Learn: Why I Wrote My Own Curriculum

Even with infinite time and resources, homeschooling can be a challenge. Homeschooling two school-age kids with a toddler around, a full-time job, and a tight budget is nearly impossible. Borderline insane are words that have been used before. We make it work somehow, and as the years spin on, I become more confident in my abilities to do so.

Back to the title. I did write my own curriculum, and I would do it again. It sounds crazy and although it proved to be time-consuming, it was actually pretty simple and fun. Here is why I did it:

Preparing to homeschool the first year I did what all parents do; poured over how-to books filled with tips and statistics, whittled away hours online researching curriculum and reading reviews, and spent $100s on supplies. I set up a Montessori-style classroom, purchased a boxed curriculum and expected the magic to ensue. I was surprised when my daughter was bored by the curriculum I gave her. I was angry when many of the daily activities felt like busy work. I was despondent when the materials I had spent $100s on didn’t fit in with the topics covered by the aforementioned boxed curriculum. As the year wore on I learned to tailor my purchase to our needs and we cut out the busy work and only did the activities that provided real enrichment. Never again, I told myself.

The second year, wooed by the wonderful families of unschoolers we have met, I decided to step away from controlling the learning at all. I worked on phonics with my son who was struggling with beginning to read and that was about it. While I deeply enjoyed the year we spent unschooling, I found that it did not suit my family’s strong need for routine. I personally, crave a structured day, my daughter prefers one and my son desperately needs it. I found that the days we had an agenda and some planned activities were infinitely more peaceful than the ones that did not.

Year three I had convinced myself that I would return to the packaged curriculum with different results. Two weeks in I suspected I had wasted my money again and two months in we had completely abandoned it. It did not suit the needs or interests of my children. This is not why I am homeschooling, I told myself. Homeschooling should mean freedom, not being leashed to a box of books filled with somebody else’s ideas. We finally found our groove with various unit studies chosen by my kids and piles of books from the library. Still, it felt like if I just had the time to prepare some activities to encourage the learning, we would all have a lot more fun. The times I was able to do this went well but with my busy schedule it was not often the case.

I formed the idea for my curriculum last spring. I would create a series of unit studies that would interest my kids, and provide a good balance of fresh and cohesive. It would be less of a firm plan and more of a list of suggestions. Ideas at hand in an organized way, ready when I needed them. I am proud to say that I accomplished that very goal and we are currently using it on a daily basis. Our first unit study is human anatomy, along with an artist study on Edgar Degas and a musical study on Beethoven and the instruments of the orchestra. We have formed a co-op with friends and a book club with others. And the cost? Summer naptimes spent poolside with my laptop and a stack of books. A pretty good trade-off if you ask me.

We still have our classroom but aside from a three Montessori shelves I rotate, it is mostly a space for us to store materials we are working on, engage in related play, and feel free to make a mess with glitter and glue.

a play hospital set up in our classroom for human anatomy play

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