One Stop Shopping, or Eclectic Education?
Kathryn L. Stout, B.S.Ed., M.Ed.
Published: May 1999
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The homeschool shopping season has begun. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you select materials.
"One-stop" curriculum shopping can be like buying your groceries at a convenience store—expensive and limited. But, if you insist on the convenience of buying a complete curriculum package from one company, be sure that it will suit your child's age and learning style. The salesman may say that it takes little effort or planning on your part, but if the child finds it difficult, boring, or simply unappealing, you will find yourself expending more energy trying to make him suit the package than you ever would have spent on planning!
Once you find a package you think is appropriate, remember that it is the tool, not the teacher, and be prepared to supplement lessons with additional experiences as the child's needs dictate. Any lessons that cover objectives that the student has already mastered should be completed only to the degree that it provides practice to keep skills polished. The Design-A-Study books can be used as a reference both to understand the subject and to check the progression of objectives. This allows you to target areas of need as well as to determine mastery.
While it may seem easy to use curriculum from the same company for all of your children, this will only work if they have the same learning style or if you make adjustments to the program to adapt it to each child. For example, you could read a text and the accompanying workbook questions out loud, involving an auditory or kinesthetic learner in a discussion for the child that finds too much seatwork difficult. You can also replace some of the suggested activities with those that cover the same objective but are more appealing to your children. The Design-A-Study books offer activity ideas and teaching suggestions that can prove helpful here.
If you want to use curriculum from the same company from kindergarten through twelfth grade keep all of the above suggestions in mind. Usually parents choose this avenue in order to feel secure about covering all required concepts and skills. The Design-A-Study guides were written to provide that "security blanket" just so parents could feel free to focus on educational objectives, determining the best approach to achieve those objectives for their children at every stage of development.
As a teacher, I always looked for additional resources and approaches, no matter what curriculum was handed to me. As a homeschooling mom, I found it necessary to choose materials from different companies for each child, and often for each subject, in order to make the best match of resources to each student. If you find that your child does well with a curriculum from one company year after year-continue to use it! However, if there comes a time when making adjustments is not enough, it would be best to consider looking at materials from other companies in the subject areas the student is finding difficult.
Be realistic about what you can manage. If a program looks appropriate for your child, but despite good intentions you really don't have the time or energy to carry it out, look for ways to compromise. There may be a similar program with the modifications you need, or you may want to pull together a curriculum by using materials from several different companies to cover the various subjects—some that require time from you along with others that the student can use independently.
Every home school situation is unique. I wrote the Design-A-Study books in order to help parents become effective teachers. Each book provides tips to help you approach the subject in a way that will encourage your children to think as well as to use the concepts and skills in practical ways. Because each book includes objective for either grades K -8 or grades K-12, you have a framework that prevents fear from dictating your curriculum choices. My hope is that you will gain the confidence needed to pick and choose from the variety of excellent resources available in order to suit the curriculum to your specific home school needs.