Homeschool Curriculum vs Traditional School Curriculum

Homeschool Curriculum vs. Traditional School Curriculum

Homeschool Curriculum vs Traditional School Curriculum

This past summer I had the opportunity to go through a school room partially filled with curriculum that was about to be discarded. Since the time available to me was short, I took a great deal with me that I thought might work in our homeschool with the knowledge that I could sort it out later. Since all of what was left was going to be dumped later that day, I didn’t feel badly taking anything and everything I thought I might find useful.

I’ve gone through all of it and have discarded about 90% of it.  Why? Most of it is really only usable in a traditional classroom.  Even the teacher handbooks that I thought might provide some good ideas that I could adapt for our use at home really weren’t that useful.

Traditional School – All Things to All Children

Part of the problem is the teacher handbooks are geared to help the teacher make the material be all things to all children. With the rise of differentiated instruction, teaching to strengths, and the multiple intelligences, the expectation is that the teacher must meet every child where he/she is and adapt the curriculum accordingly.  So the teacher’s manual becomes this horrifically complicated and overwhelming mass of information. The reading manuals I looked at were so crammed full of suggestions and ideas around the samples of the child’s reading book that I couldn’t even bear to look at them.

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It reminded me of something I read in The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child (a practical and encouraging book, by the way). The author wrote this about school curriculum:

Remember, too, there is nothing magical about the curriculum your local school subscribes to. The school chose a curriculum it felt would best meet the needs of the greatest percentage of a large number of children doing the same thing at the same time. Check with a different school and you’ll get its version of curriculum which it, too, felt would do the best job for the majority of the students.

In homeschooling you aren’t playing a numbers game with many students, hoping enough of them will get good scores on standardized tests, hoping it really is just a minority that falls through the cracks. Your curriculum can be custom-made for your child’s needs that you are right now observing to discover.

Homeschool Curriculum – All Things for One Child

That is truly the beauty that I am experiencing with Caroline. I watch what she does, I see where she still needs practice, and I find something to use for that.  My planning really happens on a day to day basis. (I can’t figure out how other parents can map out an entire semester or year ahead of time.) I have a general direction where we are heading and I have the end goals for the year in the form of a checklist.  How we get from point A to point B? I have no idea. I have no idea what we will be doing for reading in December or March or May.  I give Caroline something to do, I observe her doing it, and I make my plans for the next day after observing her.

Real Time Homeschool Learning

The other day Caroline saw the Bing splash page on my computer and was intrigued by the large cave. We looked up the cave online and discovered it has an interesting story about bats that goes with it.  She wanted to know where the cave was so we looked it up (Malaysia) and found it on her new globe. (Thanks, Grandpa and Grandma!) We talked about the Pacific Ocean, friends and family who have visited or lived in Hawaii, and how you would fly from Malaysia to Michigan. We discussed the international date line. By the end of kindergarten she will know far more about geography, globes, and continents/oceans than she “needs” to know. I plan very little of it. Most of it just happens and that is the best way because it shows Caroline to be curious about life and the world. She’s learning how to find information when she wants to know something. There is no way she would be learning these things in a classroom of twenty to thirty kindergarteners.  Instead, she would be standing in line to wash her hands for snack and learning how to sit in a circle and wait for her turn to answer one question from the teacher.

Now, would it be a bit more complicated if I had more than one child? Absolutely. I don’t have to keep anyone else busy and that is a huge advantage. But I do wonder how many parents would discover they really enjoyed homeschooling if they were able to adjust their expectations and try it out. Sometimes I think the proliferation of homeschooling information out there makes it seem much more complicated that it really needs to be.

I think the first step for many parents might be realizing that the schools don’t have all the answers and there is nothing magical about the curriculum they choose. The curriculum is, in fact, geared toward casting a large net at the masses and hoping to catch many fish. A motivated mom who can make learning interesting for her child can go a long way beyond that with a small budget, a library card, the internet, and a printer.

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9 thoughts on “Homeschool Curriculum vs. Traditional School Curriculum

  1. Brandy @ Afterthoughts

    I can’t figure out how other parents can map out an entire semester or year ahead of time.

    I was just thinking this today! I do a skeleton plan before each term, but I adjust a week at a time, and also day to day. I have read blogs where people say they printed out and pre-packaged everything they needed for nine children in two days in the summer, and I am baffled. By the end of two weeks, I’d be crying because there was so much that was wrong or left undone, while part was going “too fast” or whatever. :)

    I had a well-meaning relative send me a lot of curriculum. I ended up selling most of it and using the money to buy books because I, too, found it didn’t really fit with our educational project.

    I had to laugh reading this, though. Who would have thought you’d be an unschooler? ;)

    I’m happy for you.

