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How to Design Your Own Homeschool Curriculum


When I first took on the commitment to homeschool, my first reaction was “buy everything!” I collected every curriculum I could get my hands on, tried every schedule, style, printable, book, activity I could possibly find. And I used it. Or at least…some of it.

I had all this content, (some good, some terrible, nothing mind blowing), but I was spending hours every week adjusting activities, tweaking projects, and rephrasing lessons. I think I spent more time ripping apart materials and repurposing them for my own devices than I actually spent “teaching.”

Every open-and-go program I found was either too expensive, too simple, not challenging enough, not deep enough, or my son was bored out of his mind by it all. 

 

Don’t get me wrong, I loved homeschooling. And this method of constant-customization did work for us. But it took a lot of time and energy.

One summer, when I was preparing to dive into a new school year with a 2nd and a 4th grader, I decided to just scrap all the junk I already had and design my own curriculum from scratch. Yes, it took a lot of work, but it ended up being the perfect solution for my family (and this set up ultimately became the foundation for The Story Weavers curriculum, so it was totally worth it!).

A DIY curriculum fit with my kids’ specific learning requirements, our family’s minimalist approach to homeschool on the whole, and it allowed us to focus on the literature and activities we loved, rather than fitting those things in around a whole bunch of other stuff.

 

By designing your own homeschool curriculum, you have the unique opportunity to provide your child with a program that is truly personalized to individual needs and interests and your family’s values. 

 

Whether you're a seasoned homeschooler or just starting out, we created this guide to help you create your very own homeschool program; one that is both academically rigorous and feeds your learner’s passions.

Step 1: Get REALLY Familiar with Local Homeschooling Regulations



It's crucial to research and understand the homeschooling laws and requirements in your area to avoid legal issues. Joining a homeschooling association in your area can provide resources, support, and guidance to homeschooling families. They can also help you stay informed about any changes or updates to the homeschooling laws in your area. Regulations vary from state to state, so you’ll need to get your hands on the laws and policies relevant to your area. To do this you can…

  1. Contact your local school district Your local school district can provide you with information on the homeschooling requirements in your area. Contact your local school district's homeschooling liaison or superintendent's office to find out what you need to do to comply with state laws.

  2. Research state laws State laws governing homeschooling can vary widely, so it's important to research the laws in your state. You can do this by searching online for your state's homeschooling laws or by contacting your state's department of education.

  3. Join a homeschooling organization Homeschooling organizations can be a great resource for information on homeschooling requirements. Many organizations provide information on state laws and regulations, as well as support and guidance for homeschooling families.

  4. Attend homeschooling conferences Homeschooling conferences can provide you with information on state laws and regulations, as well as workshops and sessions on homeschooling methods, curriculum, and resources.

  5. Consult with a homeschooling attorney If you're unsure about the requirements for homeschooling in your area, consider consulting with a homeschooling attorney. An attorney who specializes in homeschooling can provide you with information on state laws and regulations, as well as guidance on how to comply with them.

Once you know the rules, establish a clear system for sticking to them. You might have deadlines you need to meet each year, paperwork to turn in, reporting requirements that must be observed, etc, so get yourself a dedicated homeschooling calendar, make an easy to use checklist, and keep all your documents organized.


In many areas, reporting and compliance is one of the hardest parts about homeschooling, but if you have a reliable system to document your adherence to the rules, it becomes a non-issue.

Step 2: Choose Your Homeschooling Approach

Choosing a homeschooling approach can be overwhelming, but it's also one of the most exciting parts of designing your own curriculum. Consider your child's learning style and interests, and your personal teaching style. This will help you choose the best approach for your family, one that inspires both you and your child.


There are several popular secular homeschooling styles that permeate the homeschool community.

  1. Eclectic homeschooling This approach involves choosing the best teaching methods and resources from a variety of sources to create a personalized curriculum that suits your child's learning needs and interests.

  2. Charlotte Mason homeschooling This approach is based on the teachings of British educator Charlotte Mason. It emphasizes the use of living books, nature study, and narration to create a rich and engaging learning experience.

