Saturday, January 23, 2016

Homeschool: Why I Don't Use a Boxed Curriculum

I have only been homeschooling for two years, but prior to staying home with my two youngest sons, I was a classroom teacher and reading specialist for over 20 years.  Never during my career did I teach exclusively from a book or scripted program. Now, I'm not saying that teaching from a book or "boxed" curriculum is bad; it just isn't a good fit for how my son learns or how I teach.

If you are new to homeschool, or if you are using a boxed curriculum and are interested in making a change, then this blog post is for you!

My number one reason for not using a boxed curriculum is this:

A  prescribed curriculum is too confining and inflexible for both my son as a learner and for me as a teacher.

 In teaching, I use a student-centered approach to learning. What this means is that many of the thematic unit studies I create are based on my son's interests. If I am using a boxed curriculum, then he must complete and study whatever comes next in the sequence. This works for math, but not for other subject areas. An example is our latest unit, a snow exploration. In December, my son was lamenting the fact that we had not had any snow. {As a side note, we now have 30" of drifting snow... he got his wish at the end of our unit!!}

I created a mini-unit that included reading picture books, a biography, poetry, and informational reading about snow and how snowflakes are created. This was an integrated unit that included reading,writing,science, art, and more!  You can read more details by clicking the link below:

This was a spontaneous unit.  We were able to do this because the sequence of my plans,goals, and objectives are fluid.  With a boxed curriculum, the sequence is dictated for you.  Of course, you can veer off the prescribed sequence, but then you may feel that you are "behind". Or, you may feel a need to follow all the plans in the curriculum so that you get your money's worth.

In homeschool, it has taken me a lot of time to realize that I am not behind if I take a little detour because my son is leading the way in his learning.  That to me is the goal of learning... to take responsibility and ownership of one's learning.  If my son is excited and motivated to learn about something, then how can I squash that desire and enthusiasm? And besides, he is young... what we don't get to this year, he can study next year.

Sounds a lot like what I have read about unschooling, doesn't it? We are not unschoolers, but rather a concoction of unit studies, thematic teaching, and unschooling. Eclectic teaching and learning is what I think it is called.

As a former teacher, I am familiar with the learning expectations for a third grader. I also keep an eye on the CCSS.  This gives me a platform, a springboard from which to work when I am planning.  I know my child. I know his interests, abilities, and his learning style.  You know your child/children. Trust yourself to develop and create your own curriculum. And then hold on loosely so when your child wants to explore an interest that is not part of your "plan", you can release them as you adventure together.

Do I purchase textbooks or curriculum at all?  Yes, I do! The history and science texts that I purchased are used as resources. They are not read cover to cover. For instance, this week we learned about Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy. I developed this little QR code activity (at my son's request) for him to complete.

Afterwards, he read a few pages out of his history textbook to glean new information and to compare it to the other texts and sources of information.

If you are interested in learning more about thematic teaching, you can read a post I wrote by clicking the picture below:

This is what works for my son and for me as a teacher.  We both need room to explore, wonder, create, and dive in deep to study certain topics and subjects.  Within all of this creativity, I do have a structure for our day (a routine that we follow on most days), we do follow a math curriculum, and yes, I do teach and assign things at times that my son doesn't want to learn or do (namely anything that has to do with writing!).

And at the end of the day, if he still has excitement and wonder and inspiration for learning, then it has been a very good day, despite how much "book work" he accomplished.

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  1. Yes! I don't use a boxed curriculum either. Thematic teaching is what I do as well. Going to go talk to a bunch of homeschooling mamas next month on how to get away from that curriculum book! So glad I found you!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Christa! I'm sure that the book or boxed curriculum can bring security to some, but I find it so restrictive. I am so glad that we were able to connect! :-) Lauren


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