Find Your Fit

Recently I shared some ideas on how to Tailor-make your curriculum.  Just as when you buy your children’s clothes, you may sometime need to try a size smaller or larger to get the best fit, so, too, it is with finding the right fit for your child’s homeschool curriculum.

Your child’s age is often a starting point, however your child may need to begin at an earlier grade, or stay on a level longer than the professional calculated for the average child. Your child may need to skip over a grade where he finds work too easy in order that he finds the level that stimulates and challenges him.

This individualization should be the practice in every classroom, but the school system usually focuses on the average child and so the more gifted or special-needs child often fall through the cracks.  Because homeschooling is a one-on-one education, it is far easier for a parent to find the perfect fit for their child.

You are tailor-making your child’s learning experience – read more Tailor made and Offer a learning buffet  and Tailor-make your curriculum.

I urge you to customize your curriculum and subjects for each child.

Some of the most challenging subjects that require individualization are
Reading, Writing and Maths.  This post has quite a few links to my archives.  Please bookmark them to read later if you don’t have time today.)

Reading

  • Teach your child their phonics so that they know how to sound out every letter in the alphabet and then combination letters called blends.
  • Use flashcards, charts and picture games to practice and master phonics.
  • Find a series of early readers that are both entertaining and interesting and which contain almost all the words your child can sound out and read.
  • Use partnered reading where your child sits on your lap are next to you, and you whisper in their ear as they read and sound out their words.  You can see that we use a ruler or pointer to help with tracking along the sentence.
  • Read more about partnered reading technique I used with my youngest child — Partnered Reading Helps Improve Reading and Partnered Reading ~ moments I treasure and Slow learner Joys discovered.

Writing 

  • Don’t fret/ push/ demand/ panic if your child isn’t ready to write out his own narrations / or write neatly.
  • Keep on assisting him and encourage oral dictations, recorded narrations or dictated narrations, or traced over or printed dictated narrations. The vital skill of narration is being practiced and the writing will come later.  Read about being your child’s Narration Scribe
  • Gently encourage your child to write an opening sentence and then the concluding sentence. Work on developing 3 sentences that form a paragraph.  Before long he will be doing more and more of his own written narrations.
  • Use a word bank  or textmapping to help your child remember their ideas.
  • Find an alternative activity that your child enjoys instead of the prescribed narration – there are so many options and alternatives!  Purchase my Narration Ideas booklet with over 100 ideas and options instead of just writing!
  • Writing is such an important skill that you should find a way for your child to present his thoughts and understanding with narrations because Narrations show you what he knows.

Mathematics

  • Mathematics is a very important subject and it is vital to find the right level and pace and approach for each child.
  • Swap or add another Maths book if the course your child uses progresses too quickly.  Look for an exercise or book that offers more practice lessons, or one that provides more visual or practical work.
  • Use concrete apparatus for as long as is needed.  Work with beads, blocks, number lines, counting fingers or whatever helps your child.  It really doesn’t actually matter how long your child needs these “props”.  If it helps, then use them!  Don’t shame your child or let him believe that he is immature.  Make physical apparatus options available.
  • Gently encourage your child to do the same activity again without the physical apparatus and teach him how to picture the blocks or bead in his head.  It may just suddenly ‘click’ and he will be able to continue his work without the objects.
  • Maths butterfliesEncourage Maths drills with games and mental Maths worksheets.
  •  Use different approaches as and when needed, for example, use blocks, flashcards, use number lines, and or computer games to teach, practice and master a concept.
  • Work for mastery — you want your child to feel a sense of confidence.  Maths is a very emotionally charged subject for some children.  Don’t give up at a point of anxiety or stress.  Look for creative ways of doing the work so that your child feels good about themselves.

Time

  • Start by stretching out a one-year curriculum over 18 months to provide a wide margin of time to enjoy themes and topics that your children enjoy, time to take detours or take longer scenic stops.
  • Continue working longer on any concepts to practice and fully master a skill.
  • Read about my experiences extending time on a curriculum — Re-using Sonlight and doing it differently and Best Homeschooling Decision-More Time .

In every subject, in every grade, adjust your course to suit your child’s interests, ability and pace.  Try find the balance between challenging and mastery, gently increasing the work load and difficulty, but allowing for their sense of “I can do it!”

Blessings as you find your fit, Nadene

 

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Tailor-make your curriculum

It is not a failure if a curriculum doesn’t work for you!   Even if you purchase a professionally formatted, fully kitted, boxed, packaged curriculum, you will need to make adjustments for each child and yourself as you go along.  No professional or expert can possibly determine the perfect fit for your family and for each individual!

Just as a travel agent provides a suggested itinerary for a tour to a foreign country, once you arrive, you may decide to visit different scenic stops, spend longer to more fully enjoy an experience, or decide to completely skip a section of the tour.

Here’s a golden rule ~ Work WITH your package and not FOR your package = Tailor-make your curriculum!

So how do you work with your package?