  3. Unschooling This approach is child-led, and it allows children to follow their interests and passions. Unschooling emphasizes experiential learning, and it doesn't involve traditional textbooks or curriculum.

  4. Montessori homeschooling This approach is based on the teachings of Italian educator Maria Montessori. It emphasizes hands-on learning, independent exploration, and self-directed learning.

  5. Waldorf homeschooling This approach is based on the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. It emphasizes art, music, and nature study, and it uses a holistic approach to education.

  6. Unit studies This approach involves studying a single topic or theme across several subjects. Unit studies can be tailored to your child's interests and can provide a comprehensive learning experience.

  7. Classical homeschooling This approach is based on the classical model of education that was used in ancient Greece and Rome. It emphasizes the study of Latin, logic, and rhetoric, and it uses a three-stage approach called the trivium.


*Note: Most of these styles have both secular and non-secular “versions.” Charlotte Mason, for example, is rooted in many religious principles, but is often adapted for secular families by using content based on the educational methods, skipping the connection with religion. 


Remember, homeschooling styles are not a one-size-fits-all approach, and they are not meant to be followed rigidly. Instead, they serve as a framework to guide your homeschooling approach and help you tailor your curriculum to your child's learning style, interests, and needs. 

Step 3: Set Realistic Goals



Once you've chosen your homeschooling approach, set realistic goals for your child's education. Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. By setting realistic goals, you can help your child progress, meet your local educational requirements, and inspire your whole family to be lifelong learners.


The goals you set for your homeschooled student will depend on their age, grade level, learning style, and individual needs, but these key areas often encompass most homeschooler’s goals.

  1. Core academic subjects Set goals for your child's progress in core academic subjects, like math, reading, writing, and science. Consider their grade level and learning style when setting these goals and refer to your local regulations to pinpoint the minimum requirements.

  2. ElectivesSet goals for your child's progress in elective subjects, such as art, music, foreign language, or physical education. These subjects can provide a well-rounded education and help your child develop new skills and interests.

  3. Life skillsSet goals for your child's progress in life skills, such as time management, organization, and communication. These skills are essential for success in school and beyond.

  4. Social developmentSet goals for your child's social development, such as building friendships, developing teamwork skills, and practicing conflict resolution.

  5. Personal growth Set goals for your child's personal growth, such as developing confidence, self-esteem, and a love of learning.


Step 4: Identify Your Child's Learning Needs

Every child is unique, and identifying your child's learning needs is essential to creating a homeschool curriculum that's both effective and inspiring. Consider your child's strengths, weaknesses, and interests. This will help you choose the best teaching methods, resources, and activities that suit your child's individual needs. To do this, you’ll need to get creative. You know your child, you know when they struggle and when they thrive. 


  1. Observe your child's behavior and interests Pay attention to your child's behavior and interests, both in and out of the academic environment. What do they enjoy doing and what activities do they tend to avoid? This can help you identify their learning style and areas where they may need extra support.


  1. Consider your child's developmental stage Your child's developmental stage can also impact their learning needs. Consider their age, the grade level content they are working on, and stage of development when designing your curriculum and identifying areas where they may need extra support. 


  1. Tailor your curriculum to meet their needsOnce you have identified your child's learning needs, tailor your curriculum to meet those needs. This may involve using different teaching methods or resources, providing extra support in certain subjects, or allowing your child to pursue their interests through electives or project-based learning. If your child has been diagnosed as gifted, 2E, adhd, dyslexic, etc. their needs in these areas will affect how and what you teach. Be flexible and celebrate your child for their accomplishments, regardless of what “standards” exist.


  1. Seek outside resources: If you find that your child's learning needs are beyond your expertise, consider seeking outside resources. This can include hiring a tutor or enrolling your child in a co-op or online course, setting up meetings with therapists, or making appointments with doctors.


