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Math, Reading, Writing…Oh My!
Written by Amber Marie | January 5, 2018
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When I first considered homeschooling my boys, I had no clue where to start with choosing curriculum. As a former teacher, much of the curriculum we used was presented to us by our administration or the district. We weren’t required to search out programs that would work best for individual students unless within the confines of the curriculums we were using (i.e. guided reading levels).
In contrast, as a homeschooler, seeking out the “right” curriculum can be overwhelming and discouraging. There are so many options at your fingertips. One can get lost online for hours upon hours, searching for a curriculum that might “fit” your child’s learning style and ability. However, even after selecting a curriculum, there is still a possibility of finding the program as inadequate for your homeschool. Therefore, you are forced to regress back into the endless sea of options.
After talking with other homeschoolers and doing a little bit of research online (okay….hours of research), I came to the conclusion that I needed to narrow it down based on what I was looking for in a curriculum(s). I needed an ideal criterion to follow when perusing available material.
In an effort to simplify my search, I developed a list of criteria for education approaches/methods I value and will ensure quality learning within my homeschool. While teaching elementary school, I found three educational elements that helped students learn best, especially when it came to memorizing new information. These three learning components are also helpful with younger children who – like my oldest son – may have short attention spans and difficulty sitting still for long periods of time. My criteria must include one or more of the following methods: hands-on learning, music/art, or games.
One principle beat into me during my education career was “teach with hands-on learning!” What does that mean? It means, teaching through manipulatives (physical objects such as dry beans, counting bear, etc), experiments, exploration, and more. I think Confucius was onto something when he said “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
Samantha Cleaver states in her article Hands-On Is Minds On, “According to Cindy Middendorf, educational consultant and author of The Scholastic Differentiated Instruction Plan Book (Scholastic, 2009), between the ages of four and seven, the right side of the brain is developing and learning comes easily through visual and spatial activities. The left hemisphere of the brain—the side that’s involved in more analytical and language skills—develops around ages 10 and 11.” This stat alone demonstrates how important hands-on learning is in the early elementary years of our children.
If interested in learning more about the benefits of hands-on learning, check out the articles I’ve listed below.
- Hands-On Is Minds On
- Case for Hands-On Learning
- 7 Benefits of Incorporating Hands-On Learning into Your Classroom Training
I cannot stress enough how much music helps little children (and even older ones…including adults) retain information. For example, I created a song to teach the names and locations of continents and rehearsed this song daily with my son. After only four days, my son was able to sing the song by himself while pointing to the continents on a map. Yes, one can argue that repetition produces similar results, but music is definitely more fun and engaging, especially when you incorporate motions with the songs. To add, music has immense benefits when learning language. Gari Stein shared, on Songs for Teachers, an excerpt from his book The More We Get Together:
Literally Speaking: How Music Supports the Development of Reading Skills
- Children with a strong sense of beat are more likely to read well.
- Music stimulates all the senses, helping children learn to recognize patterns and sequence.
- Early music exposure helps children learn by promoting language, creativity, coordination, social interaction, self-esteem and memory.
- Singing games support children’s need to socialize and play, instead of “pre-academic” skills.
- Music helps “wire” the brain, supporting a higher level of thinking.
Art is also a great way to create a more engaging atmosphere for learning. The mediums of art are endless (clay, paint, chalk, and more) and can be used in enhancing all subject matter. I’ve watched my son create a whole story using a block of clay. He formed the characters (in this story it was a snake), the setting (a tunnel in the woods), the plot (the snake tries to go through the tunnel safely), a conflict (the tunnel collapses), and a resolution (the snake escapes by pushing his way through the rubble). What impressed me most was this was all done using just clay! Art is a powerful thing in a homeschool curriculum and I encourage you to explore it further for your own homeschool.
Nothing excites my son more than when I say we are going to play a game for school. Something about playing games helps engage my son more than any worksheet, video, or app could. Maybe it is his competitive nature (not sure where he got that from..ahem) or just the quality time he gets to spend with me. Whatever it is, I love how much games engage my son in his learning.
Games can be invented for almost anything. Alphabet or number flashcards and manipulatives are just a few of the many items out there one can use to play learning games. You can review reading, math, and other subjects using fun games like memory or even trivial pursuit. One thing to remember is to have fun! Keep the game engaging and don’t fret if your child slips up. Mistakes will happen, but they provide the best learning opportunities. Many curriculums incorporate games within their lessons, such as All About Reading or Right Start Math.
It can take a lot of time and energy to find the right curriculum for your children and homeschool. However, before you become overwhelmed with all that is available, narrow down what you want out of a curriculum. Once you create a criterion that fits with your homeschool, take some time to find curriculums that come close to fulfilling those wants.
But wait, part two will be up next week! Stay tuned for a follow-up post containing the curriculums I chose that fulfill one or more of my criteria.
***Update: Part two can be found here.
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What are some things you look for in a homeschool curriculum? Share in the comments below!