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January 24, 2013

The Ever Changing Homeschool Curriculum

One awesome family losing sight of the shore…and searching for the next laundromat!

Guest Blogger Mary Carlton

As many of you seasoned homeschooling moms (and dads) know, the homeschool curriculum is a growing, changing beast.  That dark, negative voice that we attempt to suppress on a daily basis sometimes breaks through to the surface creating a blanket of doubt and fear.  Are we pushing them too hard? Are we not challenging them enough?  Are they falling behind in Math?  Should they be reading at a higher level?  These questions, and many others, lead us on an almost constant quest to find the perfect homeschooling curriculum.  Well, my friends, I have a nugget of wisdom that I am willing to share with you (and yes, it’s free!).

There is no such thing as the perfect curriculum.

*GASP*  Shocking eh?

The fear of failure is a massive motivator.  But when we, as homeschooling parents, take a look at what and who we would be failing, it creates a deep seated panic down in your belly.  For me, it’s like falling from a great height, knowing you are going to crash, but still having time to reflect on where it went wrong…it drives me to distraction.  I am constantly wondering if I’m doing it all right, or all wrong.  This fear has created a revolving door in regard to our courses of study. However, after a measly two years, I think I just might have pieced together a curriculum that suits our family rhythm.

When we started homeschooling we lived in a house.  I went to the resale homeschool bookstore and grabbed a few basics in the three R’s.  This worked well for about a month and then the ugly beast took control and I went searching.  We added in a few more subjects and I felt a bit better about what we were doing throughout the day.  When we decided to hit the road, we also decided to revamp the manner in which we studied.  We wanted to try to go digital with everything.  So, off I went in search of a curriculum that would help us do that.  I looked at boxed sets, they were too heavy (weight is an issue in the camper) and too expensive for us. I also looked at the curriculums that offered 100% online courses.  The only thing I worried about with that was how I would handle it if we didn’t have internet.  I eventually came across a curriculum that seemed to be the perfect fit.  It was all on a CD which would allow me to print anything I needed or just use the computer.  The library of classic literature that came with it was astounding.  The entire curriculum was based on reading, which we all love, and pushing the kids to be self-reliant.  Sold!

A few months went by and I realized that I needed to be able to have a book in my hand, along with a schedule for each subject, in order for me to feel in control of our progress.  So, off I went searching again.  And through a few trials and errors, I arrived at the curriculum we now use in our roadschooling family.  It’s a hodge podge of items that seem to work well with the ebb and flow of our daily lives.

As I look back at what we went through to arrive at this point, I realize that it’s not a curriculum that I was searching for.  It was more about finding what made me comfortable in my position as teacher rather than the subjects and courses I was teaching.  You see, kids really can learn anywhere.  It can be by reading something in a book, watching a video, visiting a museum, or simply exploring the outdoors.  Along that same line of understanding, parents can teach in a multitude of ways as well.  We can buy lesson plans, use boxed sets that have all materials included, use the online/virtual schools that are very hands off, or we can pull together daily and weekly lessons from local resources as we see fit.  I realized that my job wasn’t to necessarily teach them science, or fractions, or diagramming sentences.  My job is to teach them how to find information while still encouraging that love of learning new things.  And for me, the best way to do that is to have a scheduled way to measure progress.  I can see, daily, what excites them, interests them, and bores them.  For me, not having to create lesson plans allows me to direct my focus on other aspects of our traveling lives. Such as finding locations that jive with their interests J Not having to worry about where a library is, wondering if we’re going to have internet, or figuring out what comes next takes a load of weight off of my shoulders and frees me to simply enjoy the day with them.  Sometimes, I find myself learning right beside them!

So no, there is no perfect curriculum.  And realizing that has helped me figure out what works.  Once I figured out the “how”, then the “what” followed along quite well.  The kids have a workable schedule that encourages them to be self-sufficient, while allow me to see, at a glance, where they are in their day.  And we all know that a happy and relaxed Momma means a happy and relaxed family!

Information regarding roadschooling can be found here.

You can read more of Mary’s blog at http://travellingawesomes.com.

Fun–and fun learning is forever learning!

Ann Simpson

August 17, 2008

Homeschooling On A Budget – Lost Cost Curriculum Items

Low-Cost Homeschooling Learning Materials

Children outgrow learning materials as readily as they do clothing and shoes. This is why you’ll often find homeschooling groups swapping or selling resources at bargain basement prices.

