(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)
This is a truly scary word for beginning homeschoolers, and it really doesn’t need to be. You are the one who gets to decide what is taught. And you need to do that before you look for instructional materials. That means you should know what you’re aiming at. And you DO know, don’t you? Certainly your list at every level should include:
1. Reading and vocabulary. Instruction in reading can begin very early with some children, while others have to wait for reading readiness to develop. That’s absolutely OK. You will want a phonics approach, but also be aware that reading can involve other skills like pattern recognition. Reading for meaning and reflective reading are also part of the process as readers advance. Most other major subject areas involve reading as well, so look for appropriateness of reading materials in science, social studies, math, religion etc.
2. Mathematics. How often do you use calculus? How about trig? How much math does your student need to learn? Is algebra and geometry enough? (It was enough for me). Do you want math theory or do you want a strong basic skill set for daily work and life? Do you think drill and practice are essential, or just showing how many ways an answer can be achieved?
3. Religion and moral values. Even if you’re not “religious” you cannot ignore that most of the people in the world are, and that their religious beliefs influence or govern their actions. Your curriculum should include basic belief systems world-wide, and certainly materials which reflect your own faith. These materials are often available from local religious entities for free or little charge, and will give you places to access more. But start with a catechism of your own faith, and don’t be afraid to ask your pastor or elder for assistance. Regular catechism instruction and worship experience should be part of your curriculum, and can feed other areas of study, such as expository writing, music, and art. Don’t miss opportunities to “observe” worship of other faith communities.
4. Social studies, including geography, sociology, economics, government, and culture. Can you find Russia and Ukraine on a world map? Do you know the states of the United States? What is communism? These studies are crucial.
5. English grammar, literature, creative and expository writing. Look at any news outlet and notice the poor grammar skills of professional writers! You may not relish the great poets or Shakespeare’s plays, but not exposing students to at least some of it may mean that they miss a chance to find their own talents and flourish.
6. Languages. It is true that knowing more than one language deepens one’s ability in their heart language. You may need to find a tutor for this, as well as online and recording materials. Which language should you select? What is in your student’s future?
7. Art. Please, no beads glued on bottles. No paper made from shredded paper. No art from the trash can. Your art curriculum should involve art history and criticism as well as repeated practice with basic art materials: Paint (tempera, acrylic, and save watercolors for advanced learners, not beginners), clay for sculpture and pottery (take it to a ceramic dealer to have it fired), charcoal and ink, etc. Study all periods of art creation, with emphasis on the expressive qualities of each piece and multiple works of the same period or of an individual artist.
8. Music. Listening, playing, and composing. It is helpful if you have a piano or other instrument in the home, especially if you play a bit. But listening to a variety of music isn’t hard to arrange, and music history materials are easy to find. Tutoring is a good idea for learning any instrument, and usually there are opportunities for performance which a tutor can line up for you. Don’t forget concerts, and take advantage of church choirs that are always looking for new members. Selecting a church choir to sing with might involve knowing what kind of music they usually perform, and whether your student would benefit from that experience.
9. Sciences. Your selection of curriculum emphases will depend on your understanding of the origin of the natural world, and will strongly guide your selection of appropriate materials. A theocentric view of creation will automatically discard much of what standard publishers produce, but also beware of some creationist materials which are not really based on true science as well. An evolutionist point of view, on the other hand, will reject any notion other than natural phenomena, and place an entirely rationalistic value on all things, including human life.
10. Sports and Recreation. In this area, it might well be said that a little about a lot is worth more than a lot about a little. Your students should learn about and possibly practice the widest possible set of activities. Learn the rules of various games, attend games, play on teams when available, etc. Many local homeschool associations sponsor P.E. classes for groups of homeschool children, and there are many youth organizations that sponsor athletic teams. Individual sports for lifetime enjoyment should be a part of the curriculum as well: swimming, hiking, skating etc.
Consideration may be given to using “The Core Knowledge Series” by Hirsch which begins with “What Your Preschooler Needs to Know” and continues with a book for each grade through sixth grade. It may prove useful in helping you to select what you want to cover in each subject at each grade level.
Learn what the requirements are for homeschooled students in your state. Some states require
standardized testing and/or portfolios of your student(s) work. Consider keeping all papers including tests in organized notebooks for easy presentation and referral.
