Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Curriculum Planning Made Easy! (Part One)

Writing your own curriculum from scratch can seem a daunting prospect initially but it needn't be that complicated! It can be a fun and rewarding process that causes you to really think about your children's interests and needs and what works for you as a family. Even if the plans go belly up the first time you try, you will have learned from the experience and be better prepared to do it next time!  I used to think I couldn't possibly write one as all the self-built curricula I saw around the net were planned out to the hour for a full twelve months with the number of pages to be completed each day set out and worksheets to back everything up, and covering about twelve subjects - they scared the pants off me!!! I realised slowly though that all a curriculum really is, is a plan and that plan can be as detailed or as light as you feel comfortable with!

Planning it yourself is the perfect solution as it will really meet YOUR family circumstances and needs. Think about your children and your circumstances and brainstorm all the things you need and want out of a curriculum, are you expecting a baby soon (my hand going up here!) so need a flexible lighter option, do you have an older 'high school' aged child that is beginning to focus on exams? Do you have a child with particular educational needs (my hand up here as well, I have a dyslexic learner)? Do you have a toddler needing lots of attention? The things I decided that I needed out of a curriculum were:

  • I want to teach the girls together as much as possible, adapting the material on the spot to differing levels of understanding and reasoning powers.
  • I want to integrate subjects, and make it relevant and alive, showing how things relate to each other, creating links and understanding rather than lists of names and dates.
  • I want it to be flexible to their developmental levels, maturity, learning needs and preferred styles of learning. We are lucky in the UK in that we don't have standardised testing or prescribed content, so removing the pressure of getting children 'up to grade level'.
  • It has to be able to be a 'take out' curriculum that I can mostly pack in a bag and take out for the day to the woods etc in nice weather.
  • It has to be flexible enough to allow us to take a break when needed, make use of opportunities that come up through the year, and adaptable as their needs change.
  • Most of all I want them to LOVE it, and be ENTHUSIASTIC and ENGAGED!
Personally I found that pre-packaged curricula were unsuitable for a variety of reasons. I have looked at many over the last few years, from boxed National Curriculum costing hundreds of pounds a year, to free on line plans. I either found them too prescriptive (either with scripts I was supposed to read out, or content the children were supposed to cover), too pricey, too basic (I find that my children are a little behind their school peers in literacy and maths but way ahead in their understanding of science, technology and history for example), or too American (No offence intended, I have seen some fantastic plans made by US Mum's but the books they use relate to presidents, American Indians, US geographical features such as the Grand Canyon and so on, so I must build UK friendly book lists from scratch!).

I do advocate reading a wide variety of curriculum plans through as they all have their areas of value and even if you only gain a strong idea of what you don't want to do, you have gained useful information! In the past I have gained ideas for books, topics, websites, found links to different methods and approaches and have picked and chosen the best fits for us! As a home educating parent I am continually learning and developing my knowledge and skills, coming across ideas new to me as well as different ways of incorporating well-known philosophies (see my Charlotte Mason Pinterest board for my current research focus!) and resources that are an excellent fit for us such as the Reading Reflex

Children also develop and change throughout the year, they may have difficulties with something and want to take more time over it, or fly ahead with something they click with. It is great if your plans are flexible enough to go with this! We also school 'year round' without following the terms and holidays that the schools take. They sometimes coincide (as did the last two weeks as we were all unwell and then were spending time with relatives so we took a couple of weeks out). I tend to continue through the summer months as I find we are all motivated and life is easy in the warm weather, but we usually take an extended break through December and into January to enjoy the festive season and give ourselves a break when the damp cold weather is dragging us down!

I feel blessed to be able to accommodate our daughter's education at home. In school by now, our eldest daughter would be expected to do a large part of lessons through reading and writing. Being dyslexic, it would take her so much energy and time to do the reading and writing part that much of the interesting materials and learning would be lost and frustration and disillusionment could set in. At home we can work on her reading and writing where she is right now and I can read wonderful books to her, provide audio recordings and documentaries and explain things at the higher level she is at with science, history etc. The issue of accessing information just isn't an issue at home but it is an important aspect that moulds the curriculum plans that I create!

Next week I will post details of the actual 'how to' of creating your own curriculum, along with the draft plans I am working on for September! 


  1. Great post! I agree that bought-in curricula don't always fit a HE family's needs.

    We've become less child-led and more parent-guided in our HE over the past couple of years and I've been investigating what's out there that will save me time on organisation. But, alas, there's no magic fix!

    We are using far more bought-in resources to save me time on researching and putting together sessions with the kids, but I do like to draw up our own (loose) plans and themes. Sometimes we use downloadable courses that are out there, or use a historical fiction series to give us a basic outline, but mostly we just work it out ourselves around the resources we already have or can get hold of cheaply.

    I think it's great to make your own scheme. There's always quite a bit of pressure to 'keep up' if you use someone else's plan. Tbh if we used some of the ones that are out there I don't think we'd ever have time to eat, let alone get out of the house!

  2. Thanks for your comment! It's a balance of child-led to parent-led for us but I see it as that I know the breadth of information available and how to access it, so if our children are interested in fossils for example, I know that there are books, websites, museums, experiments, a science basis behind it, paleontologists stories to learn about etc, so giving them a broad view of the topic.... I pinch bits from here and there to put together to work for us, kind of an eclectic mix really! I agree about the pressure to complete things and never having time to leave the house if you 'did it all' lol - so important that they have time to be children too! Regards, Jenni