  2. Sallie Post author

    Well, sort of unschooler in some ways and not in others. There are things Caroline isn’t as keen on that I still make her do (such as handwriting). We practice a number or letter every day and that’s going to continue all year. But unlike when I was in school, I don’t worry about posture so that’s the trade-off. I don’t care how she’s sitting if her handwriting is neat.

    But in terms of being rigidly attached to a schedule or curriculum? No, I’m not like that and both of us would chafe against it, I think.

  3. Lindsey

    After 6 years of homeschooling and now with a 6th grader, 3rd and 2nd grader we hardly use ANY curriculum. It’s just not conducive to homeschool most of the time as it is geared for classrooms. Most “homeschool” canned curricula seems to be fitted for the Christian School classroom, and is not effective either.

    We use lots and lots of books. Real books. We have become VERY Charlotte Mason in our thinking. My kids learn to write by writing. The only area where curriculum seems to be beneficiary for us is in math. We use Teaching Textbooks on the computer and like it. Don’t love it, but like it.

    Science is nature study on our own. I do like some of the apologia stuff but it is too much “busy work” for my kids. I’ll adapt it for our needs.

    History is learning the story of the world in scope and sequence with the Bible. I use some of the Story of the World activities, but by far and large we do our “own thing” there too.

    I think the longer you homeschool the more you do things on your own and adapt it for your own needs. I never recommend box/canned curriculum packages to anyone anymore. Waste of money.

  4. Brenda@Coffeeteabooksandme

    We did a combination Charlotte Mason and unschooling, which worked great with an ADHD student. The best advice I ever received came from a book written by a Michigan homeschooling dad who said anything we let slip through the cracks during most of our homeschooling years can easily be picked up in the last two years of teaching high school.

    We found that absolutely true and only had our son attend the community college full time his senior year of high school because he chose to enter the School of Science at the University (a decision which meant demanding lab science and high level math requirements).

    The homeschooling mothers and fathers I met through the years who had the hardest time were those with Education degrees. Their mindset was so fixed on the way they had been taught to educate large amounts of students in a classroom that it was difficult for them to embrace the freedom that homeschooling brings.

    There were some days it was really hard and I was ready to drop my student on the doors of the nearest public school and tell them he was all theirs! But mostly… as in 95% of it… was so enjoyable that I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The payoff has been beyond all I imagined.

    Write me! I have a book I want to send to you. :)

  5. Ellen

    I’ve been researching, checking into options, etc., but I think we’re going to be pretty relaxed in kindergarten, too. It isn’t required in our state, so I feel even more ok about taking things slow and adapting to what works. I plan to buy a math curriculum with lots of manipulatives and a handwriting curriculum. I’ve already bought “Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading” because I feel like I need some hand holding in this area. And we’ll throw a little 5 in a Row in there for use with multiple kids…

  6. Sallie Post author

    Lindsey said:

    but it is too much “busy work” for my kids.

    Yes, I hear you. This is the one thing I still find hard to shift in my mind. We spend so little time of “real” schoolwork that I always feel like I should be doing more. But if you calculate the actual amount of on-task learning a kindergartener does in a classroom setting, it is really quite small.

    Brenda said:

    The payoff has been beyond all I imagined.

    It has been really interesting to follow your son’s story the past four years and see how successful he has become after such a difficult start. I’m sure sometimes you still wonder, “How did this happen?” :lol: But what a blessing you were able to bring him home and listened to your gut tell you to get your son out of a situation that was anything but the best for him.

    Ellen said:

    It isn’t required in our state, so I feel even more ok about taking things slow and adapting to what works.

    Kindergarten isn’t required here either. Michigan has very relaxed homeschool laws, but I still keep a lesson plan book of what we’ve done for my peace of mind and because I like to look back and see what we’ve accomplished. I’ve taken it very slowly with Caroline’s reading and it is paying off. That’s for another post, but having the luxury of not having to push her to keep up with a classroom full of kids means that she actually is probably ahead of them now (if that makes sense!).

    And, Ellen, congratulations on your new little man! I tried a couple of times to leave a comment on your blog a number of weeks ago and couldn’t get it to take. Congratulations!

  7. Jackie

    We semi unschool. I say semi because we use Time4Learning as our core and supplement with whatever my DD is interested in learning about. We live on a farm, so there are lots of great real life learning experiences around our house. My DD has dyslexia, dysgraphia, and CAPD and public school never worked. We tried.

    Joyfully,
    Jackie
    My Attempt at Blogging
    My Favorite
    Spelling Site

  8. Sallie Post author

    Hi Jackie! Thanks for stopping by! You have some wonderful links on your site. I found a number of sites you linked to that were new to me. Thank you! :D

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