Sunday, January 31, 2010

What does my child need to learn this year?

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This post is part  of the Homeschool Crew Blog Cruise weekly topic. If you would like to read more blogs on this topic, click on the link!

When I first started homeschooling many years ago, this was a big question for me. Surely there was a list of expected topics to teach for each grade. Teaching my own child was a huge responsibility and I certainly didn’t want any “gaps” in her education!

Many new homeschoolers choose a “boxed” curriculum for their first year or two. That way, the planning and the decisions about exactly what to teach is done for them. As they become more confident in their ability to teach their own, they gradually branch out into choosing more varied products and deciding for themselves what to teach each year. Others feel most comfortable sticking with a complete curriculum.

I didn’t choose that path. My daughter was reading at age 3 and was ahead in math as well, so the standard Kindergarten or first grade curriculum would not have been a good fit for her. In fact, the very reason we began homeschooling is so that I could tailor her learning to her needs and interests.

I think the first place to start is to develop some long term goals for your children. Do you want them to love reading? Do you want them to be good writers? Do you want them to “think outside the box?” Do you want them to do similar work to their public or private schooled peers in case you decide to send them to traditional school in a few years? Do you want to concentrate on character development or academic excellence or the arts? There are no right or wrong answers, but thinking about your family goals will give you a place to start. The beauty of homeschooling is that our children can have individualized education and not be required to fit into a mold made by some committee of “educators!”

Then think about what you want your child to learn this year. Learn to read? Become comfortable speaking in front of a group? Complete his second grade math book? Properly use capitals and punctuation in his writing? Learn to use the scientific method?

Once you have long term and yearly goals in place, then you will be in a much better place to search out materials that will help you work toward those goals.

I started from the beginning picking and choosing each subject based on both what I wanted my children to learn that year and our teaching and learning styles. Because I love to read, I was drawn to literature based curriculums such as Five in a Row and Sonlight.

Our science program in the early years was mainly interest based and hands on. I was often concerned that we didn’t spend  enough time on science, but surprisingly, my children always scored high in that area in standardized tests.

One area that I need to work on with Emily is writing—both expression and mechanics. I’m going to make this a priority for the rest of this year. One of my goals for this year was for her to become more efficient (less distractible) and independent in her seatwork. Implementing workboxes has made a huge difference in this area.

How about you? What are your goals for your child this year and how are you accomplishing them?

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