them as standup boards for them to display a literature, country or cultural study. (Students that prepare a cultural treat for the teacher always get extra credit!) Sometimes, as was the case this year, school was set aside to watch presidential debates and the presidential inauguration. We discussed unknown terms and issues that surfaced during the events. I rarely remember the outcome of an old test, but I can still taste those Czech Republic cookies one of my children made to accompany last year’s country project! Use your imagination, your personal family and individual interests, and get creative!

Use fun resources to supplement topics: YouTube reenactments are incredible resources, (there are MANY for historical events such as Paul Revere’s ride and Civil War battles) as are audio CDs and historical movies. There’s nothing better for studying the Age of Exploration than watching old Pirate movies and period films. Schedule a fun family movie night and no one realizes they’re doing school! Many older movies give a great feel for the times – and don’t have the adult elements of today’s films. My boys were reluctant readers and the older version of A Tale of Two Cities was a great way to introduce them to Dickens and supplement our study of the French Revolution. Take the summer to look ahead at your curriculum and list some movies and audio CDs that might be helpful. There is a terrific parental guide for historical movies that is available as well as some top-notch audio productions of historical fiction that pair well with my BJU Press World History curriculum this year.

Teach at their level: I have written many posts on our adoption journey and schooling the older internationally adopted child. The principle of teaching to a child’s developmental and academic level is universal, however, and applies to all children with learning disabilities or developmental struggles. If your child is reading below level, then choosing a grade level subject in science or history, for example, may hamper his ability to learn because the reading level of the text is too high for his comprehension. There are two solutions: read the material aloud to your child and discuss difficult vocabulary and terms, or drop down a level in those subjects so that reading level is more appropriate. I’ve used this approach with both my biological and adopted children and it has worked well. I have also combined children in subjects, such as Bible, where we can discuss the material together. Extra assignments can raise the bar for an older child, and tests can be forgiven for a younger child. Thankfully, my BJU Press curriculum allows me to substitute subject levels within a package and this makes my choices more flexible.

Don’t forget Mom! Sometimes we all have tough spots – a child struggling in an area like math for a very long time, family or health crises, or overwhelming schedules and obligations. While we are the only ones who can truly “control our schedule,” sometimes “life happens” and these commitments and interruptions can’t be avoided. Feel free to trim your curriculum a bit to keep on schedule – many topics are optional and may not be necessary for your personal educational goals. Distance Learning is a terrific way to keep school going during health difficulties, Mom’s outside work, or time away from home. I made a three-week trip to China one year while my sons were successfully studying Chemistry and Pre-Calculus with terrific distance learning teachers! Moms can feel overwhelmed and hiring outside teachers through online or DVD classes may just provide the time needed to get it all done.

Your family and your children have unique gifts and interests –so don’t be afraid to mix it up! Chances are, you know better than anyone else what inspires and motivates your child. YOU are the master of your curriculum – it works for YOU – and adding flexibility and fun will rejuvenate your homeschool.

Meet the Author

Kim Jackson, HomeWorks by Precept Consultant and Homeschooling Mom for over 10 years


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