HCOS Newsletter

April 2020

Tools for Finding and Choosing Curriculum

This article is not about finding the “best curriculum”. It is about attempting to pass along some tools and strategies to enable you to navigate curriculum options in innovative ways, allowing for flexibility and agility in your home education journey.

In my opinion, there is no “best” curriculum. Only the best “fit” for your student, and for you as the facilitator. Make sure you take into account family dynamics; what your best friend or favourite blogger might swear by, might not be the best fit for your situation.

Curriculum will more often than not need to be adapted to meet your needs, and will sometimes need to be set aside entirely when it’s not working. As a home educator for 17 years, and owner of a curriculum store for 11 years, I still from time-to-time choose a curriculum for my children that I think is going to work, but does not for one reason or another. Trial and error is part of the journey, and that is okay. Model for your students that it is okay to change course and try another approach - that’s life, isn’t it?

A Few Thoughts About BC’s New Curriculum

It’s been over three years since BC’s New Curriculum was implemented, and overall it’s been a positive change for home educators. The new curriculum brings:

  • A shift from “covering content” to addressing Big Ideas
  • More freedom for intense study in areas of student interest
  • Greater flexibility to combine Big Ideas across subject areas
  • Content as a vehicle to address Big Ideas, rather than as an end in and of itself
  • Curricular Competencies carrying greater importance than content

This video explains Big Ideas and the role they play relative to Curricular Competencies and Content. BC’s new curriculum has been a positive change for home educators, as its approach is very similar to what we’ve been doing for years!

Start With What You Love

The approach I like to take when contemplating curriculum options is to consider a blend of print curriculum, digital resources, and borrowed resources. At HCOS, we are incredibly blessed to have a whole myriad of resources at our fingertips through our Learning Commons, and you may be surprised at how little money you may need to spend to be very well resourced! (To see more about this, visit https://hcslearningcommons.org/curriculum-options/).

When it comes to selecting curriculum, start with what you love. Resist the temptation to have every subject worked out before you make some decisions. If you decide on even a few resources, you will find that those choices help to inform the following choices, and so on. Sometimes, deciding on just a few things in one sitting is all you can handle. Things can get overwhelming in a big hurry; pace yourself.

If you are looking for some places to start, check out a few tried-and-true curriculum providers such as:

  • All About Learning Press
  • Apologia Educational Ministries
  • Come Sit By Me
  • Diana Waring’s History Revealed
  • Donna Ward’s Northwoods Press
  • Essentials in Writing/Literature
  • Handwriting Without Tears
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing
  • Master Books
  • Math-U-See
  • Singapore Math
  • The Well-Trained Mind Press

Tips for Choosing Print Curriculum

  • Use this tool to find the grade/subject Big Ideas (continuous views here).
  • You do not need a curriculum for each and every Big Idea.
  • Start with a curriculum you love, and then fill in with other resources from there.
  • You can address Big Ideas across subject areas and within the grade spans K - 3, 4 - 6, and 7 - 9.
    • Popular publishers of multi-grade and multi-subject curriculum include My Father’s World, Sonlight Curriculum, The Good and The Beautiful, Winter Promise and Gather Round Homeschool.

Tips for Choosing Digital Curriculum

  • Consider using HCOS Digital Unit Study Kits to address Big Ideas in Science and Social Studies. Revised kits also address standards in ADST and Career Education.
  • Use plenty of HCOS OverDrive and Sora eBooks - they can enhance any unit and are excellent tools for research and enrichment. Set up each student with their own Sora app account.
  • Familiarize yourself with all the HCOS Subscription offerings, categorized by subject on our website.
  • Take the time to teach your students how to use HCOS research databases.

Tips for Choosing HCOS Search Portal Curriculum to Borrow

  • It may be best to select a borrowed curriculum for shorter units, as the borrowing time is only 6 weeks (although you have the option to renew if no one else is waiting for the item).
  • Use borrowed resources to bring more variety and multi-modal choices to students.
  • In many cases, you can complete a whole unit with borrowed resources!

How much is enough?

I think it is helpful to relate curriculum to an all-you-can-eat buffet. We’re often tempted to consume more food than is necessary for our bodies to thrive, aren’t we? And how many of us struggle with throwing out the food on our plate when we’re full? The same is true for curriculum. When it is no longer serving its purpose, we need to be willing to set it aside. This may mean that if a curriculum is presenting lessons that address content or competencies that your student has already mastered, move on. Or, if it is really not working at all, set it aside, regroup, and try something new.

Be flexible; don’t allow curriculum to dictate to you what needs to be done and when. I know we can often feel like we have to complete every page and every assignment. This is simply not practical or helpful. Be willing to figure out some things as you go, and change course when necessary. Remember, curriculum exists to serve you, not the other way around.

I hope you will find freedom in knowing that your goal is not to find the “best” curriculum out there, but rather to take the curriculum you have chosen and be willing to adapt it to best meet the needs of your student(s). You know your student, and may even have an instinctive feeling about what may work and what may not; trust yourself.

Finally, recognize that miscalculations happen, and are part of this amazing journey called home education. Be willing to set aside what’s not working, and try something else. That is okay and is part of the fun.

Cynthia Duncalfe is the HCOS Curriculum Consultant, and is available to answer your curriculum questions, cynthia.duncalfe@onlineschool.ca