A bonus of this approach is that you can get a review of the product directly from someone who has used it. Remember, something that works well for one child doesn’t necessarily work well for the next, so hearing from someone with experience can stop you from purchasing something that might become your home’s newest dust collector.

If you don’t have a support group nearby, don’t despair. Similar previously used homeschooling materials are available through the Internet at sites set up specifically to meet the need for low cost materials. You can search the web for additional sources, but here are a few to get you started:

http://www.clevermoms.com 

http://www.homeschool-curriculum.com  

http://www.rsts.net/home/recycler/ 

http://www.theswap.com

Materials are also always popping up on eBay where the auction set-up can result in incredible bargains. Just go to www.eBay.com and conduct a search on a few key words. Check often, as what isn’t there today could show up tomorrow.

Keep both school and non-school resources in mind and head out for neighborhood yard sales. Yes, you can often pick up books for nickels and dimes, but also other educational treasures can be had for similar price tags.

Studying Simple Machines For Science?

Take home that old alarm clock, wind it up, remove the back, and watch how the gears work. Pick up that ten cent rain gauge and let it become the center of weather related learning. That box of seashells (that the garage sale proprietor would probably throw in for free) offers hours of sorting and classifying activity.

Children can write literary masterpieces on old typewriters, build a fort with lumber scraps, and turn an old window or door screen into a sifter for a backyard archaeological dig. Join! Many educational organizations offer family memberships for a fee.

Local Musuems, Planetariums, Aquariums…

Check into local museums of all types, historic sites, planetariums, aquariums, science centers and more. While at first glance the fee may seem expensive, say $60 – $75 per year, before you dismiss it, you should ask for a schedule and assess how frequently you and your children would be likely to visit. You may find that if you divide the total cost between enough programs, exhibits, visiting lecturers, and other educational opportunities that each visit emerges as a great bargain.

While you may be fortunate enough to be surrounded by many choices, join just one or two each 8 year. The membership costs of more than two can easily add up. You’re also more likely to take advantage of more offerings at a single venue if you don’t have an overflowing plate to choose from.

With schedule in hand, you’ll know what the organization will offer. It’s easy to plan our own studies around the topics. You can use the field trip to the organization’s facility as anything from an introduction to a specific topic to the grand finale of studies almost completed.

Prior study can lead to lots of unanswered questions, to answers to which form the purpose of your learning visit. Also don’t forget to throw in as many visits as possible just for the fun of it!

Barter!

Many homeschooling families have saved countless dollars through bartering, the old fashioned exchange of services.

Here’s yet another opportunity to get creative to save some money. You or your child can provide a few evening meals each week for an elderly neighbor who then teaches your child how to garden, knit, or share stories as a veteran of past wars.

An artist neighbor might be willing to nourish your child’s creative talents in exchange for a few hours of babysitting. Or an arrangement might be as simple as a share of your garden produce or your delectable strawberry jam in exchange for foreign language lessons.

Before you approach someone with a talent or information to share, discuss with your child what both of you would be willing to do in return. Then put forth your proposition. The worst anyone can do is say “no, thank you,” but odds are in your favor that someone will welcome the opportunity to share what s/he knows to receive your bartered wares in exchange.

Volunteer

The wisdom, “It is better to give than receive,” holds a lot of truth as far as home educators are concerned. Every community has countless needs for volunteer services, and homeschooling families have discovered that by giving they receive more than they could have imagined.

The rewards of volunteerism are plentiful, when you realize that your child can learn from everyone s/he meets. While volunteers aren’t paid, they often perform the same work as their paid counterparts. This provides priceless experience, available nowhere else, to children and young adults who will learn much from the experience. Volunteerism also teaches the need-and creates the desire-to give back to the community, a habit much needed in today’s world.

If you’re unsure of where your community needs volunteer efforts, just keep an eye on your local paper. Watch for activity announcements such as Meals on Wheels, adult literacy programs, soup kitchens, medical associations, government-run educational facilities, and more.

Even places like your public library and local nature center rely on the donation of volunteer hours. Think about signing up right along with your child, especially if s/he is under fourteen years of age (many organizations will have a problem with an unsupervised child less than fourteen-years-old, but will gladly welcome him/her if you are there as parent).

