Monday, July 13, 2009

What is a complete curriculum?

New homeschoolers, concerned about perceived gaps in their child's education, often find reassurance in the words “complete curriculum”. It doesn’t take long to discover that the term “complete curriculum” means something different to everyone.

“Is this EVERYTHING I will need?” asks an anxious mom, unpacking a huge box of homeschool text books. Well, the answer is yes . . . and no.

There’s room for personalization and enrichment in any program. It’s acceptable and desirable to consider your student’s interests and your own skills and talents when choosing how to implement your chosen curriculum.

Classroom teachers in the same school, using identical curriculum, will each provide a different experience for their students. I had one teacher who used her vacation slides as a visual aid during social studies. Another added drawing instruction to her penmanship lessons. Students in other classrooms didn’t have the benefit of these teachers’ additions to the standard curriculum. Was their education any less “complete”?

Most curriculum vendors consider their program complete if it aligns with state standards for math, language, social studies and science. This does not mean their materials are all you will ever need to teach your child. Homeschool parents often supplement with videos, library books, department store workbooks, Internet content, field trips, music lessons, and participation in team sports.

Your student may need more drill than your math program provides. Most students can benefit from reading practice beyond what can be provided in a language arts curriculum, and there’s no such thing as “too much” writing.

Still, it’s comforting when you know you’ve chosen a curriculum that is sufficient on the days you’re too busy or not inspired to add anything extra. Our family’s core program, Time4Learning, provides the structure necessary to keep us on track, along with the flexibility to add or subtract as desired. Unique among online programs, Time4Learning allows users to work lessons in any order, skip activities, or take time off to pursue an enrichment opportunity.

In an effort to be “complete”, most online programs require keeping to a rigid schedule that discourages individuality. I don’t want to be a slave to any curriculum, but I don’t want to be left without any guidance, either. Time4Learning is aligned to state standards and fits anyone’s definition of “complete”, but I consider it complete because it accommodates both the need for structure and the desire for flexibility.

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