Pros and Cons of a Computer-Based Homeschool Curriculum

Virtual schools – are they really homeschooling?

Virtual homeschooling has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, most virtual “homeschooling” programs are not really “homeschool” but are just a virtual public school. This can be a fine choice for some families who are just looking to spend more time with their children, wanting the ability to teach religion or want to remove their children from negative influences. Keep in mind that there is little or no choice of curriculum and all the state standardized tests are mandatory.

Computer-based Homeschool Curriculum

These homeschool programs are quite different from virtual schools in that the teaching materials are on CD-Roms. This can be a boon to the homeschooling parent who works out of the home part-time. The only complete homeschool curriculum on cd-rom that I am aware of is Switched on Schoolhouse by Alpha Omega. It is a Christian program and they offer full curriculum for grades K-12, including high school electives. It might be a good idea to test your child on a trial version to see if it is a good learning style fit for your child. Visual and auditory learners are more likely to do well with this style of learning that a kinesthetic learner.

Privately-owned virtual schools

Another choice would be a virtual homeschool program available from a private school, such as Laurel Springs, Time 4 Learning, e-tutor. The nice thing about these programs is that they because they are not virtual public schools, they are more flexible and customizable to your child. One of the main advantages of a computer-based curriculum is that it can allow parents who truly desire to homeschool, but assumed it wasn’t possible due to time constraints or a lack of confidence, to homeschool their child in with one of the most convenient and easy-to-manage methods available.

Montessori Preschool Curriculum Choices and Benefits

Choosing a Montessori preschool curriculum is key to a successful educational program. Maria Montessori’s teaching method encourages young children to develop a strong sense of individuality, responsibility, and promotes their natural strengths. When choosing a Montessori preschool curriculum it is important to ensure that the essential core elements of the program include Mathematics, Language Arts, Sensorial Activities, Cultural Awareness, and Practical Life skills.

The number one principle of Montessori education is that children retain best when they are involved in independent active play and learning. The Montessori preschool curriculum should allow for children to play independently, while the parent or teacher is the facilitator between the child and the curriculum.

Another wonderful benefit from choosing a Montessori preschool curriculum is that children are allowed to work at their own pace. This helps the child gain confidence as well as self-esteem- two important qualities that are developed through Montessori education. The Montessori educational method believes that all children have a natural desire for independence, creativity, and to achieve self esteem through mastering tasks. You will also find that Montessori curriculum is most effective when used with small group settings. This is easily obtained for those who are using the program at home with one child, but in the daycare or preschool settings where there are small groups of children, it will be beneficial to have children work individually.

The basics of Montessori encourage and foster independence. Therefore, most Montessori preschool curriculum choices will involve children working from one activity to the next. The teacher never forces a child to work or complete a task but is there to gently guide and oversee. The teacher will ask the child questions regarding which activities the child feels comfortable with and will offer their assistance if needed. By providing support and encouragement, the child will gain self-confidence and master skills according to their own time frame.

Could Canned Curriculum Be the Right Choice?

I used to look down on “canned curriculum.” I think my attitude came partly from my first teaching experience at a private school in Southern California. I didn’t have a teaching credential when I was hired. In fact, I was still about a year of “course work” away from finishing my bachelor’s degree. In spite of this I was offered a position as a second grade teacher. The school granted me as well as the rest of the teaching staff an amazing amount of freedom. We were encouraged to innovate and create interesting lesson plans to reach the learning objectives for our particular grade levels. Along with this freedom came two full-time teachers whose sole task was to source instructional materials from a “mini warehouse” on the school campus for us.

Three years later I accepted a teaching job in Oregon. This school ran differently. To accomplish their objectives a “canned curriculum” was used. What I mean by “canned” is that the curriculum guide had a very specific plan that told you what to teach and when to teach it for every day of the school year. It was timed to the minute and even told the teacher when the students should take a break and use the restroom. No kidding! I balked at using it, and eventually replaced it once I took the elementary principal position.

Not all “canned curricula” is the same, however. In hindsight, I probably over-reacted to the extreme micro-management nature of what we used in Oregon. I was guilty of “throwing everything overboard” when much that was good could have been salvaged.

