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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing Your Own Curriculum

Now that I'm back to writing and compiling my own curriculum for the pods, I thought I would let you in on the process.  How does one create a curriculum?  Here's how I do it.

Make a plan. Sit down by yourself and write what you would most like your children to know. Then, consult with your husband about things that are really important to him. After you have come up with those things that, as parents, you feel are most vital, sit down with each child individually. Ask them what they would like to learn. Kindly explain the things that YOU, his parents, feel are the most important. Make exchanges, "We will learn more about dinosaurs and airplanes because that is important to you. Would you be willing to learn some things that Dad and I feel are really important (like penmanship or spelling or math)?" Usually, when they are given the option to be involved in the planning, they are more willing to give and take.

Then, I take these interviews and we make a list. At some times and with some kids it is easy to compile a list of goals. At other times, we have to struggle together to decide on a direction. We make quarterly goals and try to cover many areas. A list may look like this:

  • Learn to write my name and the names of everyone in the family
  • Master the letter sounds
  • Learn more about dinosaurs
  • Go on a field trip to find fossils (or go to a museum to see some)
  • Memorize five scriptures
  • Clean my room every morning before breakfast
  • Learn the names of all the continents, major oceans and hemispheres
  • Count by two's to twenty

or something. I just made that up, but could be about right for a kindergartener. If we get stuck, I might say, "We have reading, writing, scriptures, helping around the house . . . what about learning some things in the kitchen?" To which you and the child can come up with a plan to learn some things in the kitchen.

  • Learn to make toast, crack eggs and do simple kitchen measurements (one cup, one teaspoon)

"You know, we don't have anything on here for exercise. What kind of exercise goal would you like to make to keep your body healthy?"

  • Ride my bike every day for at least one hour

And so on until you both feel like you have a well-rounded, interesting outline for the next three or four months. You can then create that curriculum based upon the list you compiled together. You won't need to force because he had a hand in choosing what would be studied. If he decides after one month that he's had enough of dinosaurs, change it up. Do not force yourselves to be bound by this list. It is only a guide.

How do you do this with more than one kid? Well, you make a list like this for each child. You do the things that are important to him, but you will find the lists meld quite easily. It is fun to change up the lessons to make them harder for the older child and easier for the younger. If you are learning about reading a thermometer, you might just teach the younger child how to read the mercury. He will lose interest and run off and you can teach the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit, where those names were derived, do labs and measure cold water, hot water, boiling water, cooking candy, the freezer, etc. You can do the math and figure out how to figure the C if you only have the degree in F. See how this becomes fun family time? Also, you don't really understand something until you are able to teach it. That goes for the kids, too. If your older child can teach something to the younger, he really understands it--and it cements itself in his memory better than if he had just done a worksheet on the topic.

Finally, be an interesting teacher by teaching things that are interesting to you.  Make sure that you get your own study time in. It is HARD to find that time for yourself, but it is most vital. I have friends who do this and friends who don't and you can tell, really tell, in the education of their children. I think it is mostly due to example and to the fact that you are loving your own learning. It makes you excited to teach them what you are learning. And an excited, passionate teacher is contagious to their students.

You can do it!  After having done it for six years and then letting someone else do it for two months, I will never go back.  A personalized approach is, I think, the most effective way to learn.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

K12: Going Back

This morning as I was getting things ready for the kids's K12 curriculum, I said, "I hate this."  I decided then and there to leave the Virtual Academy.  I know, you could see that from the beginning.  I could too, but I was hoping to make it jive with what we already had going.

I hated having to do it their way.  I hated having to answer to someone ALL OF THE TIME.  I hated having to push the kids to do work for which they had no passion.  (I'm not about to argue that you have to study only things that you want to study, but I think it is fruitless to study only things in which you aren't interested.)  I long for the freedoms we had before.  If my son reads something about immigration and finds it interested, I hated having to tell him to stop looking into that and go on to the next chapter.  Silly.

I sat down with the boy and explained my feelings.  He told me that he likes being busy.  He says he is more responsible with other things when he has a full load.  I agree, but I don't want him busy just for busy's sake.  I want him busy because he loves what he is learning.

A misconception I had from the beginning about K12 was that it would be easier on me because I didn't have to create the curriculum every day.  I found that I was just as busy, if not more so, trying to keep up with checking all of their boxes.  It was so frustrating to think we had had a great school day to go online and spend an hour, literally checking boxes.  I would rather have spent that hour learning and preparing to teach.

So, we're throwing in the towel.  I'm going to keep using the parts of the K12 curriculum that I like as long as I can--until they demand I send it back.  It is the first time I've ever been able to take advantage of my contribution to public school's tax revenue.

Can I just tell you how much relief I feel?  As I write this, I have my Pandora's Dance station playing.  The kids are dancing behind me and I'm going to join them as soon as I hit "publish."  You know it wasn't a good fit when we have a party after making the decision to end it.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

K12: 8

Last week, I felt we were doing pretty well with school.  My pods were zooming through assignments and were catching up to where they are supposed to be.  I was beginning to think maybe we were figuring this thing out. . .

when I got two emails from two different teachers.  Both were concerned with the progress my children have been making.  They threatened to send "letters."  Having never had students in public school, I'm not sure what that means, but it sounded shameful.

Here's the thing:  I am pretty happy with the curriculum.  Most of the things my children are learning are things I am happy for them to learn.  I don't agree with the amount of work, the amount of sit-at-the-table kind of work and the regimented style, so I suppose I have been rather non-compliant.  If I had money, I would buy the curriculum without being a part of the school.  Alas, I have non.

I'm going to keep going as I like and just wait for the "letters" and whatever that implies.  When they say, "You are shaming the whole school by your lack of dedication to the public school way of life," I suppose I will leave.

Oh, well.  It was a good experiment.


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