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Have you heard the one about the homeschooling family that lives on less than $22K a year in an area that costs above 100% (116%) of the National CoL Index?

I haven't quite figured out why so many people still persist in perpetuating the myth that living on a single income and homeschooling on a dime aren't possible. I can only suppose these are people who can't imagine life without a daily trip to Starbucks and dinner out several times a week. The people who actually shop at malls (*shudder*) and think "Brand Name = Best". The people who really live by the "Keeping up with the Joneses" mentality.

That? Would not be us!

Welcome to our world. We cook from scratch. Buy from thrift stores. Find 95% of our homeschool materials for free. This is my blog and this is how we do it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How I "create" my free curriculum, Part 1.

One of the purposes of this blog was my hopes to demonstrate to others how you can use free resources to make your own curriculum. It is, admittedly, quite time-consuming; however, there are nice rewards for your hard work. (More in full post.)

If you build your own curriculum from many sources, you can truly tailor it to your children. If you look at my Language Arts plans in my "Totally Free Curriculum" links, you'll see that my daughter is reading The Secret Garden, while my son is reading Tom Sawyer. I chose those - out of the numerous classics books available - because I knew they would enjoy them. My daughter this year will also be reading The Prince and the Pauper, because she watched a library Barbie DVD based on the plot and I thought it might be interesting for her to read it, and then Treasure Island, because pirates are so big right now - especially here in Orlando!

I chose Tom Sawyer for my son after mentioning to him how I had read it in 7th grade and really liked it and he said he'd like to read it, too. Then, I figured why not read Huck Finn as well, and for his other novels, I chose Jack London books because my son loves wolves, dogs, and foxes.

Once I have general topics decided upon, I begin searching for sources. For instance, I googled "Mark Twain" to see what I could find - and there was a lot! I will bookmark sites and then, as I build the lesson plans day by day, I check my bookmarks for sources that will work for each individual lesson.

That's pretty much all there is to it. Nothing terribly complicated; it just takes some time to sift through everything out there to find something we need and can use. We also go to the library weekly, and I take a list of the topics we'll be covering the following week, like countries we'll be studying in geography or people we'll be learning about in history, and I'll find books and sometimes DVDs we can use.

As for what to teach year by year, I have a long-term goal in mind and a list of things that need to be covered by then. Here in Florida, we have the DUAL ENROLLMENT PROGRAM, where students can start attending college at 16 and graduate high school with their completed AAs, as well as their regular high school diplomas. This program is absolutely free for public schooled children and free for homeschoolers, except we have to pay for textbooks. Through our co-op, I've had the pleasure of knowing several bright, personable kids who have either already finished this program or are working through it currently. This is the goal for my own children. Two years of college for only the price of the textbooks? Sign us up! Obviously, there isn't a total guarantee that they'll both get in, but I'm still working toward that goal and believe they each stand a very good chance. :)

Because I want to take advantage of dual enrollment, I've made sure I know all the requirements to enroll. I also have a COPY OF WHAT FLORIDA PUBLIC SCHOOLS REQUIRE FOR GRADUATION, because I assume that's what colleges and universities are looking for, even with their "exceptions" for homeschooled kids. Since my children will need to take - and do well on! - the SAT or ACT in order to use the dual enrollment program, I have my eye on that particular ball as I pick and choose what we're learning now.

Another great thing about building your curriculum yourself is, not only are you getting something made just for your kids, you also have the added bonus of, if it's not working, drop it and try something else! It's a lot harder to do that when you're working from a packaged curriculum and you paid big bucks for it. I should know! After homeschooling this way for years, for our last school year I had the (someone smack me now!) crazy idea that as my son was entering middle school, he needed something more "put together" and separate from his younger sister. I saved and scrimped and asked everyone I knew for $10, or whatever they could afford, in lieu of any birthday or Christmas gifts for myself and my husband for the year and a half leading up to it, and then bought Switched-on-Schoolhouse. It started out well, and it certainly did free my time up, but then by Christmas, my children announced they *hated* it. They missed schooling together. They missed all my wacky ideas and projects. They missed spreading out on the living room floor and reading together. And so we abandoned the SOS (Okay - that's just funny when you read it.) and came back to our "free" homeschooling. Golly, did I really hate knowing how much I'd spent on it. On the up side - I was able to find "good homes" for the CDs - people who could really use them, so at least they did not go to total waste. Yes, I know I could've sold them, but as I know just how hard it was for us to come up with the money, I preferred to give them to people who otherwise would not have been able to have them for their own homeschools.

And as for anyone concerned that using a "free" program might be short-changing the children, let me offer you this reassurance. At the end of the school year, I give my kids standardized tests. I don't submit or report the scores; I just do it to monitor their progress. They always ace them. Even my daughter, who struggles with dyslexia, has no problem with these tests, though she does use up every bit of the allotted time. They both tell me the tests are "too easy" and even "stupid". Personally, I agree with them. But this does give me something concrete to show, if I need, and it will show me any gaps if we have them.

One last note: I only stumbled across AN OLD FASHIONED EDUCATION this past winter, but it has proved to be an excellent resource for my lesson plan building. I don't follow the plans there exactly because we combine some subjects and in certain cases, like geography, I prefer to use current sources as opposed to public domain books, but it is still a great place to go and start from if you are trying to build your own free curriculum.


Anonymous MommaKnows said...

Personally, I think it's amazing what you have come up with, and I know from past experience that the Internet can truly be a homeschool mom's lifesaver when it comes to lesson plans, particulary lesson plans in a pinch! Need a unit on Vikings? Simple! :) I don't use a whole lot of free curriculum but I DO use a lot of printables and some lesson plans that GO WITH our curriculum. I love being able to tailor everything to each particular child!

I haven't seen you mention these, but you know CoreKnowledge has lesson plans right? They have some great literature lesson plans there! My blog has lots of other resources listed too if you poke around. ;)

June 19, 2007 at 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you.

I will be starting with a 7th grader, and I like some of your ideas.

July 1, 2007 at 8:40 PM  

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