Without a doubt, volunteering is a gift that keeps on giving for both the recipient and the provider of services.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are volunteering-with a twist. Typically, there is no pay for services rendered, but the volunteer/apprentice learns a useful skill under the tutelage of a knowledgeable individual for his/her time.

Apprenticeships usually focus on the transfer of vocational abilities. A professional devotes time helping the youth-apprentice learn business skills. Not only does the youth build talents s/he will possess for a lifetime, but s/he also gets a taste of a trade or profession s/he’s interested in to help him/her make future life career decisions.

The professional doesn’t charge money for his expertise. Instead, the apprentice performs “real” work in exchange for newfound skills. The arrangement with the apprenticeship provider may be an informal or formal one, but for everyone’s peace of mind it should be in writing so there are no misunderstandings.

A simple document should set forth the total length of the apprenticeship. Most homeschoolers recommend a trial run of four to six weeks. If things go well, it can always be extended. All parties should agree to hours per day, days per week, and briefly outline what they intend to provide to each other.

All parties to the agreement, including you as parent, should sign and keep a copy. Once again, by thinking outside the box, the possibilities of apprenticeships are endless, and a great way to keep down the cost of the learning process.

Do You Need Textbooks and Curriculum? 

Purchasing just a few full-price textbooks could eat up $200 in a hurry, as could most prepared curricula. The good news is that you don’t need to spend money at that rate to provide a superior home education. As mentioned in the previous post on freebies, your public library, computer, and home contain information on any topic you could possibly need or want to address in home study.

Most parents who hesitate to take this different route to learning are hesitant because they feel without a “map” they don’t know where they’re going. “Learning maps” are totally free!

They come in the form of curriculum, or may be called “scope and sequence.” A curriculum outlines what subjects/concepts/skills are to be covered in a specific grade; it maps out a course of study. A scope and sequence is similar to a rough outline of what children of a certain age are expected to know.

As it turns out, the choice of what gets studied when in traditional schools is quite arbitrary. In other words, it doesn’t matter all that much whether your child first studies nouns or verbs, or simple machines, or earth science.

As long as you have a map, or a general idea of where you’d like home study to take your child, you can use free or low cost information sources to get there. Here are two sources of curricula lists to get you started:

http://www.worldbook.com/wb/Students?curriculum 

For many more curriculum maps, type “homeschool scope and sequence” into google and you’ll see everything you need.

Replacing Textbooks with Common Household Items:

Let’s take a look around your home for learning materials that help teach arithmetic concepts that are either free, or that you can make or buy inexpensively.

First, children love playing with money. You can use bills and coins, real or pretend, to teach: • Money values • Making change • Interest • Tithing • Carrying and borrowing • Decimals • Percentages Kitchen Materials Every home contains food, from dry beans to assorted shaped macaroni, from asparagus spears to a bag of M&M’s.

You can use food to teach: • Sorting • Counting • Graphing • Patterns • Subtraction-by-eating • Standard measurement and fractions through baking and cooking 

Go Outside!

Nowhere is it written that learning must take place indoors. On a beautiful sunny morning, you can head outside and play: • Hoppable number lines • Parking lot multiplication • Number hopscotch • Feed the birds using fractions.

The popular “Horse” basketball game with multiplication or division instead of letters.

Grocery Store Curriculum

Everyday chores offer free learning opportunities, too. For example, the next time you head to the grocery store, take the kids along and do some “grocery store math.” Depending on your child’s skill level, you can ask your child: • If two cans cost ninety-nine cents, how much are four cans? Three? 

Estimate what a bag of fruit or tomatoes weight and then weigh it to see how close she came to guessing correctly. • Which is a better buy, the name brand using this coupon or the store band without a coupon? •

What is twenty percent of the cost of this box of cereal? How much would it be if it were twenty percent off? • Estimate the total cost of groceries while waiting in the check-out line, or guess how many bags your order will fill.

How many different deli meats would we have to buy to have three pounds if we buy one-quarter pound of each?

Fun Learning Materials to Make Yourself

Like adults, children take pride in creations of their very own, and these will be used for many years. Materials for fun and useful resources are inexpensive and easily available.

Geoboards.  Typically a wooden board with equally spaced nails in rows, 6 x 6, 7 x 7, and so on. Your child uses rubber bands wrapped around different nails to create geometric shapes and to learn about area. •

Tangrams. A tangram is a square of material cut into seven pieces-five triangles, one rhomboid, and one square. These are used as a puzzle to recreate predetermined pictures, always using all seven pieces, and may also be used informally to explore shapes. Search “tangram” on the Internet for a readily available pattern.

