Monday, June 13, 2011

Individualizing your Homeschooling Program

And the winner of the Signing Time video is .... Eileen.  Please contact Beth at to claim your prize.  Congratulations!  

As a parent, you know that your child is an individual.  She has abilities, needs, and interests that are unique to her.  One of the primary benefits to homeschooling is that you can individualize the instruction to the specific needs and interests of your child/children.  You can choose a curriculum that is appropriate for your child's learning style.  You can teach unit studies and teaching materials based on your child's interests.  

As you are planning your instruction, remember that your curriculum is just an instructional guide.  You do not have to follow the curriculum exactly as it is written.  Saxon/Horizons/Math-U-See/A Beka are all good programs.  However, not one of them is the "math bible" for teaching math to your child.  You know your child better than any curriculum writer every will.

You may know that your daughter is having a hard time with long division, so you can (and should) seek out additional practice beyond what the curriculum provides.  Your kindergartner may have mastered counting to 10 months ago.  The fact that your curriculum spends multiple lessons on counting does not mean that you have to teach those lessons.  Your son may love dinosaurs.  In order to make reading more fun for him, you can choose reading materials about dinosaurs (or write your own books) and make his sight word flashcards in the shape of dinosaurs.  In addition, you can do a Science unit study on dinosaurs.

In my house, we are currently using alphabet flashcards that are in the shapes of zoo animals, counting farm animals, and learning about George Washington by reading two stories I have written and books we checked out at the library.  Some of my friends laugh at me because my daughter may be one of the only preschoolers who knows about George Washington, but I love that she is learning based on her interests and she can't wait to learn more about "George" and his friends!

 The ability to individualize the curriculum is the reason that we are currently homeschooling our almost 3-year-old daughter.  Like a few of the other ladies here, I was a reluctant homeschooler.  Before having children, I had a career in education - first as an early childhood teacher and later as a special education teacher (for students with autism, severe cognitive delays, and behavior problems).  The year before Abigail was born, I went back to school full time to get my doctorate in Special Education.  Having worked in public schools, I just assumed that my children would one day attend public school.  Whenever anyone mentioned to me the idea of homeschooling my children, I told them that they were crazy and that I would never do that.  However, when Abigail became old enough to attend a preschool program, I knew that it would not be the best place for her.  Deep down in my heart, I could not imagine allowing someone else to teach my child during the most critical learning period of her life!  Last September, when Abigail was 27 months old (one month after Charlotte was born), we began "doing school" each day.  Because I was so adamant that I would not homeschool, I did not call it homeschooling - just "doing school".  Initially, our school time lasted 20-30 minutes and was mostly reading and games.  However, over the course of the school year, our school time has lengthened and become more structured.  Most days, we work for about two hours on activities that I have created; we do math, language arts, science, social studies, fine motor, and various other preschool skills.  We are getting ready to start Spanish in the next few weeks. Everything that I teach is tailored to Abigail's needs and interests.  Abigail and I both love our preschool time together.  When she awakens each morning (even on the weekends), one of the first things she asks is "We do school now?".  Her enthusiasm has led to great results and I have been amazed at how quickly Abigail has learned; she challenges me each day to create lessons that will increase knowledge.  Next fall, when Abigail is three, we will be starting a kindergarten math program and will likely start a kindergarten language arts program at the same time.  I know that had I sent her to a traditional preschool program, she would not have progressed so quickly in her knowledge and skills.  I have just recently begun to feel comfortable telling people that I am homeschooling my daughter.  At this point, my husband and I are still not sure if homeschooling is going to last past preschool, but for now it is the right choice for Abigail.

I am excited to share my homeschooling journey with all of you.  My posts will look at my experiences as a mom, as well as things I learned teaching young children and children with disabilities.  Additionally, I may share some of what I discover as I work on my dissertation.

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