Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Process of Planning Our Homeschool Curriculum

"X-Y-L-O-C-A-R-P. Xylocarp."

When Husband and I first decided last spring that we were going to homeschool Bear, the sheer amount of information available was overwhelming. I searched. I bookmarked. I libraried. I read, and re-read, and decided, and un-decided, and re-decided. I investigated boxed curriculums and checked out reviews. I read about unschooling. I read about deschooling. I read about Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, online school...I read and researched until my brain hurt. And then, slowly, a picture of what our year might look like began to emerge. Here's how it's worked for us so far:

I researched state laws

Kentucky is pretty homeschool-friendly and the legal requirements are minimal. Basically we just have to let the school district know about our intentions to homeschool and to make sure we cover  what the state considers essential (reading, writing, spelling, grammar, history, math, and civics).

I researched standards

I don't really care if Bear is learning all the same historical facts or doing the same science experiments as her peers, but because we work best with some structure, I knew I wanted her on the same page, at least. So I did some digging and built an overview of the general topics that are frequently covered in 4th grade. Once I knew what topics we should try to hit on, I made a list to reference when tailoring lessons for Bear.

I asked Bear what she wanted to learn about

She LOVES tornadoes (source)

This was a big one for me. If you've ever gone on a Wikipedia bender (you know, where you casually look up one quick fact and before you know it you've become the foremost expert on the history of Saturday Night Live and King George I?), then you know why. When you're interested and engaged in a topic, you want to keep going with it, uncovering new information and soaking it in. While it makes sense to garner a general knowledge of world history, science, literature, etc., it makes even more sense to latch on to whatever engages you and dig in deep.

For example, I remember learning quite a bit about ancient Mesopotamia in high school. I retain that it reminded me of mashed potatoes. And it was, like, over there somewhere. A long time ago. That's enough for me to "get" the reference during The Daily Show and move on with my life. But ask me about, oh, I don't know—women's artistic gymnastics. NOW we have a topic I can talk about in depth.

Most people are like that. Bear will be, too. She needs enough general knowledge to function in polite society, and to be able to dive in as deeply as she wants when something really interests her.

I put it all on a big, fat list

And then, once I had it all in one spot, I began choosing what we'd do this year. I made a second list of the stuff we definitely wanted to cover in some capacity and then color-coded the items according to what time of year we'd hit on them: fall, winter, spring, or year-round.

The nice thing about the second list is that I have some direction and a nice overview. The nice thing about the FIRST list is that we can pull from it if we need to (or want to) and add to our year. The plan is not incredibly detailed. The stuff that's being studied now or in the near future is more solid, with books checked out, journal prompts chosen, and some activities planned. And I have a few ideas for the stuff that comes later, but I don't focus too much on that.

I found activities and books I wanted to use 

...and either bookmarked, saved, printed, or put them on hold at the library. Not for the full year, obviously. Just for the first 4-6 weeks of stuff, for the most part.

I took a deep breath and gave myself permission to throw it all out the window at a moment's notice

Flexibility is key!
Because flexibility is one of the single most important elements of homeschooling for us, and I don't want to forget that. If we decide that Ancient Greece sounds so awesome and I plan three weeks of amazing Greek lessons only to find out four days in that we're bored to tears...we can walk away (another reason I'm not letting myself plan too far ahead and in too much detail).

So that's sort of how I began plotting out our homeschool plan. Honestly, we're in week five and it's already changed and evolved several times. I anticipate this trend will continue. I think a flexible plan has been my best friend in all this. Bear is doing well, and I've begun to learn on a deeper level how she learns and works best. That's been really cool for me.

Now if I could just figure out how to keep Bug from grabbing books out of our hands and trying to eat our pencils...

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