As I mentioned in a previous article, some of you might be considering a break from the state system. If fear of the unknown is holding you back, my suggestion to you is to find a good “canned curriculum.” Here are six things a good “canned curriculum” will do for you:

  • give you an overview of what will be covered during the year.
  • keep you from having to “re-invent the wheel.” They’re simple to use because a lot of the thinking has been done for you.
  • keep you on track. We all tend to gravitate back to teaching our favorite content which leads to a lack of balance and content gaps.
  • provide a structure for you.
  • provide you with step-by-step lesson plans.
  • help pace you through the course, so that you complete the course.

Are you weary of the mindless micro-management of many public charters and home school programs? Is the local charter school becoming “too helpful” and too involved? Tired of the weekly check ins by your friendly academic advisor who is there to make sure you’re not using any three or five letter words like “God” or “Jesus?”

A “canned curriculum” may be your ticket to freedom. Give it a try!

Thanks for reading!

Curt Bumcrot, MRE

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Homeschooling Curriculum – Are You Making The "Right" Choice?

After deciding to homeschool your child, you now to work out what you are going to teach them. There are many curriculum choices you can make. You can purchase pre-packaged curriculum, make your own curriculum, or you could even teach a combination of both. Some parents prefer to focus their teachings on their religious beliefs. However, it is important to keep an open mind and remember that your children are their own people and they should be taught about the world from many different perspectives. Remember that there is no “right” way to teach your children because the “right” way for one child may not be “right” for another. It is important to be flexible and change your curriculum to tailor to your children as you discover their individual requirements as they grow.

So what is Pre-Packaged Curriculum anyway? Well Pre-Packaged, “school in a box”, or “all-in-one” Curriculum are comprehensive education packages that cover many subjects (usually an entire year worth). They contain all required books and materials. Some even include pencils and writing paper. The intent of the “school in a box” is to try to recreate the school environment in the home. They are typically based on the same subject-area expectations as public schools, which allows an easy transition into school after being home schooled, if desired. They are among the most expensive options for the homeschooled, but are easy to use and require minimal preparation.

The majority of today’s home-educated students use an eclectic mix of materials for their Homeschooling needs. For example, they might use a pre-designed program for language, arts or mathematics, and fill in history with reading and field trips, art with classes at a community center, science through homeschool science clubs, physical education with memberships in local sports teams, etc. This has been proved to be one of the most successful ways of educating the Homeschooled child.

Home educators are also able to take advantage of educational programs at museums, community centers, athletic clubs, after-school programs, churches, science preserves, parks, and other community resources. Secondary school level students often take classes at community colleges, which typically have open admission policies.

One of the major benefits of Homeschooling is the ability to blend lessons using a central theme, for example, a study unit about Native Americans could combine lessons in: social studies – like how different tribes live now and lived prior to colonization; art – such as making Native American clothing; history of Native Americans in the US; reading from a specialized reading list; and the science of plants used by Native Americans. You could use this same technique on another study unit where you chose another broad topic to study.

Homeschooling also offers student paced learning. This is similar to “all-in-one” curriculum and is often referred to as “Paces”. These workbooks allow the student to progress at an appropriate speed that suits their individual needs. They allow the student to master concepts, before moving on to the next subject, instead relying on the speed of the teacher and other students where they may move on to the next subject too quickly or not move on quickly enough.

Another form of Homeschooling is “Unschooling”, that is, an area in which students are not directly instructed but encouraged to learn through exploring their interests. Known also as “interest-led” or “child-led” learning, Unschooling attempts to provide opportunities with games and real life problems where a child will learn without coercion.

Unschooling advocates claim that children learn best by doing. A child may learn reading and math skills by playing card games, better spelling and other writing skills because he’s inspired to write a science fiction story for publication, or local history by following a zoning or historical-status dispute.

No matter which technique you decide to use when you start Homeschooling your children, you should remember to be flexible and revise your teaching choices, as you will need to adapt your curriculum to better tailor to your child’s needs as they become apparent.

Copyright © 2006 Matt Weight