Home Education; curriculum or not curriculum that is the question…

Whether it is better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous lesson plans, or to take arms against the sea of trouble and buy a curriculum.

One of the first questions I still get asked when people discover that I home educate the children is whether I follow the National Curriculum. I always say no because we are not obliged to, and I try not to say what I actually think of the standard of the NC because most parents have their children in school.

But now I am more or less following a curriculum. What are the pros and cons?

Pro; I don’t have to plan every single lesson for the children and this frees up my time quite a bit and is vital now that I can’t actually think straight sometimes, let alone properly plan lessons. Having it just there helps me enormously when I’m struggling to string a coherent thought together.

The lessons in the workbooks I have are very well laid out and even on a bad day for me, they are easy to follow.

The workbook approach definitely suits my older one.  I think using Seton and some Catholic Heritage works really well for Ronan who is 9 because he can read fluently. This has helped him learn to be a much more independent learner and willing to read and look things up for himself.

Pro: there are some beautifully presented curriculum products out there that offer workbooks and videos and CDs teaching something I never could have such as the Latin, Greek and Math U See

Cons: It costs more to buy other people’s workbooks than to make my own. However the cost isn’t that much more and it’s way cheaper on time and brain cells. I also try and cut costs by having them use notebooks rather than write directly into the workbook, so the books can be passed down.

Con on that though is once I’ve paid for this stuff I am reluctant to buy something different for one of the others as that would be expensive. I just have to hope it will suit all of them. I did cave on Life of Fred, but it was worth the extra cost.

I am not sure if this is a con or not. But my concern over notebooks has been the sense that they lack flexibility and spoon feed the information. However, in fairness to the Seton workbooks, I don’t think this is so. There is an element of making the student learn through his own effort and I like that.

Free curriculums require as much work over all as making your own. But they are a good guide and being free can be a godsend to a very tight budget.

I would never buy a full curriculum. No matter how good they might be over all there will always be aspects that don’t suit my children’s way of learning, or where we have settled on one area and I don’t want to change it. So, for example, Seton uses Saxon Math which is supposed to be very good indeed, but we are happy with Math U See and Life of Fred and will continue with that.

Avila needs a gentler approach than the righteousness of Seton so a couple of CHC books have helped her with the Seton work.

There are some home educators who take it as a great affront if anyone should ask them a question about curriculum because they wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. I have never heard a coherent argument about this, but bizarrely (and this is something I must stop) I have found myself defending or making excuses about buying in curriculum.

The major reason for home educating is to tailor the education to the child’s learning ability and interests. But there is also the reality of needing to tailor it to the needs of the family, and in my case, to the limits of the “teacher”.  There’s nothing shameful in this (so why am I defending myself?…silly me) and there are so many very good curricula choices out there, mainly American, that we can buy them with a clear conscience.


3 responses to “Home Education; curriculum or not curriculum that is the question…

  1. Hi there!

    I’ve found you via eva’s blog entitled “Untrodden Paths.” Thanks to you I’ve had fun playing an interactive beat the clock game with my son this morning over on Interactive Classroom and I’ve also purchased the first “Life of Fred” book on Apples!! I’m hoping it will encourage both me and my son to actually believe that numbers really are fun!

    Thank you so much


    PS I noticed that you had an ME/Fybro badge on your blog the other day. I’ve lived with this diagnosis for twenty years now, so hugs to you if you’re a fellow sufferer.

  2. Yes, I, too, believe that it is the flexibility that gives homeschooling its real appeal. I believe it is more important to have a philosophy that you adhere to rather than to focus on the actual resource. Its sounds backwards I know, but without a mission or purpose, the resources are useless.

    It all starts with what is most important to you. I know of homeschoolers who write a mission statement for their homeschool and refer to it when they feel pulled in one direction or another. This can be very helpful, especially when you live a challenging lifestyle due to special needs, illness or other factors. For some families, they want independent learning to be the goal, for others it is discerning data (research oriented or heavy reading), still others want to provide a liberal arts type education exposing children to many areas of study in smaller ways (CM). With technology making learning more sensory oriented with videos, 3-D and virtual reality, some families may want that to be the focus for their children. I’ve heard all kinds of theories over the years.

    If you are Catholic, your faith should be in your mission somewhere. Putting God first makes goals clearer. It takes the focus off the learning method and puts it back on your reason for homeschooling, whatever it may be. It then makes your resource selection irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you use a full curriculum, a textbook, workbook, a series of novels, or a hands-on attitude of servitude to teach as long as your goals are being met whether they are to please God, avoid bullying in schools, exist in a delivered learning educational program or just spend more quality time with your children.


  3. Thank you both. I hope Life of Fred is as good for you and yours as it’s proved for us so far San.
    Kalei, I think you’ve got it just right. We build our education on our family philosophy.

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