Homeschooling: Thinking of the New Year
Jennifer Zeitz

The new school year that is. It seems that this time of year I am greeted by yet another home schooling catalog each time I open my mail box. The next school year is on the mind of everyone. If you have not begun to consider it yet, I would encourage you to take some time and begin.

In thinking about the next school year, I start by evaluating the materials that I have been using this school year. My first rule of thumb is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Ask yourself, “What do I like about the curriculum I am using?” From the very beginning of our home schooling adventure, we have used the same handwriting program for all four children. We love it. It works for all of them, and we aren’t switching. What are you using that you like? Keep what is working this year. I know sometimes we would like a change of pace. That’s okay. Look around, and see what is out there. You may find that keeping your present curriculum will be best. If you find some thing you really want to try then by all means do it. If you don’t like it, you can go back to what worked in the past.

The next question to ask is what do you dislike about the curriculum? There have been times when I have liked a curriculum, but it takes far too much of my planning time to use to its full potential. I have also found that what worked two years ago is no longer working well for us because of changes in our family dynamics. The babies become toddlers. The toddlers become preschoolers and need more academic attention. Then pretty soon everyone is school age. The demands on you as a teacher change. It is not like teaching 3rd grade for 20 years. Each year is a new adventure.

Is the curriculum meeting your child’s needs? If your child is a visual learner and you are using a curriculum that is conversational, then it may not be meeting the needs of your child. If my oldest could do all of his work orally, he would. Writing is not his strong suit. That is not always practical for me because there are three other children to teach. However, when practical, I do try to pick things that we can do orally. Take into consideration the learning style of your child when you are making your curriculum selections.

Finally, is it meeting your needs? Several years ago we used a math program for my son who was in 2nd grade at the time. It was a wonderful program for him. It clicked in his mind. He really enjoyed it. I, on the other hand, could not comprehend most of it. As much as I tried to like it because it was a good program for him, I just couldn’t do it. So, we abandoned it for something that would suit both our needs. I have still kept some of the books, and he will go through it in his free time. In this case it might have worked better as a supplemental, fun activity for him.

One year I created a summary sheet for our home schooling year. It was set up as a table, and on it I included the subject, curriculum used, time allotted per day, level of teacher involvement, overall strengths and weaknesses and considerations for next year. Now, before you starting thinking that I am a genius, I want you to know that I got that idea from Teri Maxwell’s book Managers of Their Home. It worked though. I was able to create a concise list of all we used in that year. It would be especially helpful for those attending home school conferences this spring and summer. I also found it useful when discussing curriculum with my husband. Some husbands like to be very involved in the curriculum choices, and others leave it mostly up to their wives. My husband leaves it entirely up to me, but his opinion is often very helpful when I am having trouble deciding about one curriculum over another.

In a few short months the new school year will be upon us. State conventions are already taking place. Make the time now to look over your materials and make decisions for next year. You will be very glad you did.

Jennifer Zeitz lives in West Seneca, NY


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