Choosing the right teaching materials
December 22, 2005 - With the large amount of homeschooling materials available, it is possible to spend a small fortune before discovering what truly works best for your child. Choosing the right curriculum without busting the bank can be quite a challenge.
First, you have to think about what it is that you want your child to learn. The state guidelines for your child's grade can give you an idea of what concepts would be taught in a traditional school. The guidelines can be found on the Internet or by contacting the state Department of Education.
Use this information as a basis for determining the goals for your child, but don't neglect to consider the personal goals you and your child may have set. For example, in our home, learning home skills is important, and we routinely include food preparation in our lesson plans, including menu planning, shopping, budgeting, nutrition and cooking.
The next thing you need to consider is your child's individual learning style. If your child is a visual learner, you'll want materials with a lot of illustrations and visual pizzazz. Perhaps video courses would be an appropriate resource. If your child is more of an auditory learner, consider using recorded material on tapes or CDs to supplement your curriculum.
Keep in mind that learning is enhanced greatly by hands-on experiences, so curriculum that provides instructions for conducting experiments or learning new tasks can be beneficial. Most of the time, your children will learn more by doing something than by reading about it.
Now that you have an idea of what topics you want to cover, consider your budget. Look closely at the catalogs available. Go to a homeschool convention in your area to get a good look at a variety of materials. Ask other families what has been successful for them.
Look for community resources. Are there free or low-cost classes or field trip opportunities that you could use to enhance your child's learning experience? Consider joining or forming a homeschool co-op to share materials, ideas and field trip experiences.
Cruising through a myriad of catalogs can be a daunting task, especially when there are so many options to consider. Educational companies are there for your benefit. Don't be afraid to call them up and ask for explanations of materials or even a sample to find out if their products will be right for you. You aren't just spending money on these products - you are investing in your child's future.
Finally, don't discount the daily life lessons that every child needs to learn. With a little planning and effort, your everyday routines such as banking and cooking can become learning experiences. Places where you normally do business may allow you to tour the facilities with your child and provide access to professionals. From these experiences, you can assign essays, learn to write thank-you letters, calculate profit margins at the grocery store and a variety of other tasks that offer real-life learning opportunities.
Rose Godfrey of Marysville is a homeschooling mom of eight children. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.