Find the pace that suits your children:

  1. Spend more time on any topic that your children enjoy.  Don’t simply rush onto the next day on the schedule.  If your kids sparkle with enthusiasm, feed it by encouraging them to watch additional videos, read other books, do some fun hands-on activities, etc.
  2. Read more/ or less each day.  During our first year I felt completely swamped by the amount of reading I was expected to do every day.  The sessions felt exhausting and I almost dreaded the schedule.  Rather, I kept reading while the kids colored-in or did hands-on activities, or I read during meals, or I completed the daily reading at bedtime read alouds.  As I gained experience, I realized that if I combined more children on the same curriculum, I maximized our learning experience and had far less individual reading.
  3. Spend more / or less time on certain subjects.  Especially when starting a new curriculum, focus on just one or two subjects at a time and gradually add another subject each week, as your children master the new skills required for each subject.  Don’t dive in and try to do everything right away.  You may wonder how to keep the different subjects flowing together?  On some days, focus on the subject you see is “falling behind” and you will easily catch up.  Sometimes we spent a week just doing one subject and found it really enjoyable, kind of like an immersion approach.
  4. Add 6 months margin to the package year.  This helped me more than anything — Just knowing that I had extra time to use as and when we wanted gave us a generous freedom and removed the stress and feeling that we would fall behind.

Personalize the curriculum:

  1. Focus on your children’s delights and interests.
  2. Add extras to any spark of interest your children show –go on outings, look for projects, job shadow professionals, borrow library books, watch suitable educational movies and videos.
  3. Do a unit study on topics related to the subject of interest, where you cover all the subjects focusing on a single topic such “Horses” or “Explorers” etc.
  4. Add a lapbook on the subject of interest.  
  5. Ignore and pack away any books that just don’t suit your child or family.  Don’t feel guilty!  It is like eating off a fixed menu — not every dish will be to your taste.
  6. Adjust the activity to suit each child.  Some children hate writing!  Rather let them present oral narrations, or draw or build or calculate or design, etc.  I created an excellent book “Narration Ideas” with over 100 ideas, options or templates for every types of learning style and temperate style.  Find what your child enjoys and tailor-make your options.
  7. Don’t forget that you are an essential component of your homeschooling.    Look for a package and approach that best suits your teaching style. Don’t buy a curriculum that stresses and overwhelms you.  I love reading and literacy, so read alouds and literacy-based education worked perfectly for me. Another mom may prefer unit studies or project-based learning.  Some moms want to teach, others want their children to lead.  Whatever your preferred style, look for a package or curriculum or approach that works for you as well as your children.

I hope that this post encourages you to make whatever curriculum you have work best for you and your children.

 Blessings, Nadene
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Letter 13 – Dare to be Different

Here’s the next letter my series ~ “Letter To Mereminding myself, and, hopefully encouraging other new homeschoolers,  with what I wish I had known when I started out on our homeschooling journey ~

Dear Nadene,

Do not be afraid to be different.  IMG-20141023-WA0000

Don’t follow the cookie-cutter approach and force yourself or your kids into a mould.   Homeschooling is about finding your true fit.  It is about a tailor-made approach and content. 

So even your bought curriculum doesn’t determine how you should teach or the pace at which your children should learn.  When you or your child become stressed and anxious, just stop, breathe and realign your goals and expectations with the Lord. 

Don’t compare yourself, your kids or your journey with others.  It doesn’t matter if your homeschooling or your children are different to everyone else.  Ignore those piercing questions and keep your eyes on what the Lord has shown you and you will maintain His grace to continue.  When someone’s comment or advice makes you feel ill and ashamed, it is not from Him.   Quietly withdraw and affirm yourself in His promises.

I believe that grace ‘to be’ and ‘to change’ is extremely important.  Even as babies, I never boxed my kids in with statements.   I would say, “So pink is your favourite color at the moment …”  or “You really don’t like broccoli today …”  so that they knew they could change their minds and find alternatives. 

Allow your children the freedom to dress up when they are small.  Encourage them to express themselves, to have opinions and insights.  Ask them what they think and feel and reflect it back to them so that they know you have seen and heard them.  This is vital and will cultivate the greatest gift a parent can give a child – the strong sense of who they are.  

Homeschoolers often ‘get’ this, whilst public-schooled kids strive to remain acceptable and become clones of the popular.  It is sadly why others (non-homeschoolers) call  homeschoolers “weird”.  

And all it is really  … is different. 

Unique. 

And we all are, aren’t we?

Recently a shop teller asked me why my daughters dress “differently”. She said that she noticed that my girls all dress so creatively and uniquely. Even their hairstyles and handbags are different. I told her that my daughters do not go to regular school. They are homeschooled. She said that public-school kids looked like each other … all the same.  Now, my girls are not weird. They just look … like themselves … beautiful!

I took years to ‘find myself’.   Even as an adult, I wasted years anxiously trying to be acceptable … I called myself a nerd … and generally felt like a failure.  I’m so grateful that my children have such a strong sense of themselves, their style, their gifting, their friendships and their values. 

Above all, point your children to the Lord and encourage them to keep seeing themselves through His eyes.  Urge them to please Him by being who they were created to be.  Encourage them to find their calling and use their gifts for Him.  He loves them to eternity and back!

Dare to be different!  Live your lives to the full and have grace for yourself and others.

With hindsight blessings,

Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please would you share yours in the comments.

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series: