Recently I have been considering the relative benefits of following a curriculum or schedule, and those of having a very relaxed, ‘every day is different’ kind of approach. My eldest son, aged 3 ¼, has reached the age where he would receive 15 hours per week of nursery or pre-school education, and so many of his friends are doing so. I have noticed how increasingly aware he is of days and schedules and routines; almost every morning starts with, ‘Is it Tuesday? Are we going to the adventure playground today?’ or a similar remark relating to another day. He seems to have found the summer ‘holiday’ time quite disruptive, as he clearly appreciates having some kind of routine. And yet, one of the great advantages of home education is that we are not controlled by a schedule, and have the flexibility where we can change plans at the last moment, following through an idea (for example, reading about Egypt in the Bible, then going to the museum in the afternoon to see and learn more about ancient Egyptian culture. Or reading a book where the main character bakes a loaf of bread, to then bake in the afternoon and take loaves fresh from the oven to a friend’s house).
I am aware of several pre-school curricula that exist, and my questions as I read around the area included:
1) Is there any great advantage (or otherwise) of using a curriculum?
2) What curricula are in existence?
3) How should I approach ‘schooling’ over the next six months?
4) Am I already covering the areas considered to be important?
5) Am I missing out on any essential areas of learning?
This article from another mother with similarly aged children was interesting:
Basically she reflects that many of her contemporaries enrol their children in pre-school as they are simply unaware that an alternative exists, or consider that it must be a good thing if it is being provided. I could relate to a lot of what she was saying.
I found this website has some very helpful resources: http://www.handsonhomeschooling.com/index.htm
Whilst the author has developed a curriculum that you can purchase, the part I found helpful was where she lists the key areas and key skills that you would expect a child of a certain age to have reached.
Broadly, the areas considered are:
- Core academics: Phonics and reading, writing and penmanship, arithmetic, science and health and social studies
- Electives: Arts and crafts, music, physical education
- Growth and Development: Manners and helping, personal care
- Support courses: Bible and spiritual growth, and ‘readiness’ skills
I found these checklists quite interesting, and generally reassuring. There is no major area that we are missing out on. There are some areas where the boys might be considered ‘advanced’ – for example, by the age of two, they can walk about four miles and are very physically active. In others, they are less so – perhaps some of the ‘craft’ activities which involve sitting and cutting and glueing. And she does make the observation that boys are likely to lag in some of those areas.
What about the need for a schedule? Perhaps unsurprisingly, if you do an internet search on home education, you see a whole range – from extremely tightly scheduled days, through to an almost complete lack of structure. One resource which I may well use is an approximate weekly timetable, with the days listed along the top, and the ‘key’ areas listed down the side:
or for slightly more detail,
And then I generally looked at some blogs of families who are home educating their children, looking for tips, wisdom and inspiration. On this occasion, there was nothing that had a huge impact on me, but if you are interested, the following link summarises many such pages for your perusal:
So, how do I plan to approach the coming months? I aim to make an approximate plan week by week. There are certain daily activities that are rarely missed – reading, walks in the park, Bible time. Other activities feature several times per week, such as cooking, music, art and letter writing. Then there are ‘special’ things that we might do once every week or so – the museum and art gallery, the docks, the library, other day trips out and about. And somewhere in between those, are the ladies and toddlers Bible study group, the home education meet at the adventure playground, the church toddler group, the home education forest school and so on. I think these are the makings of a balanced curriculum, but I must take care to spread things evenly through the week. Practically, the boys still all have a nap for between one and two and a half hours in the middle of the day, and this is beneficial for many reasons. So full days out, packed with activity can be counter productive. More usually, we try and do one out of the house session per day, and do home-based activities for the other. This allows maintenance of sleep and mealtime routines, and also encourages better discipline.
I plan to keep browsing, and keep reading. I will write about helpful resources (and maybe critique some less helpful ones!) as I come across them. I’d be interested to know how you navigate (or navigated if you have been at it for longer) these early years.