Choosing the right curriculum can be difficult because there are so many ways to meet the needs of our kids: online subscriptions, co-ops, boxed curriculum, workbooks, interest-led discovery, etc. If you know you want a secular curriculum, however, you can pare down the possibilities by filtering all of your options through that lens.
You probably already know that finding secular curriculum is challenging. Here's why.
Have you ever heard the myth that homeschool parents need to be extremely organized to successfully homeschool? Maybe you tell someone you homeschool and their reaction is, "Oh! You must be so organized!" Or you attend a homeschool convention and hear speaker after speaker talking about planners, schedules, calendars, and organizational systems as if those are more important that reading aloud and doing science experiments.
Well, I strongly disagree with the assumption that you must be organized to be an effective homeschooler, and here's why. I am a disorganized mess, and we have a very successful homeschool nevertheless!
What do I mean by a disorganized mess? Here are a few examples:
Kids seem to have a natural draw towards movies and TV shows. I say there is nothing wrong with using that natural attraction to motivate them to read! After all, some kids need extra motivation to read a book. Even though my kids enjoy reading, they have trouble starting new books or a new series. During those times, I look for extra motivation to get them to dig into new titles. The best motivation I’ve found so far is promising to watch the movie when we finish the book.
There are great benefits to a book and movie combo. Of course, the most obvious is comparing and contrasting the two versions. Here are questions to discuss:
Most of us would agree that while homeschoolers encounter bullying to a lesser degree than children in public (or private) schools, no one can totally escape bullying and its effects. Although homeschooling is a valid way to help a child escape a bullying situation, it's not a "get out of jail free card." Homeschoolers do socialize (contrary to some ridiculous stereotypes), and can still encounter personal conflicts at co-op, during sports, or at other community activities.
Teaching our kids about bullying is a life skill that may not find its way into an academic curriculum but is nonetheless essential. We homeschool parents have a responsibility in the fight against bullying: warning our children how to handle a bully, teaching our kids how to help someone being bullied, and guiding our children how not to be a bully themselves.
I didn’t realize until I was an adult that learning never ends. Now I see that I am constantly devouring new information whether it’s from a documentary, a podcast, a book, or (most often) my children. They ask questions I've never considered, and we find the answers together. Or sometimes they learn a new fact from a book, TV show, or friend and share it with me.
Growing up in public schools, learning was an 8-3 job. Despite being a voracious reader and a curious child, I didn’t consider my hobbies to be educational. Fun and entertainment were found only outsidethe school day. I failed to adopt the mentality that everything in life is learning and that learning is fun.
As homeschoolers, my children do not have preset boundaries between school and everything else. This lack of distinction can be amazing but can also be confusing.
It wasn't all that long ago when I was desperately memorizing another spelling test and another set of words just to forget them over the weekend. When I was in school, we were given an assortment of 15 or 20 random words that we were expected to simply know. The problem with spelling lists and weekly spelling tests is that the information is not assimilated into other subjects. We do not learn the correct spelling to use in our writing. Instead, we learn the spelling for the test and then immediately forget it.
While learning the intricacies of spelling in any language is challenging, we do have patterns in English (along with plenty of exceptions). But most words we can learn to spell with a rule. So throwing together a list of words with no rhyme or reason does not suit the person learning the words. And testing on the list of random words will not help anyone learn the words on a long-term basis.
Organization is that dirty little word that constantly seeps into our everyday vocabulary. Have you ever heard someone say they've finished organizing anything? Probably not because organization is a process and not a goal. The good news is that organization is a simple process that doesn’t have to take much time. The bad news is that you have to do it often.
But with a few simple steps, you can be more organized in five minutes or less. First, you have to decide which of two routes to take. You can either 1. own less or 2. organize more. I’ve rarely met a person who chooses to organize more, but you have to make that decision for yourself.