May 19, 2009

Choosing Homeschool Curriculum: A Challenge

‘Tis the season for homeschool conventions; if you attend one, you’ll encounter a sea of curriculum vendors. And you’ll soon discover the Rainbow Resource catalogue in your mailbox – all 1300 pages filled with tiny-print descriptions of curricular options. Or you’ll happen upon a post on The Homeschool Lounge seeking advice about reading programs…and see responses touting dozens of choices.

Homeschoolers have plenty of options! And, while each of us has our own criteria for choosing what’s appropriate, I suggest you consider picking materials based on how well they’ll promote the multiple intelligences theory detailed in Dr. Kathy’s book, How Am I Smart? In other words, I challenge you to choose curriculum based on how well it can awaken and regularly develop all eight smarts in your children.

If you pick up that gauntlet, here are just a few ideas to get you thinking as you make decisions for next fall:

Word Smart: Growing this smart as much as possible is imperative for successful learning. Thus, it’s also imperative to choose only those materials – from read-alouds to textbooks – written so as to engage a child’s mind and imagination. We can’t afford to waste our kids’ time – and possibly drain their love of learning – with dry, dull books.

Logic Smart: The key logic-smart question is, “Why?” With that in mind, look at curricula that allow your children to find answers to that question in hands-on, self-discovery kinds of ways. Fill a shelf with science-themed books. Build the use of logic-based games and toys – puzzles, Sudoko, and Legos – into your school days.

Picture Smart: Art shouldn’t be supplemental, something we merely squeeze in on rainy days. Rather, it should be integral for children of all ages. So choose curriculum that melds drawing, painting, and sculpting into the study of history and literature. Encourage crafting. Buy an art technique book or enroll your child in a local art class.

Music Smart: As with art, music instruction shouldn’t be optional. The curriculum I’ve chosen includes detailed study of Tchaikovsky and The Nutcracker next year; in other programs, children study one composer a month. Enroll your child in the homeschool choir – or start one through your co-op. Consider instrumental lessons or, if you can’t afford that, purchase a few recorders and a basic technique book and learn together as a family.

Body Smart: As homeschoolers, we have the privilege of giving our body-smart children more freedom to move and touch than is often possible in other school settings; capitalize on that! My older daughter learned to count to 100 by skipping and hopping around the dining room. A friend’s child listens to read-alouds sprawled out in all manner of places, but it’s clear afterwards that her freedom to move enhances her comprehension. Our spelling program uses letter tiles to add a kinesthetic dimension to word study. One organizational system encourages moms to schedule daily treadmill or trampoline time in between bookwork.

Nature Smart: I’m personally not very nature smart so I’m thankful our curriculum schedules nature walks once a week; other programs encourage even more frequent nature study. You can keep it laid-back or formalize what you do by creating nature notebooks and making nature study part of your science program. In either case, don’t skip it!

People Smart: Kids who are particularly people smart need involvement in co-ops and other group activities. And kids who aren’t as people smart need similar opportunities to grow. No homeschooler I know actually stays home all the time; be like that and give your kids access to some regular group activities.

Self Smart: For very self-smart children, homeschooling is a blessing; it saves them from having to endure hours each day in people-intense traditional school. And you can grow important self smarts in all your children by encouraging such things as daily quiet time and the use of journals.

Picking appropriate resources is a daunting task; often, it’s a learn-as-you-go proposition. As a base, though, you really can’t go wrong if you start with the commitment to choose that which encourages the development of all eight smarts in each of your children. In so doing, you’ll provide the essence of the individualized instruction you seek because you’ll help each of your children to develop uniquely and completely.


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