Often, choosing curriculum can feel a bit like ordering from a "prix fixe" menu at a restaurant; not exactly what you want, no substitutions, and really expensive. While many new homeschoolers appreciate the security and comprehensiveness of a pre-packaged curriculum, many veteran homeschoolers relish the ability to take what they need and leave the rest.
We already know that one size does not fit all in education. Even children within the same families do not learn the same way, and the math books that worked well for the eldest will not necessarily make sense to siblings. Something as well-defined as math can be learned in so many different and interesting ways. From Life of Fred books that teach math using stories, illustrations, and a few practice problems, to Saxon Math which uses an incremental and repetitive approach to mastery, to playing Parcheesi, there is no wrong way to play with and absorb the wonder that is the world of numbers.
So how do you design a homeschool that is best for you kiddo? Your first step is simply just to get to know your learner. What kind of learner do you have? Teacher Stacy Zeiger talks about the three main learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile in her article Learning Style Test for Children.
"Visual learners learn by seeing and reading. They learn best through textbooks, pictures, diagrams or demonstrations they can observe.
Auditory learners excel through listening and speaking. Auditory learners will do well in a lecture hall atmosphere, by listening to tapes or music. Kinesthetic or tactile learners learn best through touching and doing. Hands-on activities work well for this type of learner, and a tactile learner tends to do well with manual dexterity tasks."
Chances are you already know which style of learners you have in your home. Each of us can learn in all styles, but we certainly favor one over the others. I myself like to toss a ball while thinking aloud because I favor auditory and kinesthetic. Once you know your style of learner, the rest is community. Checking curriculum reviews, asking seasoned homeschoolers what worked for their learners, and patience.
Sandra Dodd, an experienced Unschooler, came up with a phrase in 2010 that I find extraordinarily helpful on my own journey with my learners; "read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch." What it means essentially is this; when you discover something new, read a bit about it, try it out, wait to see how it works and observe your learner. Rinse and repeat as necessary with curriculum, homeschool styles, exercise routines, any facet of your life.
Unlike ordering at a restaurant, with homeschooling you are not under a time constraint, you do not have to fully commit before you're sure you like something, and you can change your mind. So go ahead and try something new. Pick what you like from different places and feel free to discard the rest. Each kiddo is going to order a la carte for their education, us parents get to have fun putting together a diverse menu!
By Kitty Michelotti