How we moved from packaged homeschool curriculum to creating
our own homeschool.
When my husband and I decided to homeschool our son Seth, we started with a packaged curriculum from A Beka to give ourselves time to acclimate to our newly chosen lifestyle.
A Beka is a great traditional curriculum and was easy to implement. Lessons were coordinated across the curriculum, so if you started with Lesson 1 at the beginning of the public school year, then during the Thanksgiving season all of the lessons would have a Thanksgiving theme--even math involved counting pumpkins and turkeys.
The following year, however, I found this rather stifling. There was an odd, self-imposed pressure to make Seth keep the pace that the curriculum had set, whether he was ready progress quickly or needed more time with a particular concept. Not to mention the hefty price tag for the whole shebang was alarming for a family that was suddenly depending on one income instead of two.
Even as homeschool newbies, our desire was for home education to become a lifestyle, and to help our kids become lifelong learners. We were struggling to create that dynamic with packaged curriculum.
I was browsing for some ideas at the library, and found a book called How to Write a Low-Cost/No-Cost Curriculum for Your Home-School Child by Borg Hendrickson. It had never occurred to me to create my own curriculum, (“You mean people are allowed to do that?”) but I was immediately fascinated by the idea. I checked out homeschool resources by Raymond and Dorothy Moore, Ruth Beechick, Mary Pride, Cathy Duffy.
Feeling inspired, I remembered the Typical Course of Study that accompanied our set of World Book Encyclopedias. From these I compiled my own Scope and Sequence, which in my newborn homeschool zeal at first resembled the IRS Tax Code. I felt confident that no concept would be left unmastered, no idea unexplored, no book left unturned!
Due to the intensity and narrowness of my focus at the time, (OK, so maybe it was more like an obsession) I was missing a key concept--the most important thing I could do as a homeschooler was to encourage my child's natural curiosity, give them the freedom to create and explore, and inspire them to embrace the learning process.
It took time for me to stop stressing about learning gaps and grade levels. Traditional classrooms have made us dependent on the ideas and guidance of professional educators for many years. In spite of how well our son was doing, I still felt nervous about missing some important detail that would affect his future.
Then as time went on, homeschooling took on a life of its own. As I gradually left behind ingrained ideas of traditional schooling, I felt energized by the freedom--no more boring textbooks and workbooks, no more empty read-the-chapter-answer-the-questions assignments.
We started visiting the library, discount bookstores, and thrift stores. A morning read-aloud became part of our regular schedule. The kids enjoyed our discussions, field trips, and hands on projects. We all felt more relaxed and realized we were having FUN.
Thus began the era of Library Schooling at the Forestdale Academy.