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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Create Your Own Homeschool Curriculum in 5 Easy Steps


This past summer I found myself literary knee deep in World Geography plans.

See my knee right there?



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I spent one lazy Sunday afternoon buried in maps, cookbooks, world landmark pictures, and international flags. With a pot of strong coffee at-the-ready, I set up camp on my bed and determined not to leave that spot until I had crafted a curriculum plan for our year. To be honest, the whole situation was a bit above my pay grade, especially since I had already plunked down a wad of cash on the "perfect" geography curriculum just three months before at my state-wide homeschool convention. (In my defense, books are my kryptonite. I can not be held responsible for my actions at a book fair. Any over-zealous peddler can easily bankrupt me with just a well-rehearsed smile, a couple of finger guns pointed my way, and a perfectly-timed Vanna White arm sweep across a table of glossy new books...or used books...or things that look like books.)

And so there I was...inventing a wheel.

My mission was to take a jumbled mess of geography "stuff" and piece it all together to form a year's worth of international education for my kids.


As an eclectic homeschooler this was not the first time I had created an a la carte curriculum and it would certainly not be the last. And so with pencil in hand, I soldiered on. (Pay no attention to my theatrics. My superpower is hyperbole. It really wasn't difficult to plan geography at all...no soldiering required.)

Want to know my secret to no-fuss curriculum planning? I've used this system time-and-time again for just about any content-oriented subject. It's my GO TO template for creating co-op curriculums--like the public speaking class I taught a few years ago; the creative writing class I taught last year, and the composer study I'm currently teaching. It's also helped me create delight-directed learning for my own kids here at home--like the interior design course I pieced together for my high schooler this year.

(In full disclosure, I don't know that my system would work as well for planning a skill-oriented subject like math. But since I've always relied on the mathematical wizardry of Teaching Textbooks, I've never had to test those particular waters.)

My planning system is a simple one that's anchored in routine.

Anyone can do it. (Insert finger guns and perfectly-timed Vanna White arm sweeps.)

For the sake of peeling back the veil and showing you exactly how the magic works, I'll use my recent geography plans as an example. But in all honesty, you can use this planning system for any content-oriented subject.


Create a list of topics to cover

Like when planning a basic unit study, you must first make a list of the topics you'd like to cover within that particular subject. If like me, you're not a knower-of-all-things and need some help deciding what topics need to be covered, consult a spine book (an encyclopedic-type book about that particular subject) and list off the major topics from the table of contents.

It was easy to create a list of topics for World Geography. I created 9 of them by just separating the map into its natural sections.
  • general map skills
  • 5 oceans
  • North America
  • South America
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Africa
  • Oceania
  • Antarctica

Create a tentative scope-and-sequence

In the thick of the school year you might love to meander through topics at your own personal speed based on the interest level of your kids. But, it's nice to at least start the year with a general idea of how long you should camp on each topic. This helps to ensure that you complete all the topics before the last day of school. To do this, just divide the number of weeks you plan to do the subject by the number of topics you have. The answer will give you a very tentative look at the number of weeks you need to spend on each topic. Feel free to adjust these to meet the needs of your kids, however.

I was only planning to do World Geography for 25 weeks of the 36 week school year because I already had something else in mind for the remaining eleven weeks. When I divided 25 weeks by my 9 topics, I initially ended up with about 3 weeks for each topic. It was easy to see that a few of those topics wouldn't require three week's worth of lessons and that some would require more. So, I just did a little shifting and ended up with a scope-and-sequence that looked like this:
  • General map skills- 1 week
  • 5 oceans- 1 week
  • North America- 5 weeks
  • South America- 2 weeks
  • Europe- 4 weeks
  • Africa- 4 weeks
  • Asia- 5 weeks
  • Oceania- 2 weeks
  • Antarctica- 1 week


Create a list of subtopics

Depending upon what subject you are trying to cover, it may be necessary to create subtopics within the major topics you've chosen. For instance, a few years ago when creating an artist study for co-op, the other mothers and I decided to divide the year into 9 art movements/periods (Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, etc.). These became our main topics. Then we divided each of those topics into subtopics: the most well-known artists within each of those movements. Each month we introduced a new movement, but spent a concentrated amount of time each week learning about one particular artist within that movement. 

For our World Geography study, I chose to emphasize a few particular countries within each of the major continents. So my scope-and-sequence became even more detailed and ended up looking like this:

General map skills
5 oceans
North America
  • general info
  • Canada
  • USA
  • Mexico
  • Central America
South America
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
Europe
  • Germany
  • Russia
  • Poland
  • Italy
Africa
  • Egypt
  • Nigeria
  • Tanzania
  • South Africa
Asia
  • Middle East
  • Former Soviet States
  • India
  • China
  • Indonesia
Oceania
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
Antarctica


Make a list of activities/resources

After you plan out your topics, you'll want to compile your resources. These include specific books, games, media (with the exception of youtube videos), and manipulatives you plan to use. If you would like to use youtube clips in your lessons, you would just need to list "youtube" as a resource. You do not necessarily have to list out each individual video you hope to watch for the entire year.

