What Curriculum To Use?

This is a loaded question and it invariably comes up in any conversation with fellow homeschoolers about homeschooling, “so, which curriculum are you using or going to use?”

When I say there are a lot of options out there, I mean A LOT. Where to start? Well, that is basically the point that I am at. How to sort the wheat from the chaff when I’m looking at a silo full of choices. I need to consider my daughters style of learning, will this be a good fit for how she learns? What time of day is she most receptive to learning? Although this does feel like an impossible task, it also highlights the beauty of being able to choose a curriculum and homeschooling in the first place. There is no “one size fits all” curriculum. Especially not in schools where your child is one of 20+ children trying to be taught within the same mold, at the same time and in the same time frame. This process will, with no doubt, involve trial and error, stops and starts, until we find the right fit for us.

I can tell you from my research a number of the big buzz words that describe the direction I hope to go in our future. Secular. Literature based. Unit Studies. Learning through play. That could be just one sentence. Secular literature based unit studies is an apt description, while learning through play. Many homeschoolers start their year by asking their children, “what do you want to learn about this year?” and developing an overarching theme integrating language arts, science, math, social studies, reading, writing, art for a week long theme (for early elementary) to a month or more of concentration for older students. I can follow my daughter’s lead on her interests. And if our early morning and before bed routine of her sitting down and saying, “I want to have a conversation. Let’s talk about trolleys!” (or trains, or clouds, or spiders, or what ever the topic du jour happens to be), is any indication, then we’re all in for some fun and diverse learning adventures.

We are still in early days and our days of “schooling” are not at all structured. What we do right now, we do because it works for her at 3.5 years old. I keep a bin with a number of workbooks (aka her puzzle books), some manipulatives (pattern blocks, attribute blocks, snap cubes) and a stash of paper, which is next to her little work table with the always available crayons, scissors, stickers and glue. We work in these books together when she goes to them and brings them to me. In this way, I know she is receptive, nothing is forced, and we can end up spending over an hour with solid, determined concentration.

So what is in this bin of books? So far, the favorites, as evidenced by my daughter picking them over all others include the following:

A few from the Critical Thinking Company:
can you find me thinkingbuilding

She blew through a book of beginning sequencing involving cutting and pasting pictures according to a short story:

A variety of Kumon workbooks, including tracing, easy mazes and scissor skills. A few with “getting ready to read” activities. She has completed a number of these books already.

This bin has a focus on refining fine motor skills and puzzle solving. But most of our day is spent learning through play and there is nothing here that isn’t outside the ordinary for most preschoolers. We spend a lot of time outside, working in the garden, digging in the mud, playing in the sand box, swinging on swings, drawing with sidewalk chalk, blowing bubbles, catching ball or frisbee, playing chase. We read a lot through out the day and making a weekly trip to the library to get an influx of new material has been brilliant. She helps me in the kitchen when cooking and baking, scooping, measuring and stirring whenever she can. She wants to be my helper around the house, loving folding and putting away small towels and sorting everyone’s socks out to their respective drawers when I’m doing laundry. Everything is a learning opportunity.

I think we have a fun foundation of activity to build structure on to. This is a learning experience for me as well. So far, the more I research, the more excited I get about the prospect and the quieter my lingering doubts become. I can do this and do it well.