Geometric shape.  Use string and a box of straws to create geometric shapes.

Maps. Maps may be drawn, found on the Internet, or purchased inexpensively from office supplies stores. Your child can color her how, make a cookie map, or have fun mapping out the route the wolf took to Little Red Riding Hood’s house.

Books. Children love their own books whether filled with pictures or words. Younger ones can illustrate a favorite story printed by an adult. Every child’s creative writing can become an illustrated book, with only 8 ½” x 10″ paper stapled together full-size or folded in half to more closely resemble a book. Illustrations can be drawn or cut out of old magazines and catalogs.

Ziploc bags can be filled with pictures, dried flowers, family mementos, etc., then connected by yarn or ribbon through holes punched equidistant from the edges on each bag. 

The Basics. Artists keep appropriate supplies at hand, and a musician’s instrument is never far away lest inspiration strikes.

A learning child should similarly have some basic materials on hand for easy access. These need not be expensive either, and many of the reference books that formerly needed to be purchased are available online.

Useful reference books include encyclopedias and dictionaries. General ones are great, but don’t forget to keep your eyes open at garage and library sales (and online) for the many specialized editions available. A thesaurus is handy, as are Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and Elements of Style, a succinct primer on writing rules for older students.

Atlases and almanacs teem with information for the taking. A desk, cubbyhole, or corner of a room can become the place to study for your child if he can make it his own. Make sure the area is well lit for reading and writing.

Here he can store a calculator, ruler, stapler, paper clips, extra pens and pencils (different colors and media are a lot of fun), paper of all sorts, protractor and compass (age appropriate-a compass has a very sharp point.)

Not only doesn’t home education need to be expensive, there are many benefits to accepting the challenge to keep down the cost for your family. When you’re on the lookout for educational opportunities, you will begin to look at the  world differently, discovering that you’re surrounded by opportunity daily.

This awareness helps you and your family appreciate the world as your ultimate classroom. Thinking about alternatives for expensive materials exercises your imagination and creativity, which makes them grow stronger. These traits will serve you-and your child-well throughout your homeschooling experience, and save you lots of money at the same time.

Remember – Make This Your Best Homeschooling Year Ever!

Warmly,

Rebecca Kochenderfer

Author, Homeschooling And Loving It!

Owner, Homeschool.com

If you don’t have a copy of Homeschooling And Loving It! now, there’s lots more resources inside.  Got to http://www.homeschool.com/hli and get your copy now.  Also, we’re going over the book chapter by chapter every Tuesday on our Live Talk Tuesday radio show, and interviewing authors and experts.  Get all the details at http://www.homeschool.com/radioshow

If you like this post, please comment on it and also join the social networking communities to help spread the word about the joys of homeschooling.  Click on the “share this” button below and send this article out to the world of homeschoolers!  Thank you.

Homeschooling On A Budget – FREE Curriculum Items

Do You Want A Superior Homeschool Education

With These Free Items?

First you’ll need material and here’s the best news – you can get textbooks and other supplies for free!

Your Most Important Freebies!

1. Your Library.

Textbooks are expensive; real books are not, and they’re available for free at your public library.  Also, check your library’s website, because e-books are available as well.

Children learn just as much—if not more—when exposed to a variety of fiction and non-fiction books on the same topics covered in the usually drier textbook format. Not to mention, today’s library stocks more than books for your family’s no-cost learning adventures.

Most house some combination of magazines, newspapers, videotapes, audio books (perfect for car rides), computer software, art work, historical documents, and computers for public use (in case you don’t have one at home). 

Whether from home or the library, when you access the Internet, you connect yourself and your child to enough free materials to keep a person busy learning through many lifetimes, covering every subject and age range.

2. Online bookstore universities, internet search engines, Office Depot WebCafe seminars, Office Depot Live Interviews for Entrepreneurs, Acting Classes and more – all FREE!

If you’re looking for school-type materials, you can find online lesson plans, worksheets, classes, tutorials, science experiments, and more.

A.  http://www.EnchantedLearning.com is a terrific place for free lesson plans, and worksheets on nearly every subject.

B.  http://www.officedepot.com has a remarkable program if your family has the entrepreneurial spirit.   Their online WebCafe series is exceptional, and their partner, business on demand radio, with Jim Blasingame, has over 4,000 interviews free.  Forbes Small Business Magazine named Jim one of the 30 most influential people in America representing small business. 