My resource list for World Geography included the following:



Create a weekly routine for that subject

Now it's time to make a simple routine for your daily learning time. Consult your resource list and then ask yourself this question: "What are the top 2 or 3 activities/resources I hope to use each and every class period?" Your answer will determine what you will use as your core materials. Use these to create a daily routine. Divide up all the other activities/resources you've compiled and assign them to individual days of the week to form your weekly routine. 

World Geography routine looked like this:

Daily Routine
  • Map quest questions from Trail Guide to World Geography- These are simple oral questions about [region/country we're studying]. Most of them require the kids to consult an atlas or map in order to answer them. The questions are divided into three different levels of difficulty so that kids of all ages can learn together.
  • Mapping- Using prompts from Trail Guide to World Geography and a blank map from Uncle Josh's Outline Map Book, the kids will label, outline, color, etc. a few features of [region/country we're studying]. They will continue to add to the map each day and then insert it into their geography notebook under the proper continent heading.
  • Geography dictionary- I will teach one key geographical/map term (like peninsula or tributary) each day. The kids will add the term, the definition, and an illustration of the term into a "dictionary" section of their notebooks. These terms will come from Trail Guide to World Geography and will correspond to [region/country we're studying].
  • One or two "extras" based on the weekly routine


Weekly Routine

Monday
  • Using the suggestions from Give Your Child the World, I will read aloud one living literature book that corresponds with [region/country we're studying].
  • The younger kids will read and color a page from Around the World Coloring Book about [region/country we're studying] while their older sister will create a notebook page about [region/country we're studying]. These will be added to their notebooks.
Tuesday
Wednesday
  • Using the stickers from Flags of the World Atlas Sticker Book, the kids will attach a flag sticker to [region/country we're studying] on our wall map. 
  • The kids will draw and color the flag of [region/country we're studying] and add it to their geography notebooks.
Thursday
  • We will watch a travel log or youtube video about [region/country we're studying].
  • I will cook a meal from [region/country we're studying] using the recipes from Eat Your Way Around the World that we will enjoy as a family that evening.
Friday 
  • Using World Landmarks flashcards, we will learn about any important landmarks of [region/country we're studying].
  • Using suggestions from Trail Guide to World Geography or other sources, we will do a craft, play a game, learn a song, etc. together in order to learn more about the culture of [region/country we're studying].
While I've listed my plans in great detail here for your benefit, I did not write them out this way in my school year planner. I just wrote a one or two word reminder of each activity on the appropriate day of the week like..."flashcard" or "travel log."



Lather-rinse-repeat each week

Now that you have a daily routine established, you can then plug in your sub-topic to the routine each week. Nothing about the week should change all year long except the topic. The order and activities should always remain constant. 

Last week, my kids and I studied Canada in our World Geography "class." So, I just followed the daily and weekly routine replacing [region/country we're studying] with the word "Canada." This week, I'm doing the same for "USA." And next week, I'll insert "Mexico."

Creating your own curriculum for content-oriented subjects is truly that simple. It doesn't require some complicated boxed set of something or an expensive curriculum that you'll never use. It just takes a few trusted resources, a simple routine, and coffee...always coffee!

8 comments:

  1. Love it! This is very similar to what I do with content subjects. I do have a question: did you pre-make their notebooks, or is it just a place to collect anything they complete?

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    Replies
    1. We set up the notebook by organizing the tabs and I copied all the maps and notebooking sheets I knew we'd need for the year. Other than that, we've been adding things as we go.

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. I got halfway through reading and realised I needed to Pin this post. It's fantastic, and something for me to start practicing with as I try out homeschooling with my 3-year-old (adapted of course to suit her age). I look forward to exploring more of your blog!

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    1. Welcome! I started homeschooling my daughter when she was three. We had so much fun and made so many great memories reading books, doing projects, and exploring museums together. Enjoy these early years. They're some of the best!

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  4. My son will finish the final level of AAR this year, and I'm trying to figure out what 'reading' should look like after that. I know you have your kiddos read each day, and my thought is my son will adjust to reading a certain amount of time each day, but I'm not sure if he should do something besides just the reading. Do you have your kids write out a summary of what they've learned? What do you do when they've officially finished a reading curriculum?

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  5. One of them writes a summary in a spiral notebook of the chapter he read. He writes the date and two to three sentences of narration, retelling the story. I do not make the others do this. He just needs help with comprehension. The others just read each day. Once kids learn to read, they really don't need a reading curriculum. Just have good discussions with them about their books.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your input - very helpful!

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