Step 5: Choose Your Curriculum Resources

Choosing your books and resources is a crucial step in designing your homeschool curriculum. There are many resources to choose from, including textbooks, workbooks, online courses, and homeschooling co-ops. Consider your budget and the amount of time you have to teach, and choose resources that align with your goals and your child's needs.  


Be sure you’re meeting the subject and teaching requirements set by your local regulations.

Step 6: Create a Flexible Schedule


Creating a flexible schedule is essential to designing a successful homeschool curriculum. A flexible schedule allows you to adjust your teaching to fit your child's needs and interests. It also provides opportunities to plan field trips, outdoor activities, and other extracurricular activities that enhance your child's learning experience and inspire them to be lifelong learners.

  1. Start with a basic routineStart by creating a basic routine that includes regular subjects and activities, such as math, reading, writing, and physical education. This routine will provide structure for your day and ensure that you cover the essentials.

 

  1. Be flexible with schedulingBe open to changes in your schedule and be willing to adjust your routine as needed. This could include switching the order of subjects or taking a break from the regular routine to pursue a field trip or a special project.

 

  1. Use block schedulingBlock scheduling involves dedicating a specific time block to a subject or activity. This allows you to focus on one area at a time, while still allowing for flexibility in the overall schedule.

 

  1. Create a list of must-do tasksIdentify the tasks that must be completed each day or week, and prioritize them in your schedule. This will ensure that the essentials are covered, even if the rest of the schedule changes.

 

  1. Use technology to your advantageThere are many online resources and apps that can help you create a flexible homeschool schedule. Consider using a scheduling app or online calendar to help you stay organized and on track.

 

  1. Involve your child in the scheduling processInvolve your child in the scheduling process and allow them to have input into the schedule. This will help them take ownership of their education and make the schedule more flexible and enjoyable for everyone.

Step 7: Incorporate Minimalist Homeschooling Principles

Incorporating minimalist homeschooling principles into your curriculum can help you simplify your teaching and reduce clutter. Minimalist homeschooling principles include focusing on the essentials, avoiding unnecessary resources and activities, and using multi-age materials that can be used for several children. By simplifying your teaching, you can focus on what's truly important and inspire your child to learn more deeply.

Step 8: Assess Your Child's Progress

Assessing your child's progress is essential to ensuring that your homeschool curriculum is effective and inspiring. There are many ways to assess your child's progress including discussions, essays, and projects. Decide how you will check that your child is retaining skills and enjoying the learning process. Keep track of your child's progress to identify areas that need improvement and areas where your child excels. Celebrate your child's successes and inspire them to keep learning and growing.

 

A homeschool portfolio is a popular way to document your child’s progress, remain compliant, and keep track of everything you do in your homeschool. Building a portfolio is simple.

  1. Identify the requirements Before you begin building your homeschool portfolio, research the requirements in your state. Some states require homeschool portfolios to include specific documentation or information.

  2. Choose a format There are many ways to create a homeschool portfolio, including digital formats, paper formats, or a combination of both. Choose a format that works best for your family and your child's needs.

  3. Gather materials Gather materials to include in your portfolio, such as work samples, projects, tests, evaluations, and reports. This can also include pictures and documentation of field trips and extracurricular activities.

  4. Organize materials Organize the materials you've gathered into sections and sort by subject, project, or another dimension that works for your program. Include a table of contents to help navigate your portfolio.

  5. Reflect on your child's progress Reflect on your child's progress and achievements throughout the homeschooling year. Include a narrative or summary of your child's progress and achievements, and any areas where they have improved or excelled.

  6. Review and update regularly Regularly review and update your homeschool portfolio to ensure that it accurately reflects your child's progress and achievements. This can be done at the end of each school year or at regular intervals throughout the year.

Conclusion:


Designing your own homeschool curriculum is an exciting and rewarding experience that can inspire your child to be a lifelong learner. By following these steps, you can design a homeschool curriculum that's tailored to your child's needs, interests, and learning style. Remember to stay flexible, celebrate your child's successes, and inspire them to keep learning, improving, and exploring.

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