How to Choose the Right Homeschool Curriculum for Your Child

“There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.”

— Gandhi

So Many Curriculum Choices, So Little Time

This was the first roadblock…er step.

This was the first major decision that prompted me to become extremely intimate with my bedroom ceiling during the late hours of the evening.

I had decided I could teach. I had even decided I NEEDED to teach.

But what, exactly, would I teach?

After a lot of soul searching, prayer, and deep hyperventilation within the confines of a paper bag (kidding…kind of), I had finally figured out the homeschool curriculum we’d be using for our daughter.

The following are the steps I took to get there that are far less rough and tumble than the stages I actually endured. But fortunately for you, no paper bags required!

Difficult choice aside, choosing what works best for us curriculum-wise was a lot of fun.

1. Assess Your Teaching Style

Notice, I put this as numero uno. I suppose I could have flip-flopped the steps, assessing Ava’s learning style first, but to be honest, that’s something I had to observe and familiarize myself with.

As for my teaching style, I already knew how I like to teach because I taught creative writing classes in the past. And if any of those aspiring writers thought they were going to be given the opportunity to lay back and chill for two hours, boy were they wrong.

Yeah, I’m a bit type A. And I love label makers.

So when I realized that homeschooling didn’t necessarily mean unschooling only, I let out a little sigh and put those paper bags to better use (hand puppets, naturally).

Not only did a more structured curriculum speak to me personally, we also made our final decision to homeschool pretty quickly, and I needed to make sure all my i’s were dotted and t’s crossed. With a pre-packaged teaching plan like the one we chose, all the books and teaching materials were sent to me as well as a guide for how to teach them.

For the homeschooling newbie, this type of curriculum offers reassurance and automatic back up if you find yourself in a teaching rut.

Quick Curriculum Side Note

I love a lot about what unschooling represents and some of its finest features like putting family and relationships over societal demands are very big in our own household. But I don’t allow Ava to control choose her educational path 100% for reasons I’ll get into in the next paragraph. I think it’s a majorly cool concept that works for a lot of kiddos but not for mine at this point in time, and I’ll elaborate on that shortly!

It was bring your dog to school day. Ha!

2. Assess Your Child’s Learning Style

I spoke about Ava’s ADHD in my last post, and of course this was a HUGE factor in not only our deciding to homeschool, but also in deciding how we homeschool.

Ava tends to, well, get distracted. And my biggest fear about potentially unschooling her was her starting a project and then letting it fall to the wayside or her eventually manipulating her way to watching TV as part of her “research.”

There are TONS of children where unschooling fits like a glove, and quite frankly, I think I would have thrived in this type of learning environment. But if there’s one thing my daughter needs and even craves on some level, it’s guidance, structure, and boundaries. And really, I think this is because she’s so naturally averse to them.

That being said, I’m also a big proponent of balance, and I definitely can’t forget the best aspect of learning: fun!

 

Add in a sprinkle of adventure, and we’ve got ourselves a curriculum!

3. Create Balance for Your Homeschool

Since we are sticking to a more structured curriculum that covers the necessary basics like math, science, history, the Bible, reading, writing, and spelling, I’m also sure to mix it up a bit to keep things fresh, fun, and balanced.

Here are a few things we do to keep our structured learning from becoming the dreaded “b” word (boring!):

  • Field trips: From art museums to good old fashioned pumpkin picking, getting out and exploring the world is essential to a well-rounded curriculum.
  • Breaks: Plenty of pauses, stretches and jumps on the trampoline to get the blood flowing and the brain working.
  • Special projects: There are definitely areas of our learning that I allow Ava to give her input and even let her take the reigns. She gained an interest in Hellen Keller from one of her reading books, so I asked her if she’d like to write a paper on her. She’s been researching and writing up notes like a pro.
  • Co-op: We joined a homeschooling co-op which offers extra classes that have peaked Ava’s interest. Who wouldn’t want to take American Girl history and bring your American Girl doll to class?
  • Fun time: Fun is had in all forms from making fluffy slime like a champ for science to heading to the trampoline park or the pool for PE.

No matter what curriculum you choose, knowing yourself and your child is key in finding what works best and taking this adventure together!

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3 Reasons I Decided to Homeschool My Daughter

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

— Helen Keller

Deciding to Homeschool

Let me start by saying I shouldn’t be here right now. No, currently, I should be at a small Massachusetts liberal arts college teaching creative writing and living with a chocolate Labrador named Scout who enjoys my shoes more than I do.

But alas, life turned a curve and here I am. Thirty-three, mother of one, sitting at the computer in my dining room the morning after two full days of homeschooling my daughter this week.

The old me would have been much more apt to believe I’d eventually sprout horns rather than willingly educate a small human being.

It’s not that I didn’t think I was capable. It was more that homeschooling wasn’t my passion, and if I’m to be really honest, I didn’t even consider it an option. Not that I didn’t think it was a viable alternative to traditional schooling. It was more that, frankly, I had forgotten the possibility even existed.

So how did I get here? Well, like any parent, it came down to doing what was best for my daughter.

A great thing about homeschooling? Taking education outdoors.

 

1. My Daughter Has ADHD

My daughter is like a butterfly…that’s been given too much Dr. Pepper. She’s been this way since she was very small, and even though I’ve admired her incredible bouts of energy, I’ve also had my heart broken with her diagnosis, namely the times she’s cried because “my body won’t stop moving.”

That’s a tough one in any setting, but being required to sit still and be quiet for long portions of her day is a hard feat for somebody who’s body won’t listen to their brain. Her school was VERY accommodating to her condition which we appreciated, but I think she started to feel like this was just how it was, and she’d never move been beyond being the girl with ADHD. It’s almost as if she fully believed the label and instead of being willing to move forward and try harder in her subjects, she just sort of became complacent.

