How do you know what subjects need to be covered in your homeschool? Are you doing enough? Too much? And how does one choose curriculum? There are so many products in the homeschooling market today that it is easy to become confused and overwhelmed. After ten years of research, learning from veterans, and home educating my own, these are my basic thoughts on the first eight grades.
Start with the 3R’s. They are the backbone of education and should always be your priority. If you do nothing but these, you will be just fine.
Children should always be doing some reading. I require a time of daily reading. We also have a regular read-aloud time. Hearing works of literature in their entirety and following up with discussion will be as good or better than a reading program. As children get older, they should be encouraged to read more complex literature as well as scientific texts. You can utilize a reading curriculum if you want, but all you really need is a phonics program for beginners, and then just a variety of good books with some discussion. I will add some resources below.
Writing in some form should also be done frequently. Writing for younger students will just be handwriting. Once they have that down, they work on mechanics. Finally, they work on composition. You can use a language arts curriculum to cover these areas, but I have become a convert to Charlotte Mason’s methods which can be used as an alternative that is simple and developmentally appropriate. Watch for a future post on Language Arts.
And then math. I have many thoughts on this lovely subject that I will save for another post. Suffice it for now to say that once children hit 3rd grade, they should be working on math daily.
Once you have your 3R’s in place, the rest is gravy. Young students should certainly be exposed to science and history, but don’t take them too seriously. History especially is often taken too seriously by homeschoolers with young children. The goal with these other subjects at this age is to create interest and wonder. Have fun with these subjects. Don’t stress over curriculum or coverage. Let them revel in real books, nature observation, and particular points of interest.
What else would you like to teach? What else would they like to learn? Take a step back and consider what is important to your family. Music? Art? Bible? Chess? A foreign language? Use the flexibility you have as a homeschooler to follow interests and giftings. After all, isn’t this why you homeschool in the first place?
The important thing is not to overplan. There are so many wonderful things to learn, but fewer subjects are better. One of my favorite quotes on education is by C.S. Lewis: “. . .the greatest service we can do to education today is to teach fewer subjects. No one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty; and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects, we destroy his standards, perhaps for life.” If you are tracking a dozen subjects, cut them in half, or more if you dare.
Once you hit high school, most of the hoops will already be set out for your student to jump through, at least if they are college-bound. History and Science can and should be serious studies now. I find high school a balancing act between making sure there are enough credits, and keeping school simple and streamlined.
Just a couple thoughts on choosing curriculum— My favorite mantra is true here as in so many areas of life: simple is better. If curriculum boasts bells and whistles, bits and pieces, or flashy, entertaining multimedia, it can become confusing or hard to utilize. Also beware of exorbitant pricetags.
The other thought: there is no perfect curriculum. Just pick something that looks straightforward and begin. There is a saying among homeschoolers: the best curriculum is the one that gets done. I will post a few of my favorites below.
What about learning styles, or making learning fun? Ah, fodder for future posts.
Phonics: The Reading Lesson, 100 Easy Lessons, Alpha Phonics
How to discuss books: Center For Lit
Solid, easy-to-use 3R recommendations: Rod and Staff, CLE, Understanding Writing, Math Mammoth, Strayer-Upton, Vintage texts published before 1960.