Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Day Twenty-Two: Modifying Your Curriculum

The rainforest springs to life around our table as the splendid tapirs, harpy eagles, caiman crocodiles, coatis, and sloths become what we breathe this month. Somehow spaghetti reminds a kid of a boa constrictor and brushing teeth isn't complete without howler monkey noises. We're fully immersed and there's no escaping the jaguar that prowls at dusk.  
Our rainforest unit was created by my science-loving, jungle-thwacking sister. Her children were using science textbooks that year and the oldest child's text contained a unit on rainforests. Hilary took advantage of using this fascinating biome as a theme for all eight of our kids (and a few others did activities with us too). She gathered information from the textbook, library books, online research and then compiled reproducible pages from rainforest lesson books and created a few of her own in a Word document. She added colouring pages and lapbook pieces for the younger children and animal project pages and essay writing for the older ones. She spiral bound each book with a clear plastic cover at her local office supply store. In the end, she had designed three learning levels of rainforest booklets simply by piecing together what she felt was a good overview (using words, animals, plants, people and themes that were common to every book) of the rainforest  and requiring the expected skills for the age/grade levels. Since we have found that no one curriculum is perfect for every child in a family, this fun and diverse collection is what our kids thrive on.  (Note: as sisters who teach our children together as one class, we sometimes purchase one teacher book or text. Unless you are involved in a cooperative group, please be careful about copyright and reproducible regulations.)
lapbook pieces
reproducible pages from lesson books
grades 4-6 page
lapbook pieces for writing animals details
flaps that open (bottom too-buttress roots)
Along with unit studies that are birthed from textbooks or children's interest, we modify our curriculum finding resources according to affordability. In this case, we might use library books to learn about a subject but then design a curriculum borrowing teaching resources from another homeschooler and add printed notebooking, lapbooking and other free printables from the web. It's very simple to gather appropriate pages and activities on the same topic for various age or aptitude levels. It just takes a few minutes to find the myriad of homeschool-friendly materials to use for several children on the same topic. Bible, History, Science and other subjects are fun to learn together as a sibling group, not to mention, more efficient and inexpensive. What is required of each student is what you must determine by assessing your child.  If you are a person who likes to stick to one curriculum for the whole year, you will likely have to make some modifications pertaining to gender, interest, abilities, and ages, unless you buy one that is already designed for these. My friend, Annie, does not like to stray from her Sonlight curriculum, however, she'll add in a lapbook every few months to change things up and give her children a break from the routine.
reading binders for three youngest--supplements language arts for more practice and way more fun!
colour copied front covers of our favourite books (for our own home use only, no other reproduction)
grade one picture and sentences
grade one student draws and learns to spell words from story
pre-school student draws and copies a sentence
pocket pages allow you to slide booklets and other activities behind the cover page
(Older kids do these as well but activities are printed from Internet for their language arts age level.)
Reading Binders inspired by Delightful Learning :)
Modification is one of the great benefits of homeschooling, especially when a particular curriculum is not working for your family. Another friend of mine had a son who was struggling with his math and she could tell it was the style of the book he was using. I told her about one that might better suit him and at first, she felt like she couldn't change it partway through the year. Eventually, she decided his frustration with the subject outweighed her Type A personality's fear of not completing all the pages in the previous book. She changed his math and they both felt relief. Since then, I believe she's moved to another math program that's an even better option. We, as home educators have this right and opportunity but what if all the change is too expensive? Many families I know share resources and curricula and pass books down from student to student. Again, becoming part of a homeschool group allows for so much wisdom, advice and shared books!

So, if you're going to home educate or you already have entered this growing movement, you have the amazing convenience of setting up a year of learning designed just for your children and how they are best educated.

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