What curriculum should I choose?
Questions to consider:
- What are my children's learning styles?
- Where are they developmentally?
- Are they far ahead in certain subjects, while lagging behind in others?
- How much freedom do I think children should have to follow their own interests?
The choice of a curriculum is based on your educational philosophy
and the learning styles and developmental stages of each child.
What curriculum you choose will be governed by your personal
educational philosophy. The two ends of the educational spectrum
may be represented by E.D. Hirsch, author of Cultural Literacy,
and John Holt, author of Instead of Education and
Hirsch believes that there is a core of knowledge which every child should know. He has attempted,
through his Core Knowledge Foundation,
to publish works defining the body of information he believes children should learn at various ages.
He believes a coherent body of shared knowledge is more democratic and helps create cooperation and
solidarity in our nation. The facts and skills he identifies are based on reports issued by state
departments of education, professional teachers' associations and the educational systems of several
other countries, like Japan, France, Sweden and West Germany, which he considers successful.
In contrast, Holt writes, "Next to the right to life itself, the most fundamental of all human
rights is the right to control our own minds and thoughts. That means, the right to decide for
ourselves how we will explore the world around us, think about our own and other person's experiences,
and find and make the meaning of our own lives."
Education, pg. 4) Holt's philosophy of education has been termed child-led interest
or unschooling. He believes that each child, while pursuing his interests, will develop the
necessary skills and accumulate the necessary facts for success in the enterprise of his
In Hirsch's model, the teacher is the source of most information; while
in Holt's model, the teacher is the facilitator, providing
resources, guidance, transportation and funding. In Hirsch's
model, shared knowledge leads to increased cooperation in
society; in Holt's model, the infinite variety of choices
leads to self-directed, self-knowing individuals. If you lean
toward Hirsch's model, you will probably choose a pre-packaged
curriculum. If you lean toward Holt's model, your children's
interests will drive the variety of resources you choose.
Customizing for your children's needs: When you choose your curriculum it is
beneficial to be familiar with one or more of the learning style modalities so that
you can decide what materials best mesh with your child's learning styles. For
delightful and thought-provoking reading, try Thomas Armstrong's
Their Own Way or Dawna Markova's book,
Your Child is Smart: A Life-Changing Approach to Learning.
Homeschooling allows you to speed up or slow down in order to match your child's
developmental readiness in various subjects. In meeting developmental needs, a packaged
curriculum gives you less leeway than one customized by you to meet the distinct
developmental needs of the child.
Other resources for finding curriculum gems are local
support group members, curriculum fairs,
and exhibit halls at homeschool conferences.
In curriculum, as in other areas of homeschooling decisions, your approach may change
over time. Some new homeschoolers start with a packaged curriculum because the
parents are concerned about their abilities, or because it is what their child
has been used to in school. Later some find the pre-packaged curriculum too restrictive
and time-consuming, and opt for a more individualized approach.