I can tell you how to find the perfect homeschool curriculum. Do you have pen and paper? Are you ready? Find the closest you can and then tweak it to make it work for your family.
That’s it. That’s the secret to finding the perfect homeschool curriculum. You know, because the perfect curriculum doesn’t exist. So, how do you tweak curriculum to make it a good fit for your family? I’ve got a few suggestions.
How to Tweak Homeschool Curriculum
Make it more hands-on
If you have kinesthetic, active learners, add more hands-on activities. A lot of people think hands-on learning means crafts. If that were true, we would not be hands-on learners because I’m not particularly crafty. Think doing instead of making (though making sometimes works, too).
There are lots of great hands-on activities that can be used across the curriculum. Some of my favorites are:
- Cooking themed meals
- Making salt-dough maps
- Building models
- Playing games
Hands-on activities aren’t just for young kids either. There are lots of age-appropriate hands-on learning activities for middle school and high school students.
Add more books
I love reading great books to enhance our studies. Some of my favorites are historical fiction and biographies. What better way to learn about a topic than to experience it through the eyes of those who lived it? For example, while studying the Civil War we might read Across Five Aprils. While learning about World War II, we might read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
If you have younger students, series like The Magic School Bus, The Magic Tree House, or the American Girl books can make a great addition. We really like the non-fiction companion guides for The Magic Tree House books, too.
Make accommodations for struggling learners
It can be difficult to find a good curriculum fit for struggling learners. Fortunately, as homeschooling parents, we don’t need an IEP. It’s easy to make accommodations for struggling learners when they’re your kids!
Allow them to do their work orally. We used to do a lot of grammar on the white board with the kids giving answers orally as I played the role of scribe. If you have a student with dysgraphia who struggles to write or one with dyslexia who struggles to get his thoughts on paper, it’s okay to do the writing for them as they narrate their thoughts to you. If you free a child from the physical labor of writing, you may be surprised at the level of creativity and depth he displays.
Utilize audio books. Often a child can comprehend a much higher reading level than he can read on his own – and a homeschool mom’s voice will only hold out so long. Use audio books. I used to get the print book and the audio book from the library for Brianna. That way, she could follow along as she listened. If your child has a diagnosed print disability, he may qualify for a Learning Ally membership.
Allow the use of assistive technology. Instead of requiring a child to hand write her work, teach her typing skills early on so she can take advantage of word processing software. This will allow her to get her thoughts on paper quickly. Then, she can go back and clean up the spelling and grammar errors. You can also invest in speech-to-text software, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking. An online dictionary and thesaurus (or apps for mobile devices) are also helpful because most will speak the word so that your child can hear how it’s pronounced.
Don’t count off for spelling and grammar. Unless it’s a spelling test or a grammar assignment, don’t count off for spelling and grammar in their work – even if the curriculum suggests that you do. This is, of course, coming from the mom of two dyslexic kids, but I’m just telling you – it’s disheartening for a kid to have the correct answer and get points taken off for something that is such a huge area of struggle for them. When Brianna used Switched on Schoolhouse for her 10th grade year, I was able to adjust the settings so that spelling errors did not affect her overall scores.
Don’t do it all
You don’t have to do everything your curriculum tells you to. It’s a tool, not the master. Just as you can add more hands-on activities or great books, you can take away components that are not a good fit for your family. If you say, “I like everything about this curriculum but…,” find a way to overcome the but.
Have you got an all-inclusive curriculum that you love except for the spelling? Do something else for spelling. Do you like everything about your writing curriculum but the copywork? Don’t do the copywork. Do you love your math curriculum, but think it has too many problems? Just do the even or odd problems. We did that all the time when I was in school.
Is your curriculum too fast-paced? Slow it down. It may take a little planning work on your part, but I’ve found that when I tweak curriculum, once I work it out in my mind (and on paper) it usually flows pretty smoothly from that point on. The opposite is also true – if it’s moving too slowly, step up the pace for your family.
Sometimes you really like a product, but it’s missing just a little something to make you love it. That’s when you figure out what it’s missing and add it in. It may just be the hands-on activities or books that I mentioned. Other suggestions include:
- Videos – YouTube has some great educational videos. We really like the Crash Course series (aside from occasional coarse humor) for supplementing history or science. You can also check your library for DVD resources.
- Online resources such as games or teaching tools – Khan Academy and Standard Deviants Accelerate are two that come to mind.
- Apps – There really does seem to be an app for everything. There are games such as Stack the States (love it) and science tools where you can do virtual dissections, take a inside tour of the human body, or mix chemicals in a virtual chemistry lab.
- Create word games – I like making word searches and crosswords for the kids to practice spelling or vocabulary words.
- Interactive study tools – We also enjoy making virtual flash cards with Quizlet or creating Jeopardy-style study boards.
You may get lucky and discover the perfect, no-need-to-tweak-it curriculum for your family. For the rest of us, there really isn’t a perfect curriculum, but there is the best fit for our family. Sometimes, we just have to make some adjustments to make it work best for us.
In what ways have you tweaked your homeschool curriculum?
This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.
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