The structured approach of a traditional school-in-a-box curriculum can be a perfect fit for many homeschoolers. For parents who may be confused and overwhelmed by trying to recreate the eclectic approach practiced by some homeschoolers, a structured, all-in-one curriculum can offer a welcome relief. For others, a structured curriculum simply fits their lifestyle and/or teaching style. Still others choose this option for children who seem particularly well-suited to a more structured learning environment . For these reasons, and many more, this method of homeschooling effectively meets the academic needs of a large percentage of families. Though in some homeschool communities, the school-at-home method is sometimes disparaged as being "too much like school", many homeschool families have found it to be a very effective means of providing their children with a first-rate education.
One of the great advantages of choosing a structured curriculum is the relative ease with which it can be implemented in a homeschool program. Let's take a look at the basic steps required in planning your school year using a structured curriculum.
Begin your search well in advance of the start of your school year. Gather catalogs. Search websites. View curriculum alternatives at a homeschool convention or book fair in your area. Ask key questions that will drive your decision-making process. Do you prefer a faith-based program? Or maybe you'd prefer a secular program? Do you want a program that is teacher-driven? Or are you looking for one that is student-paced? Would you prefer a computer-based program? How about a literature-based program? Investigate your options with these questions in mind. Narrow down your options and make your final decision using these criteria to guide your decision-making process.
One of the biggest mistakes that homeschoolers make is not planning ahead. Parents who are well-prepared for their school year experience significantly less stress than those who enter the year unprepared. Curriculum should be purchased at least a month before the start of the school year to provide ample opportunity for planning and preparation. And families who plan to search for used curriculum should start even earlier. Many curriculum companies offer sales in the spring to encourage early purchase of materials. Homeschool conventions and book fairs are often held in the spring and summer and can provide the opportunity to purchase materials at discounted prices. While a structured curriculum can make the planning process less complicated, ample time is still required. And don't forget to include planning materials in your purchase. Many structured curriculums offer pre-written lesson plans and other planning materials that can greatly simplify the process. Skimping on these "optional" items can make the planning process more time-consuming for a busy homeschool mom!
Begin to actively plan by creating your school year calendar. Because most structured programs are organized into approximately 160-180 lessons per subject, creating a lesson plan is usually quite clear-cut. Create a lesson plan that takes into account the calendar that you will follow for the year. Assigning one lesson per day in each subject ensures that all lesson content will be covered within the timeframe of a normal school year (180 days). Electronic planners can help simplify the process, making it easier to make adjustments throughout the school year. Some computer-based programs may even do the lesson-planning for you!
Most structured programs include teacher's guides which provide lists of required materials for student lessons, activities, experiments, and more. Failing to gather required materials in advance can bring even a well-planned homeschool program to a screeching halt.
Don't allow yourself to be taken by surprise on the first day of school. Make sure that you have a working knowledge of both the structure and content of your children's lesson material. Planning lessons at least a week or two in advance can greatly reduce surprises—and frustration—for both students and parent.
Because most structured programs are more traditional in their instructional methods, they lend themselves well to record-keeping. Planning in advance how you will keep a record of student work will help to ensure that you will actually do it when the time comes. A basic grade book provides an ideal place to keep a record of student progress. Gathering templates for report cards and transcripts in advance helps parents keep adequate records from the very beginning.
Linda Difino is a homeschool mom with four amazing children. Her homeschool journey began nearly 25 years ago with three daughters and continues on with a 1st grade son! When she isn't homeschooling and home-making, Linda works from home as a homeschool consultant and enjoys blogging at The Homeschool Apologist.