Considering this child talked at six months and could tell you directions to her grandparents house just three months later, I knew great things were expected of her. And I wanted to show her how to get there one-on-one.

Jumping at the chance to homeschool! Corny. I know.

2. My Daughter Needs Me

Well, naturally, right? But it went beyond seeing her before school and before bed when we were both cranky and horribly exhausted. I could tell that her attitude was tailored around the fact that I worked A LOT and wasn’t the most patient person after ten hours at the office. Weekends were no better because how are you to communicate with a person after spending all week snarling your nose at them?

I realized my daughter needed me. She has such a depth of love about her, and as much as she wanted to share her love with me, I was not always there to receive it. I realized this was a recipe for eventual disaster because as she got older, if she wasn’t connecting with me, who or what would she connect with? I didn’t want to keep up our usual arrangement long enough to find out.

This picture was taken the first meeting of our homeschooling co-op. Have you ever met people for the first time and realized they’re totally your tribe? Yep. That was this girl.

3. My Daughter Needs to Socialize

I know. You’re thinking traditional schooling is THE mecca for socialization and homeschooling definitely doesn’t fit that bill.

But that’s where I’m going to have to politely disagree.

Sure, my daughter made friends in public school. But she was also exposed to a ton of things a nine-year-old shouldn’t be exposed to without a loving parent to walk her through them step-by-step. Not only that, but Ava tends to linger on the immature side because of her ADHD which sometimes made her a target for bullying. And because she didn’t really know how to process this treatment, she’d get defensive and give it right back to the person bullying her. So yeah, recipe for major disaster.

Recently, we’ve joined a homeschooling co-op which gives Ava access to a wide variety of kids who learn, love, and are tackling life just like she is. And because there are parents all around, these kids can dive into the social scene with hands to comfortably guide them instead of being thrown to the wolves and expected to make the best of it.

It’s crazy to see what a difference this decision has made in her life and mine. It’s not the right path for everyone, but it is the right one for this mother and daughter duo keen on navigating life together.

Wild Edge

ava jumping 2

Between sex
And death
Cecilia chose
The latter
And that was
Always
the music
That played
At my heels.

Sex or death.
Sinner or saint.
No in between.

But can’t you
See?
It takes a lifetime
Of bad memory
To untangle our
Legs,
Smooth over
The edges,
And no amount
Of “I’m sorrys”
Will kill the story
“You’re forgiven”
has played
On my heart.

Or

girl bowling

 

Here’s what will happen:

You’ll hate me for a lifetime 
Or
A moment.

And I will visit you at the church where you work or in the prison near my house.

And you will love God or learn the world according to Satan.

And maybe you will have children or know the ways of an untrained womb.

And maybe you’ll be happy on your own accord or shear every inch of yourself to wear another woman.

And you will remember all my sins and stack them up against me.

Or you will love me and let memory rot and forget the day I screamed until both our throats ran dry.

Dear Ava,

I’m a horrible mother. And a terrifically good mother. And a no nonsense mother and a spastic, nonsensical type of female who keeps parking crookedly and forgets the word for fork sometimes, and then other times I feed people my brilliance.

I don’t think any of us were meant to be good at this.

But I think that’s okay. I think for the first time ever, there’s no good mother Olympics, no gold to be won.

There are mistakes and bruises and tears and the way she looks at me like she’s known me before she was born and wishes she’d never met my face.

It’s the same way I look into the mirror sometimes.

But there are those other crystal clear moments, a love abundant, a love like Christ’s, where I can feel it all weaving together, broken skin healing and that sound she makes when she breathes.

Step one, we are alive.

Step two, start living,

Step three, write down, paper to pen.

Dear Ava,

I’m sorry.

But dear Ava,

You now know the truth.

Gold

Ava's Soccer.jpg

Once, I was a little girl, too, until the sun prospered then withered and all the gold drained to gray.

But now I see it in your smile.

Dear Ava,

running away letter

DEAR AVA,

I hope
This
Finds
You well and
The kids
And Jack
Are safe
And happy
And set
To swimming
In the beautifully
Blue pool.
The picture
Was lovely.
It looks
Like a long
Shard of glass
And that bird
Reflected,
Hovering up high
Reminded me of the one
That swooped
And ate your
Newborn butterflies
That hatched
From that kit
I bought you.
I should have
Paid more attention
But butterflies
Are a nasty thing
To own.
How’s the cat
And that gerbil
That I’m always
Afraid the cat
Will eat?
Is Lucille
Still eating
Her fingernails
Like you always used
To do and might still?
Funny, the dedication
taken
To shredding
And imbibing ourselves.
I’m well.
The postman
Asked the other
Day
About your father
And I said, “Still Dead,”
But no smile on his face.
What a waste because
He looks a little
Like
Dicaprio in Gatsby
And a smile
Would do him good.
Me, too, I guess.
But not to get down
And out.
Have to keep the spirits
Up.
Have to keep on keeping on.

Sometimes, I talk to God
And dare him to listen.

I have to get on
Now
And I know
You’re busy with the
Glass shard pool
And Jack and the kids
And all the minutes
That feel
Like hours
Until your glass has
Spilled
And all you see
Is your damp
Eye hovering
From
above.

Super Girl

Super girl, girl, daughter

She flew
Into all forms,
A pecking order
That started with
My
Mother’s coiled heart
And ended in her unraveled
One.
And all my time has been
Spent braiding
And knotting
What’s come
Loose
And only
When I look down
Do I realize
The world has
Removed
My fingers. -e.c.

Art