How do you determine which of the many homeschool curricular options will work best for your child or children? Some homeschoolers start by selecting the subjects they want to teach while others start with a learning styles inventory. Either way we have you covered! In this section of First Steps you’ll find information about subjects to teach, selecting curriculum and teaching methods by learning styles, and some homeschooling tips. IDEA staff in your local office and the homeschool PAC and Facebook groups can also provide a wealth of information!
What subjects/courses do you plan to teach?
Core subjects/courses as defined by the state regulations include the following:
- English/Language Arts – There are four main components of a language arts curriculum: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Specific topics included are some combination of reading or literature, listening skills, phonics, spelling, reference skills (alphabetizing; using a dictionary, etc.), vocabulary, composition, penmanship, speech, and/or grammar. Grammar includes parts of speech, sentence structure, punctuation, capitalization, and word skills (homonyms, synonyms, prefixes, suffixes).
- Mathematics – Some of the major components are numeration, computation, measurement, time, money, statistics, and problem solving techniques. There are different approaches to teaching math and it is helpful to choose the one that best fits your child’s learning and your teaching preferences. One of the things that you might like to consider in selecting a math curriculum is if it teaches using a mastery approach or a spiral/incremental approach. Books using the mastery approach explore a concept in depth until it is fully mastered before introducing the next concept. Problems within each lesson primarily focus on the current topic. A few curricular examples are Math in Focus, Math-U-See, and Singapore Math. In the spiral or incremental approach, a concept is introduced and practiced briefly, before moving on to the next concept. Each lesson includes a few problems practicing the current skill and many more that review previous skills. Examples of the spiral or incremental approach are A Beka, Horizon Math, Teaching Textbooks, and Saxon Math. There are pros and cons to both methods so you might like to research and compare before selecting curriculum.
- History/Social Studies – Components of social studies are history, geography, sociology, political science, economics, religious studies, psychology, anthropology, and civics.
- Science – Science can be divided into several basic areas of study: (1) life science which includes botany, zoology, genetics, and medicine, (2) earth science which includes geology, oceanography, paleontology, and meteorology, and (3) physical science which includes physics, chemistry, and astronomy. Most traditional textbooks cover a little of each of these components each year. Others (Noeo Science, for example, or high school sciences) may focus primarily in one area, such as astronomy or chemistry or geology.
- Technology -Technology may include courses such as keyboarding, computer applications, web design, computer programming, electronics, digital photography, and visual basic or it can lead your child towards information technology, data management, simple machines and robotics.
- World Languages – All languages other than the one you normally speak, including sign language.
- Courses that are required by a student’s IEP if the student is receiving special education services.
Additional options may include courses in art, music, PE, sewing, photography, etc.
Determine your student’s learning style or learning modality
There are lots of ways to define and describe learning styles, but the basic three are Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic (or Tactile). Curriculum that is designed to teach to a particular learning style can sometimes make all the difference in helping your child be successful in a subject area. Discovering your own learning style might be just as helpful as we tend to teach the way we learn. Determining how you are relating as a teacher to your child makes a huge difference in being comfortable in your teacher role. If your child learns differently than you, you’ll want to adjust your teaching style to better meet his / her needs.
The Barbe Modality Checklist: can help you to determine which type of learner you and your child might be. Once your child’s primary learning style has been determined, the following links may assist you in selecting curriculum.
Curriculum and teaching tips suggested for each learning style
Things to consider for K-8
Most homeschool parents teach the core academic subjects of reading, writing, math, social studies and science. Many parents also include one or more of the following: PE, art, music, and/or other elective courses. There are several very important things to consider when choosing the subjects to teach and put on your ILP:
- Will I have time to do all of the things that I have on my ILP? Did I include too much and will I feel stressed or behind? It’s easy for that to happen. Our advice is to start slowly with your academic core courses at the K-8 level and then add one or two electives. As you gain confidence and master your current schedule, you may decide to add more. There are no deadlines for adding and dropping courses at the K-8 level.
- The money follows the plan: If you intend to seek reimbursement for activities or materials in a given subject area, the subject must be on your ILP. For instance, if you turn in a receipt for piano lessons, then music/piano needs to be on your ILP.
- It is also worth noting that a sample will need to be turned in for every subject on your ILP for every quarter of the school year.
Teaching More than One Child
An effective way to teach multiple children may be to teach as many subjects as possible using the same curriculum. While students usually have a very specific reading or math level, science, history, art and certain literature themes are all subjects that can be adapted for numerous grade levels. Work expectations would then range from simple to more complex responses depending on the student’s abilities. Certain curricula lend themselves better to this than others and the staff at IDEA can help you learn more about selecting the right curriculum for multiple grade level teaching.
Things to consider for High School
- High School Planner: A four year plan is a good place to start for high school for two very important reasons. First, it provides you with an outline of the courses that are necessary to receive a diploma. Second, it helps to ensure that your student meets the requirements for the Alaska Performance Scholarship. A 4-year plan is not a final predetermined path. You can change your plan as the four years unfold; however, IDEA is accredited and has definite drop dates for courses. This document is found on the Forms page.
- Credits and Graduation Requirements: Seniors need 21 total credits to be eligible for a diploma. They also have to have specific credits in certain subjects. Be sure to talk to your contact teacher about putting together a well-thought-out ILP and four year plan so you’ve got all the credits you need in all the right subjects. Students typically earn 1 credit per year in a given subject area. So a student earns 0.5 credits for a semester of Algebra I and 1 full credit if they take it for both fall and spring semesters.
Alaska Performance Scholarship: The Alaska Performance Scholarship is a scholarship from the State of Alaska that is awarded to students who have met high school credit requirements, GPA (grade point average) requirements and score requirements on either the SAT, ACT or WorkKeys test. For more details go to https://acpe.alaska.gov/FINANCIAL-AID/AK-Performance-Scholarship.
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