Finding the Right Curriculum for Your Child’s Learning Style
By Christina Lorenzen
Homeschooling gives parents unlimited options when it comes to curriculums. However, one of the worst things about homeschooling is the options for curriculum are unlimited. For some parents, choosing a curriculum is the most daunting aspect of homeschooling. Parents often fear that choosing the wrong curriculum will result in their child not learning. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it can be an anxiety-inducing task, it doesn’t have to be. You know your own family best. By asking yourself just a few basic questions, you can choose the right curriculum for your child’s learning style and your family’s lifestyle.
How does my child learn?
The most important question you need to ask yourself is ‘how does my child learn?’ Without an awareness of how your child learns, you won’t be able to pick the curriculum that suits him or her best. A good place to start is reading about the VARK model of learning styles. VARK stands for visual, auditory, read & write, and kinesthetic learning styles.
If your child is a visual learner, you will want to choose a curriculum that provides plenty of images, maps, and graphics for them to comprehend lessons. For the auditory learner, listening and speaking are vital, so they do well with group discussions to tell you what they have learned. The learner who leans toward reading and writing learns best through words. Typically, these learners are book lovers and avid readers. They love to take notes and do best when expressing themselves in writing, such as essays or stories. Kinesthetic learners are hands-on learners who learn best when their lessons allow them to use their hands. Think of projects that require them to build, assemble, or take apart something.
Work with your child. Read to them. Let them read to you. Give them a writing assignment. Buy them a model. Let them listen to books on tape, or let them record their own story to playback to you. Assign them a lesson where they get to create graphics about the life cycle of birds. Simple, fun projects will help you understand how your child learns best. This is the first step to choosing the curriculum that suits your child.
What’s my teaching style?
When it comes to learning about styles, your child’s isn’t the only style that needs to be considered. While homeschooling parents will be quick to say they are not ‘teachers,’ every parent will find they have a teaching style. It’s just as important to figure out your teaching style to figure out your child’s learning style.
It won’t benefit your child to spend an hour using flashcards full of math facts if it reminds you of your own school days and how much you hated math drills. There’s no shame in finding an app that will drill your child on those facts while you create fun math games you both can enjoy. If you have a child who learns best by hearing something and loves to read aloud, consider a special reading time when you can curl up together on the couch. On the other hand, if you aren’t one for reading aloud, there are plenty of audiobooks out there to do the job for you.
While it might seem trivial or maybe even induce feelings of guilt when you find some aspects of teaching you don’t enjoy, it’s crucial to consider this, so you both don’t end up hating lessons or, worse yet, skimming or skipping them completely.
What is my child interested in?
Planning your curriculum with your child’s interests in mind can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of choosing a curriculum. Taking your child’s interests into consideration when choosing a curriculum assures they learn about things that interest them. If you have a child that loves space, you can absolutely find a curriculum package on space. You can make space a science unit that can last one semester or the entire year. Child-led learning is nothing new, and research shows it improves memory retention. For the child who is resistant to learning, it’s an opportunity to open the door to a love of learning. Considering a child’s interest offers children some autonomy over their educations. It also helps ease the pain of eventually having to learn those things they’re less than thrilled about.
Science and history are two subjects that lend themselves best to a curriculum that encompasses a child’s interests. For the child who loves anything to do with trees, consider an age-appropriate botany-based science curriculum. If you have a child who loves bugs, there are many resources online that you can find insect collecting kits to build a curriculum around. For the history lover, there are endless curriculum sources beyond textbooks. In either subject, unit studies make for well-rounded lessons and a great way to engage your child. Don’t forget the history channel on television and a field trip to your local historical society.
Start with a conversation by asking your child, ‘what do you want to learn this year?’ You might be surprised by their enthusiasm when they get to have a say.
What is my educational philosophy?
While educational philosophy may sound as daunting as choosing a curriculum feels, it’s easier to answer than you might think. Simply put, it’s just your own thoughts on what your child’s education should look like. You already know they need to learn math, science, history, and English, but what else do you want to include in their home education? Is learning a foreign language important to you? Does your family speak another language you would like them to be able to converse with relatives in? Is art appreciation something you want them to know about? Do you want your children to have home skills that will help them someday when they live independently? Do you want them to have survival skills for the great outdoors?
Only you can answer these questions.
Besides the subjects themselves, your educational philosophy considers what a typical school day looks like: the when and where. Do you want your child to follow a set schedule, or are you okay with learning throughout the day with no set times? Do you feel your child should work at a formal desk, the kitchen table, or on the couch with their feet tucked up? Again, only you as the parent can answer these questions as you know your child. Over time, as you get to know how you feel about these things, you will be better able to form your own personalized educational philosophy.
How much time and money do I have to work with?
While it would be wonderful to approach homeschooling as if the clock will stand still, time is a practical consideration. You may have all the best intentions thinking you’re going to cover seven or more subjects a day. However, there are only twenty-four hours a day, and your child needs to sleep during at least eight of them. You do too. Then there are the other daily obligations like cooking, laundry, errands, and more. Seven subjects a day might not be realistic, at least not every day.
The questions to ask yourself here are ‘how many hours a day can I actively teach?’ and ‘how many hours can my children actively learn?’ We are not robots, nor do we want to be. One of the great joys of homeschooling is the freedom to spend less time on some subjects and more on others. It is a wonder to get lost in those lessons your child becomes captivated with and a relief to stop when it looks like your child has had enough of those math problems.
When choosing your curriculum, keep time in mind. It might be best not to choose a curriculum that is all hands on all the time or requires your constant assistance if you do not have the hours to devote to it. It’s helpful to choose a curriculum with a mix of lessons that requires teacher assistance and activities that can be completed online or independently. This is especially important to keep in mind if you are homeschooling more than one child and children at different learning levels.
Lastly, like everything else in life, you will want to keep your family budget in mind when choosing a curriculum. It’s important to know how much money you have budgeted before you begin shopping. If that ‘perfect’ curriculum is going to break your homeschooling piggy bank, perhaps you can find a little bit of this and that to put together something similar. It may feel disappointing having to pass up a curriculum that looks so right when the price might be wrong but don’t worry. Your child is not going to miss out on learning anything. Ask any unschooling parent, and they will tell you that a child can learn with no curriculum at all.
With the answers to these basic questions, you can enjoy choosing a curriculum that suits your child’s learning style as well as your family’s lifestyle.