Homeschooling Nuts and Bolts – Part 2

by R.B., Survival Blog:

(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)


This is a truly scary word for beginning homeschoolers, and it really doesn’t need to be. You are the one who gets to decide what is taught. And you need to do that before you look for instructional materials. That means you should know what you’re aiming at. And you DO know, don’t you? Certainly your list at every level should include:

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1. Reading and vocabulary. Instruction in reading can begin very early with some children, while others have to wait for reading readiness to develop. That’s absolutely OK. You will want a phonics approach, but also be aware that reading can involve other skills like pattern recognition. Reading for meaning and reflective reading are also part of the process as readers advance. Most other major subject areas involve reading as well, so look for appropriateness of reading materials in science, social studies, math, religion etc.
2. Mathematics. How often do you use calculus? How about trig? How much math does your student need to learn? Is algebra and geometry enough? (It was enough for me). Do you want math theory or do you want a strong basic skill set for daily work and life? Do you think drill and practice are essential, or just showing how many ways an answer can be achieved?

3. Religion and moral values. Even if you’re not “religious” you cannot ignore that most of the people in the world are, and that their religious beliefs influence or govern their actions. Your curriculum should include basic belief systems world-wide, and certainly materials which reflect your own faith. These materials are often available from local religious entities for free or little charge, and will give you places to access more. But start with a catechism of your own faith, and don’t be afraid to ask your pastor or elder for assistance. Regular catechism instruction and worship experience should be part of your curriculum, and can feed other areas of study, such as expository writing, music, and art. Don’t miss opportunities to “observe” worship of other faith communities.

4. Social studies, including geography, sociology, economics, government, and culture. Can you find Russia and Ukraine on a world map? Do you know the states of the United States? What is communism? These studies are crucial.

5. English grammar, literature, creative and expository writing. Look at any news outlet and notice the poor grammar skills of professional writers! You may not relish the great poets or Shakespeare’s plays, but not exposing students to at least some of it may mean that they miss a chance to find their own talents and flourish.

6. Languages. It is true that knowing more than one language deepens one’s ability in their heart language. You may need to find a tutor for this, as well as online and recording materials. Which language should you select? What is in your student’s future?

7. Art. Please, no beads glued on bottles. No paper made from shredded paper. No art from the trash can. Your art curriculum should involve art history and criticism as well as repeated practice with basic art materials: Paint (tempera, acrylic, and save watercolors for advanced learners, not beginners), clay for sculpture and pottery (take it to a ceramic dealer to have it fired), charcoal and ink, etc. Study all periods of art creation, with emphasis on the expressive qualities of each piece and multiple works of the same period or of an individual artist.

8. Music. Listening, playing, and composing. It is helpful if you have a piano or other instrument in the home, especially if you play a bit. But listening to a variety of music isn’t hard to arrange, and music history materials are easy to find. Tutoring is a good idea for learning any instrument, and usually there are opportunities for performance which a tutor can line up for you. Don’t forget concerts, and take advantage of church choirs that are always looking for new members. Selecting a church choir to sing with might involve knowing what kind of music they usually perform, and whether your student would benefit from that experience.

9. Sciences. Your selection of curriculum emphases will depend on your understanding of the origin of the natural world, and will strongly guide your selection of appropriate materials. A theocentric view of creation will automatically discard much of what standard publishers produce, but also beware of some creationist materials which are not really based on true science as well. An evolutionist point of view, on the other hand, will reject any notion other than natural phenomena, and place an entirely rationalistic value on all things, including human life.

10. Sports and Recreation. In this area, it might well be said that a little about a lot is worth more than a lot about a little. Your students should learn about and possibly practice the widest possible set of activities. Learn the rules of various games, attend games, play on teams when available, etc. Many local homeschool associations sponsor P.E. classes for groups of homeschool children, and there are many youth organizations that sponsor athletic teams. Individual sports for lifetime enjoyment should be a part of the curriculum as well: swimming, hiking, skating etc.

Consideration may be given to using “The Core Knowledge Series” by Hirsch which begins with “What Your Preschooler Needs to Know” and continues with a book for each grade through sixth grade. It may prove useful in helping you to select what you want to cover in each subject at each grade level.
Learn what the requirements are for homeschooled students in your state. Some states require
standardized testing and/or portfolios of your student(s) work. Consider keeping all papers including tests in organized notebooks for easy presentation and referral.

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