Tailoring Curriculum part 2

Continuing from yesterday…

With my middle child, we tried to start school at the age of 5 with him but he was struggling in so many areas it was overwhelming. I have tried quite the gamut of programs with him. I started out very traditional with phonics workbooks and readers. It actually worked out okay until he got to multi-syllable words. I then took a break from phonics and we started reading easy readers but he never got over the hurdle of multi-syllable words. And because of his Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), he had significant language delays and couldn’t naturally keep sounding out words. I decided to try All About Reading with him and that work well. Levels 2 and 3 are what he needed to understand how to decode those multi-syllable words. And while my son reads much better now, he still has a way to go before he can be truly independent. For spelling, he has also used All About Spelling but I will probably not continue on with him after this year. All About Spelling has really helped him to jumpstart his spelling skills, but I feel like there may be something out there that is better suited to his learning style. My plan at the convention this year is find a new product to try with him to see if that can help him spell better. As for creative writing, my son hasn’t done much of that this year. He struggles with spelling so much that we have been doing lots and lots of copywork. This is helping him to build up his hand muscles; it helps him to see words spelled correctly; and gives him lots of confidence in his writing abilities. Next year though he will begin doing his own original pieces and my hope is that his spelling will have improved enough that he will be able to do some independent writing. Finally, my last initiative with this child has been to read lots of books with diverse vocabulary to him. Because of his APD, he doesn’t learn language like you and I do. Picking up new words is difficult for him. But I have found that his vocabulary is improving significantly by me reading lots of interesting books that have an assorted variety of language.

My youngest has been my easiest to teach. She has absorbed everything around her and I have not had to spend much time with her education. She learned basic phonic rules at a very young age and I think it was probably by her listening in on her brother and sister. She started reading Bob Books at the age of three. She absolutely loved them.   I never really put her through a phonics program, but just gave her lots of books to read. For a period of time, I did make her sit with me while I did my son’s All About Reading lesson just to make sure she knew all the phonograms. But I honestly found that she didn’t need it. She had already figured most of them out on her own. For this particular child, I still bring home lots and lots of books from the library for her to read. She loves all kinds of books too. So I try to bring home a variety. As for math, she used RightStart here and there but she doesn’t really need it. She does very well with workbooks. Using workbooks, she taught herself the 4 basic functions and she does them fairly well. She not only can do them, but she also understands them. She also taught herself how to convert things as well, minutes and hours, inches and feet, the metric system and the likes using workbooks. Not only does she learn well with workbooks, but she loves to complete them. Much of her early education was completed with workbooks. Because she is such a good reader, I could literally give her the workbook and she would complete her work on her own. The only subject I have not done with a workbook for her is spelling in which she uses All About Spelling. However, next year I am not planning to continue on with this program. I am moving her to studied dictation. She has a photographic memory and I think this form of spelling will be a fantastic compliment to her learning style.

Obviously school is composed of much more than language arts and math. But I have found those are the subjects that I need to tailor most to my kids according to their learning style. As for history, science and Bible, I have changed it up a lot each year based on my needs. When I started homeschooling, I liked to build my own program. Every year at the convention was like Christmas because I couldn’t wait to discover what we would do the following year. But about 4 years in, I found I no longer had time to piece it all together. I sought out an all in one curriculum. There are many, many different vendors for an all in one curriculum. For me, this is the only time I have really considered myself and my teaching style as a huge part of the curriculum. I tried My Father’s World for a year and we absolutely loved it. The first year I did My Father’s World, my kids were all in separate levels. It went very well that year and my kids learned a lot. Then the following year I was at a point where two of my kids would be combined into their 5 year cycle. I made it in 8 weeks in dropped it. With my oldest and my middle child being so completely different, I found it was just too difficult to try to teach everyone at the same time. Not only did I have to significantly modify the assignments, they all distracted each other the entire day. I learned very quickly that I did not want to teach all of my kids together. I then found a company called Heart of Dakota. It is set up that you can combine some age groups but that you don’t need to either. It is set up with age ranges for their levels but their levels are very skill driven. For me, this was my perfect fit. I am now able to place my kids according to their skills and the teacher’s manual then tells me or them what to do. For me, this box curriculum is my perfect fit. I also never realized that my teaching style was a Charlotte Mason style. This company aligns very closely to that method of teaching and seems to also be my kids learning styles as well. In addition, because of the layout of the manual, I can switch the math and language arts with whatever program I want to make it my kid’s perfect fit too.

For me, every year I homeschool always holds an excitement and wonder of seeing the changes and growth in my kids. I love that there are so many curriculums out there to pick and choose from to help kids grown in different areas. I also love the fun stuff too. My kids have learned through the use of games, hands-on kits, and we have explored several foreign languages. I have spent much time researching and trying different programs out to see how we liked them. Some we have liked, some we have not. I live my life by the philosophy that I will immediately shelf something if I find it doesn’t work well for us. There have been many a shelved items in this family. But, I have also been very delighted by finding various curriculum treasures that my kids enjoyed much more than I anticipated. If you are struggling with curriculum, I would recommend starting with 102 Top Curriculum Picks by Cathy Duffy, which you can purchase or borrow from the library. It has a survey in the front that will help you discover your teaching style. You can then go from there to try and find curriculum that will suit you and your kids. She has wonderful reviews on her website that discuss many products that are available. Before I purchase anything, I always review it. I check her website and then I go to www.homeschoolreviews.com and check their comments as well. I have found that sometimes it does take a bit of trial and error but in general, the more research I do, the less likely I am to shelve my final selection. As a final encouragement, embrace the diversity of the various curriculums and don’t be scared to try something new. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much you love it and grateful for the change.

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