Homeschooling: Choosing curriculum to simplify education

“You get the children strong in language arts and math and then the world is their oyster."
Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 5:14 AM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - COVID-19 has thrown the academic year up in the air across southwest Virginia. According to a recent poll by the American Federation of Children, 40-percent of parents are more likely to pursue homeschooling or online education this year.

Once you’ve decided to start homeschooling, the next step is choosing your curriculum.

“The beauty of homeschooling is that the parent can choose what works for them and what works for the child,” Anne Miller, the president and executive director of Home Educators Association of Virginia, said. “If it doesn’t work for you, guess what. We’re not going to do it.”

“What really worked for our family was the flexibility of homeschooling,” Angie Hoff said. “We loved the ability to set our own schedule. We liked being able to say this is the rhythm of our life.”

Hoff, a Blacksburg mom of four, has learned a lot from homeschooling off and on for the last seven years. Her kids range in age from 3 to 11, so you can imagine life’s rhythm is loud and fast. She said homeschooling allowed them to slow down.

Miller explained there are many styles of curriculum to choose from. One of the first ways to begin homeschooling is through pre-packaged lesson plans.

“And you can get that in textbook form,” she explained. “You can get those online.”

For Hoff, this wasn’t the best option.

”I was advised not to buy box curriculum right off the bat,” she said.

Box curriculum is often one size fits all and she has kids of all different and learning styles.

“You feel like you have to go this direction because you spent so much on this curriculum and then it becomes this stressful thing and stressful thing for your child,” she explained.

For families in this situation, Miller advised trying the unit study approach, in which kids of different ages learn the same material at the same time.

“Often families will have separate language arts and math courses because everyone can be at a different level there,” Miller said. “And then they’ll do history and science and art together.”

You can also use the Charlotte-Mason approach that uses whole books and a lot of nature to educate students on a variety of topics.

“It’s a very natural, organic way that children already learn,” Miller said.

When Miller homeschooled her kids she combined the Charlotte-Mason approach with the Classical style of study.

“The Classical approach is based on the Trivium, which had the three levels of learning,” Miller said.

Here, learning follows a child’s natural development from learning facts in elementary school, to logic and debate in middle school, and then to rhetoric and self-expression in high school.

But you don’t have to choose one and never waiver.

“Many, many homeschool families combine,” Miller said.

And Hoff recommends starting simple.

“We address basic math. We address language arts. And we use the library,” Hoff said, adding you don’t have to be super-parent to homeschool your kids.

“There’s no “superness” about it at all,” she laughed. “If anything, it’s ‘thank God I lasted through the day!‘”

The simple steps for effective homeschooling are 1) choose age-appropriate materials 2) figure out what you like and what you don’t like 3) come up with a realistic plan for what you can get done and 4) just let the learning happen.

“You get the children strong in language arts and math and then the world is their oyster,” Miller smiled.

If homeschooling has taught Hoff anything, it’s that she can do hard things with a positive attitude.

“The self talk that you can’t do something or you shouldn’t do something, doesn’t help. Just give yourself some grace and give your kids some grace. Love on each other and laugh and find a little bit of joy.”

Something else to know about homeschooling is that the cost is largely up to you. Miller said some families spend a couple thousand dollars while others spend zero. But the average is about $600 per kid every year.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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