Thursday, July 28, 2011

Can't find a curriculum you love? Make your own!

My daughters are both in first grade this year. When we attended our state homeschool convention this past May, we made curriculum choices for every subject except Social Studies/History. Many companies told us they did not offer Social Studies for grades under second. The few companies that said their program could be used for first grade didn't seem age appropriate.

After a few hours of hunting, and ultimately being unsuccessful, my husband suggested buying a few books and making our own curriculum. "Are you kidding? Do you realize how much work that is?" Was my initial response. You see, we attempted that approach with a few subjects in Kindergarten and it was so difficult. Maybe it would have worked better if I would have planned the entire subjects out at the beginning of the year, but I didn't. Therefore, I was constantly looking for material and constantly feeling like I wasn't doing enough. It was not a fun experience. Thus, I completely threw out the idea of piecing together our own Social Studies program.

Fast forward 10 hours or so. After a good night's sleep and a couple more hours of unsuccessful curriculum shopping, I started to think more about my husband's idea. What we wanted in a Social Studies curriculum was a study of people and places. At the Usborne Books table we found an awesome book titled Book of Peoples of the World. We loved it, but that one book wasn't going to be enough. We went a found a quiet corner (YES, we found a quiet corner at a homeschool convention!) and talked about our ideas. We decided we could come up with a year-long study of people/places/religions. It would cover history, geography, cultures, arts, and foods. We would cover 26 of the major countries at a pace of one or two weeks per place. Now we were on to something!

So back into the convention we went. This time we knew just what we were looking for. We found a book of World Religions at the Usborne Books table. My Father's World has a study similar to what we are doing, but according to people we've spoken with it is took advanced for first grade. However, we found a set of two awesome books at the MFW booth entitled A Trip Around The World and Another Trip Around the World. These books have reproducible flags and maps for each country. They also contain great information and activities (art, language, recipes, games) for each land covered. At a used book table, we even found a book (it happens to be Usborne too- do you see a theme here?!) called Stories From Around the World. Now we were all set and ready to go!

When we got home, we sat down and planned out the entire year. We determined which countries could be covered in a week and which would require two weeks, and we made our own lesson plans. The girls each have a passport and they get it "stamped" each time we enter a new country. We learn about the people, the land, the language spoken, the main religions. We either make an ethnic dish or visit an ethnic restaurant for each country. We sing native songs and make different art projects to reflect where we've "been" that week.

This is easily our favorite subject this year. I am so excited for our "trip" around the world!

For which subjects are you struggling to find the "perfect" curriculum? Which subjects are you just really not happy with your chosen curriculum? Don't be afraid to step away from them. Find some resources and come up with your own lessons. It will be more work in the beginning, but a much more enjoyable road ahead.

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