Design-A-Study was founded in 1988 by Kathryn Stout. After eight years of teaching in public schools, Kathryn retired in order to raise her two small children. She began homeschooling officially in 1984 at a time when few materials were available. Eager to encourage a love of learning, she used methods and materials suited to each of her children's learning styles, making regular use of the library and other free or inexpensive resources. She created unit studies, found interesting projects, and used approaches that motivated her children to work toward mastery. Trained to teach with specific objectives in mind, she was frequently able to target the same goals for both children in spite of their 3 ½ year age difference.
Pressed by other homeschoolers who wanted to do as she did, Kathryn wrote
the Design-A-Study guides to provide both a framework of objectives and
detailed methods for teaching basic subjects effectively. Having seen the
frustration, boredom, and discouragement that too often results from trying
to make students fit a curriculum instead of adapting a curriculum to suit
them, Kathryn hopes to encourage parents to teach according to each child's
interests and abilities, equipping each one for his very personal future.
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When I was fresh out of college and bursting with ideas for helping children discover, explore, and understand, I began my first year of teaching as eager as the six-year-olds in my classroom. Only two years later I was in a different world.
I was given the almost impossible task of teaching a class of bored and often defiant sixth graders. I didn’t bother to think about why they hated school. I just tried to make things interesting so they would change their minds about learning. But I discovered one thing that brought out the once-eager learner in each of them: my reading aloud.
Over the next five years I taught special education, administered tests, and worked with other teachers and the troubled students they referred to me. Although I had always realized the importance of how something was taught, I now recognized how disastrous the consequences could be when that was ignored in favor of simply dishing out information. As Plutarch wrote, “A mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lit.” I had managed to captivate my sixth graders with stories read aloud because they had been able to return to preschool memories of discovery just for the pleasure of it.
When I decided to homeschool my own two children, I wanted to be certain that I instilled a love of learning that would not fade because of the common “read, memorize, and test” formula. All around me I found a wealth of wonderful materials—in libraries, resource rooms, bookstores, catalogs, science shops (and later, homeschool conventions). I came up with the approach that would eventually result in the Design-A-Study books simply to give myself the freedom to pull all of these materials together in an organized way. It also gave me a framework so that I would not be in danger of leaving gaps in their education.
I arranged information for maximum flexibility and convenience, wanting to be able to tell at a glance what was important, to get rid of the clutter and fluff and know the heart of the matter—just what was it kids really needed to understand? And when? And how often was the concept reviewed or repeated? That way I could teach both my children many of the same objectives at the same time, and I didn’t have to get nervous because we weren’t covering everything someone else did in the same grade. They could work toward mastery of a concept instead of completion of a text, avoiding yearly, tedious repetition. It kept me from trying to force understanding when they just weren’t ready (I assured myself that it was covered next year…and the next…and the next…). Since my children have very different learning styles (my son is auditory and, as a child, very kinesthetic; my daughter is visual), I could also choose the types of resources and activities that would suit them individually.
My daughter has now graduated from law school, and my son from the University
of Southern California’s film school. Both developed the qualities
I used as overall goals: a love of learning, the ability and confidence
to learn on their own, the habit of critically analyzing rather than
mindlessly accepting what they see or hear, the ability to express themselves
well in writing and in speech, and logically supporting their point of
view. The teaching suggestions and objectives included in Design-A-Study
books give every homeschooling family the opportunity to do what I have
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To teach effectively you need three things:
- To know exactly what skills and concepts should be taught, and when.
- A variety of teaching strategies and ideas that allow you to choose the best for your situation.
- Resources to cover the material that are especially suited to the student's learning style.
Design-A Study guides provide the first two requirements and show you how to choose appropriate resources for your students, or make your own. Use the library, used books, bits and pieces of accumulated supplies ...
Because concepts and skills are continually reviewed, it is not necessary to follow a list of topics published as part of a curriculum scope and sequence. That can lead to tedium and rob the student of any sense of success. Mastery hasn't meant moving on—it all comes around again and again. It has robbed him of time to explore a topic more deeply.
Design-A-Study guides are organized by concepts and skills, not by grade.
- Teach multi-levelly. (Introduce a concept to one while reviewing it with another.)
- Decide when to introduce a concept. (You will see an age or grade range.)
- Teach the students to work toward mastery instead of toward the completion of workbooks.
Design-A-Study guides are ...
- Detailed to provide you with the explanations and definitions you need as a teacher.
- Filled with activity ideas that provide a springboard for more of your own.
- Useful as a framework for any plan of study, even if you choose to purchase a daily curriculum.
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