Imagine planning and executing lessons for 20 students 5 days a week, 32 weeks a year. Half of the class is struggling to keep up, and about 20% of the class need something more challenging. How are you going to give them what they need AND finish the curriculum on time? You’re probably not. This is exactly what happens every year in a public school setting. The solution? Don’t focus on the curriculum. Focus on the students.
While most homeschoolers follow a curriculum, they almost forget the whole reason they’re homeschooling: Individualized Attention. Curriculum companies aren’t designing curriculums for YOUR child. With 8 years of classroom experience, I’ve seen how curriculum doesn’t reach most children. If you’re following a curriculum to the T, you may be either rushing your child’s learning process or slowing it down. It may not be giving your child multiple opportunities to apply the concepts learned. It may not be providing you with multiple opportunities to reteach or assess.
By now you’re probably wondering how to let go of a curriculum without missing important objectives. Let me tell you what I’ve learned from teaching in the public school system.
- Don’t follow curriculum to the T. I did use the curriculum to see what skills were to be taught that week, and then I found multiple ways of teaching them. For example: if I saw we were working on long vowel sounds I would find a few hands on activities for my kids to do in the mornings while I was taking attendance. I also might find some fun projects to do while we were working in our Language Arts block.
This was not easy to do with a class of 20 different learners. But homeschool? YES! This is really simple to do. You can still use your curriculum to see what skills will be addressed, but then find other ways to teach them! Find games or projects! It really takes less than 30 minutes on the computer to find some simple ways to include these activities in your homeschool day. Implement these activities instead of the curriculum lesson. Great teachers DO NOT follow curriculum. They follow what’s best for the child. Do Not follow the curriculum. Follow your child!
- You don’t need to finish a curriculum. If your curriculum is good, it will be a spiraling cycle of skills. Each grade level builds on top of the other. Let’s say you’re getting ready to begin a second grade curriculum. The first 6 weeks or so are going to be first grade review. You aren’t going to miss important skills if you quit the curriculum at the end of the year before finishing it. Don’t be a slave to your curriculum guide!
- You don’t need to complete the whole lesson. Curriculums should have a lot of different options for teaching your child. You shouldn’t do every single activity they suggest. This is why it’s called a Teaching Guide. You, as the teacher, should decide which activities will suit your child and then move on. Your child should set the pace, not the curriculum.
Common Fears of Not Following The Curriculum
- I’m not skilled enough to add other activities. This is where Pinterest is your best friend. Teachers LOVE to share their ideas. When I’m looking for another way to teach a skill, I get on Pinterest and type in the skill. I always have a ton of ideas pop up. It takes less than 5 minutes to pick an activity and read about how to do it. You don’t have to come up with the activities on your own. Teachers borrow ideas from other teachers.
- I’m afraid I’d miss objectives. If you’re still following the scope of your curriculum you won’t miss objectives. If you’re not using a curriculum, follow your state standards. Print out the state standards and then check off the objectives as you go. Also make notes of which standards are mastered and which objectives need to be retaught.
- I don’t have enough time to prepare activities on my own. I think everyone is in the same boat here. In fact, public school teachers used to get at least a 30 minute planning block each day. However, with all of the state requirements, even their planning block is gone and is replaced with grade level meetings. For homeschoolers we actually have MORE time. Start out gradual. Select only one new activity a week, and slowly add more as you go. The more practice you have in veering off the curriculum path, the quicker and easier the planning process will go.
How I Use The State Standards To Plan Out My Activities
This is actually pretty simple. Each week I spend about an hour looking over the standards and planning the activities. I’m going to use 4th Grade as my example.
It’s always been my goal to find and make activities that really work for my kids and for homeschoolers everywhere. I’m hoping you’ll take an hour a week to plan and find activities that don’t follow your curriculum. If you don’t even have an hour to spare, April and I have saved you time and energy by putting together fun ELA units to help get in all of the standards in a fun way. Please feel free to check out our FREE Back to school-Homeschool sample and try them with your kiddos. You can find the entire units in my store. We currently have 5 ELA units for kids 3rd-5th grade and 1 ELA unit for 1st-2nd grades. We’ll have more coming soon!