Friday, May 17, 2013

Breaking Out of the Box (Taking the First Step Away from Boxed Curriculum)

Today, we are very excited to have a guest post by Dusty from To the Moon and Back!

When I first started homeschooling four years ago, I barely knew anything about the journey that I was about to embark on.  I had never expected to educate my children on my own and I didn't know anyone else who did it either.  I was all alone in a great big new world.  Lost.

After many, many hours of researching on the internet and stalking homeschooling blogs, I finally found the perfect answer--a boxed curriculum that laid everything out for me.  It made me breathe a heavy sigh of relief and a weight lifted from my shoulders.  I had found a way for my hand to be held as I took those first steps into home education.

We loved it.  Every day was a joy.  My oldest daughter was thriving and with each new skill she gained, I started to gain a tiny bit of confidence that yes, I could do this. Just a tiny bit though.  I still needed more time to grow in my new "teacher" role.

We continued to use that boxed curriculum for the next three years.  We still love it!  But as time has passed, I've slowly started to realize that our family just doesn't fit in the box.  We began to want to explore and stretch outside of it.  So we took breaks from our regular curriculum here and there to learn about other topics.  We started to supplement what was planned out for us because we wanted more than what was offered.

Now with the end of the current school year nearing, I've been pondering if we were ready to move on to different pastures.  Not necessarily greener pastures, because I believe that prepackaged curriculum can be a great blessing to the right family at the right time. It's just time for our family to break free.

So just like in the beginning of my journey, I poured over catalogs and websites and more blogs but rather than look for a hand to guide me, I was looking for the resources that allowed me to lead. 

It's been a little overwhelming and intimidating at times, but I now know that I can do this.  I'm not scared of bumps or forks in the road anymore.  God gave me these children and He knows that I'm capable, even if I'm not so sure all the time.  What are my tips for taking this step?

*Pray.  Ask God to calm your nerves and show you the way.  Even if we can be the leader when it comes to curriculum choices, we should never forget who is leader of us all.

*Take your time.  Don't rush things.  Grab a highlighter and some post its and really delve into the catalogs, reading the descriptions and taking the time to weigh if what you are looking at is a good fit for you family.  Ask questions on forums or groups.  Search the internet for reviews.  Research thoroughly.

*Ask your kids what they want to learn about.  You might be surprised with what they say!  Learning happens best when children are interested in the content of what they are being taught!

*Take into account your children's learning styles AND your teaching style.  If your child is a kinesthetic learner, it's probably best not to load up on workbooks.  Likewise, you need to think about if you want the curriculum to be teacher intensive or more independent.  Do you want to have to do a little planning with some outlines or do you want to map it all out on your own?  These are all important things to consider when choosing what you will use. 

*Don't be afraid to take a risk.  It isn't the end of the world if you purchase something new and then find that it just isn't going to work.  Sell it, return it, or shelve it for another time.  It's okay to make mistakes.

*Remember that if it doesn't work out, that's okay too.  If you get into your first year and things just aren't going well, there is nothing wrong with you or your homeschool if you decide to back to the boxed curriculum.  Some things just work better for some people and not others.  One of the best things about homeschooling is that you aren't tied down to one method, one curriculum.  You have the freedom to choose what works best for you and your children.

I'm obviously not an expert on this subject matter, as I'm only about to do this for the first time myself, but I'm excited for the new direction our homeschool is taking and want to encourage other moms who might be unsure if they have the ability to do it too.

Do you use a boxed curriculum or do you pick and choose different sources?

Dusty is a stay at home mother of three who is expecting her fourth child this summer!  She has been married to the love of her life for nearly 8 years and is trying to figure out her own path while devouring chocolate and leaning on the Lord. She blogs about homeschooling, homemaking, motherhood, and faith at To the Moon and Back.  

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