I’m a teacher… (The Free Range Mama) or at least I was until March 2020. Then the world took a change of course and I was without a job, home-schooling my own children and developing a curriculum that worked for us. However with no cash inflow, I needed to our homeschool curriculum on the cheap… but actually… it never needs to be expensive. It’s just about finding the right approach for your kids, in your home environment. Then finding ways to draw in teaching and learning in the most creative ways you can. This is a lot easier than it sounds… this is how we do it!
The Content of your Homeschool Curriculum
I’m a huge advocate for developing curriculum that is meaningful. But what does this mean?
Well… if you asked a seven year old child from the city to describe the process of pollination, what might their description sound like? Perhaps there might be some discussion or knowledge about flowers and bees right?
In comparison, a child grown up on a farm surrounded by a community or family of garderners would likely be able to discuss the process of pollination in more detail. Pollen, parts of a flower, the bee’s role in the process of pollination and so on.
The reason for why is obvious… the context and pollination content is more relevant to this child. The learning therefore becomes more meaningful. While the city child is likely to be less motivated to learn about pollination, the farm child is surrounded by it.
So… meaningful content is the foundation for a motivated learner.
And here is the secret. Listening is the key! Learning opportunities are in everything your child says and does. So it’s your job to tap into those threads of interest and create curriculum there. The beauty to this, is that this is the cheapest curriculum for homeschool, because it is all around you… it’s everywhere!
Recently I found my children quietly constructing with some recycled material. Excitedly they proudly presented a fly trap. (Yes we have a terrible fly problem at the moment!) You see, they wanted to catch the flies alive and when I explored their ideas further… it was because they thought flies were too fast and they wanted a closer look to really examine them. I had a choice. Ignore and dismiss or investigate and extend on this interest that had appeared from apparently nowhere.
And this is my favourite part… we took this small project into all areas of the curriculum, which I extended over the following days. I got excited with my kids, posed challenging questions, encouraged their reflections on the effectiveness of the fly trap, and on and on it went. My following blog will explain this further and go into more depth about interest based learning so stay tuned for more.
This is how our homeschool generally rolls. I listen, they deliver an interest, which I support and extend into new curriculum areas of learning.
It’s not hard… it’s cheap… it’s meaningful… and quite frankly, every day we make new discoveries and learn new things together.
So homeschool curriculum content is cheap and easy right? What about curriculum framework?
Get Familiar with National Curriculum
Curriculum framework might sound scary, but in all honesty it’s a guideline, it’s a great resource and it can be downloaded for free. Google search the National Curriculum for your country or state and keep it as a point of reference.
As a teacher from New Zealand expat living in Dubai, I chose to use the National Curriculum of NZ and England as a framework for our homeschool learning. But follow the below links for other key curriculum frameworks from around the world that you’d prefer to access –
- National Curriculum for New Zealand
- National Curriculum for England
- F-10 National Curriculum for Australia
- Common Core Standards for the United States
I recommend keeping the curriculum framework printed and somewhere visible. Hang them up in a working space and regularly refer to them. This will act as a checkpoint to ensure that you are tapping into all fundamental areas of learning and not missing anything out.
Cheap but Cheerful
The third and final thoughts to an effective, cheap homeschool curriculum is in you… the adult.
You have the most important role of all. It is how you bring cheer to your teaching, that defines the effectiveness of your child’s learning. Meaningful curriculum content is the foundation, curriculum framework provides the fundamentals of learning…
…But humour is the magic that brings learning to life. It’s cheap, it doesn’t cost a thing (other than maybe your pride from time to time).
Ultimately you are the glue to this homeschool process. You are the role model, the creative and the gauger of when things need an injection of change.
Now by things I mean, the context or the content, the plan, the direction, and/or the flow. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that your kid is sometimes performing perfectly and next is melting down. Ups and downs are a given and it is how the grown up (yes you’re the grown up) reacts next that counts. So, pick your battles!
Some Top Tips
- Have a routine – it’s just easier for everyone. A regular wake up and breakfast time, dressed, bed made, teeth brushed and straight into it!
- Change the scenery when you need to – try take the learning outside for some fresh air if it feels right, or add music to maths.
- Plan together – sit in the morning and brainstorm what direction the day’s learning might look like. Draw it, write it, whatever means you can.
- Don’t be the expert all the time – make mistakes, teach your children that you also love to learn from mistakes. When they write a story, you write one too.
- Watch the flow – when it just isn’t happening, let it go! There is no point if everyone is getting stressed. Tomorrow is another day.
- Set the boundaries – when you know they are pushing just to push. I believe in being firm but fair.
- Be the clown when you can – bring the cheer.
You are your own best resource!
As a general disclaimer, I’ll highlight that I am not a homeschooler. I’m just a teacher that is passionate about teaching. And as we find ourself social distancing, we gain quality time with our kids and it is my hope that we remember these days fondly. I will say that I think teachers and curriculum do not always get it right, but we can. As parents, we know our children, their strengths, their interests and we have the opportunity to get it right for them here and now. While homeschool is not for everyone, it certainly doesn’t need to be textbook, templates and tantrums. Keep it cheap, keep it cheerful and keep your homeschool curriculum content and context meaningful.
To find out some great activities that you can do right from your home that inspire science and experimentation, then check out this post. And be sure to sign up below to get more more early childhood / homeschool related newsletters. I promise not to spam!