His site, http://www.smallbusinessadvocate.com is the place to go if your child or anyone in your family wants to know how to start and run their own business.

But wait, there’s more…the Office Depot Business Resource Center has too many freebies to mention - so check them all out here:  http://www.officedepot.com/a/business-resource-center.

And remember, if you shop at Office Depot, sign up for their work-life rewards because your points add up fast – I know I’ve gotten free ink for my printer, free paper and all the other supplies I wanted.

C.  Barnes and Noble has a special book club section where you can actually speak with the author.  Visit their club at http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/bn   This book club took the place of Barnes and Noble University, and gives your family a chance to interact with authors.

D.  Want your child to have a free acting workshop?  Then visit http://www.redbirdstudio.com/AWOL/acting2.html

E.  Lookng for facts on virtually anything, countries, people, bibliographies, etc.   Visit http://www.factmonster.com 

F.  At http://www.A1Tutor.com there are brainteasers, crossword puzzles, learning games of every stripe, arts and crafts instruction, music, coloring pages, art work, recipes, and links to practically every museum, university, research center, science center, and historical site in existence.

G.  Want a free learning styles inventory to find out how your child learns best?  We have one in our book, Homeschooling And Loving It! on page 62.   In addition, there’s an excellent, self-scoring free personal learning styles inventory at http://www.HowToLearn.com

Use the search capabilities of www.google.com, www.altavista.com, www.askjeeves.com, or any other search engines, and you can often find thousands of web sites containing information on your child’s current interest or learning passion.

If your child asks a question for which you don’t have an answer, the Internet makes it easy, quick and inexpensive for you to find the answer together.

You’ll also want to keep learning about homeschooling even after you get started, and you can find plenty of free information on web sites and email lists. For general information, try: • Homeschool.com at http://www.homeschool.com , A to Z Homeschool at http://www.gomilpitas.com/homeschooling ,  National Home Education Network at http://www.nhen.org , Home Education Magazine at http://www.home-ed-magazine.com

Multiple homeschooling email lists are available. Some of these offer general discussions about homeschooling, but many more are set up to address special interests. For instance, email lists can focus on a specific homeschooling approach, homeschooling in a particular state, region or city, or homeschooling when someone in the family has special needs.

Household Items Are A Treasure Chest Of Learning

To discover what’s available, web surf over to www.yahoogroups.com and run a search on homeschooling.

Remember, if by some chance you don’t find what you’re looking for, it’s very easy to set up an email list of your own and let others find you! Resources you already have rev up your imagination and help your think beyond typical school accoutrements.

Take a good look around your home—you already possess a gold mine of educational resources! If you’re trying to save money—and even if you’re not—you’ll appreciate how common household items can perform double-duty.

Here are just a few examples to get your wheels turning:

Household items be used for learning measurement:  ruler, tape measure, bathroom scale, measuring cups, kitchen scales, multicups and spoons.  Use all of these to learn division, addition, subtraction, multiplication and conversions.

Use real money for more math, including concept of tens, making change, playing store, etc.  All types of paper can be used for writing, handwriting, spelling, art, creative writing and letter writing, etc.  Dry beans, poker chips, M&M’s can be used for arithmetic operations, sorting, buttons, beads graphing, etc.

Your calendar, clock, and watches help with time concepts.  Use Index cards to make your own games, flash cards, note cards, etc. Use your tape recorder for oral reports, pretend radio and TV productions, parent recorded stories for child, singing, etc.

Your radio inspires your singer or instrument player to be.  Use this for recording, music appreciation, styles, instruments, and introduction to other countries and their musical styles.

Use dice to play dominoes, playing cards for more math related skills, and all kinds of games to teach your kids about money and how to invest, save and calculate interest.

All these freebies, help you and your family recognize the world as your classroom and appreciate the value of everything for joyful learning experience.

Remember, create your best homeschooling year ever! 

If you haven’t already, grab a copy of Home Schooling And Loving It! at http://www.homeschool.com/hli and listen in each Tuesday to our live Homeschool.com Radio Show, where we review the book and interview authors and experts.  Visit:  http://www.homeschool.com/radioshow for the details.

Warmly,

Rebecca Kochenderfer

Author, HomeSchooling And Loving It!

Owner, Homeschool.com

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