WHAT ABOUT THE COMPUTER?
WHERE TO GO FOR ASSISTANCE
Once you have established your curricular goals, go shopping. You will need to be a bit of a scrounger, but there are actually complete curricula available online if you want to go that route: Ron Paul has an online curriculum grades 1-12, but that somewhat removes your input, doesn’t it?
“Scope and sequence” charts or descriptions are available from publishers and are useful for lists of particular topics covered in a course, what level they are intended for, and what materials are available. Pick up some textbooks at your local thrift shops and get names of publishers to search. Look at what is in these books to get a good idea of the worldview that publisher presents. If you like what you see, you can pursue that publisher online. Certain publishers cater to segments of the homeschool population. Abeka is one of these, with a strongly evangelical Christian emphasis (some would say too strong—how many frogs are in Pharaoh’s bath tub seems a bit of a stretch). Many Christian denominations produce materials in line with their doctrinal stance. Concordia Publishing House publishes for the school system of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, which is very conservative. There are also independent Christian publishers. You might also turn to administrators of nonpublic schools to see what publishers they use, and look at specific materials they have in-house.
Please keep in mind that you do not need the latest nor even this century’s edition for many subjects.
Math is math. Literature texts from an earlier time may well contain more conservative materials for your reader. The same goes for viewpoints of history. You can provide materials for the last few decades of history by using articles and selected nonfiction books. Often older textbooks are far less expensive and available for sale on ebay, Amazon, or from other book sellers including thrift shops.
Home school organizations often offer opportunities for parents to sell/buy used educational materials.
If your school system uses a certain publisher, for example Prentice Hall, and you would like to consider that but with a more conservative bent, go for an earlier edition from the 80’s or 90’s perhaps. Also
decide if you would like to obtain a Teacher’s Edition containing the answers to the questions.
What fiction or nonfiction books should you like to encourage your student to read for fun or in
addition to the text? Avoid many of the new suggested titles! Select from the excellent older
classics. It is very helpful to have lists of such organized by grade levels keeping in mind that your
student may well make selections from several different grades according to interest. Where do you
get these lists? Check online with conservative sources. For example, google “A Complete Classical
Christian School Reading List: Grades 1-8” by Justin Taylor on March 4, 2014. This excellent list is
found on the Gospel Coalition site. Summer reading lists from schools can also be helpful such as
that provided by Immanuel Lutheran School of Alexandria, Virginia (ilsalexandria.org.) or Trinity
Classical Academy (trinityclassicalacademy.com). If you are interested in educating yourself about children’s literature consider obtaining a copy of “Children and Books” by Arbuthnot.
Your public library should be a valuable source for things like how to play certain sports, how to make certain crafts etc., and in this case books are probably a better source than the internet. There are also homeschool resources online and local homeschool associations to join which can really be of service to you. Homeschoolers frequently are eager to share their experiences, and help one another.
The Portfolio. Essential to our son’s entry into public high school at the end of his two years of homeschool was the presentation of a portfolio. In that light, SAVE OR TAKE PHOTOS OF EVERYTHING. We submitted his written reports of all his travels, a very complete list of every course and his performance in it, pictures of him at work using an etching press in art class and various science activities, records of all his other activities. Remember this is to be submitted to public school authorities who are bound to be skeptical of homeschool education. The portfolio we submitted was about 400 pages altogether, and was approved without reservation by the high school administration. But even if you do not plan to go back into the public schools, the portfolio is a good record for you to keep, and may again be essential for entry to college or trade school. It’s also nice to look at later on, and see where you went with education and what you and your student achieved.
We felt like we had achieved what we set out to do, namely to make up for the inadequacies of our son’s education through seventh grade, to teach him skills he would not have had access to, and to avoid some of the more negative aspects of public junior high. In retrospect, I wish we had continued at least for another year, as the stories he later told us about the conditions at his high school would curl your hair. As it was, for his senior year he was able to enroll in a nearby college, earn college credit, and avoid high school for the most part until graduation. I didn’t say it was easy, did I? I didn’t say your homeschool would look like ours. I did say you CAN do it, and do it well, and your student and you will profit by the effort.