How Do You Know What to Teach?

One challenge parents struggle with is determining what to teach. In the case where you’re homeschooling through K-12 or an online school, that information is often provided for you, but if you want to veer from what’s prescribed, how do you figure out what to teach, and what constitutes covering a given subject?

Providing A Solid Foundation for Learning

I’m a big fan of general education and of teaching children how to learn. A child who knows how to learn, and has the skills to do so, will be able to learn anything that catches his or her interest. Thus, language arts needs to be a big part of your child’s education – reading skills and phonics, reading comprehension, writing (technical aspects and penmanship, spelling, grammar, and writing for communication’s sake), and critical thinking (as it will become important as your child gets older for him or her to be able to discern whether something is a valid source). Mathematics is also an important part of learning as it’s the language of (higher) science and technology and it is a technical life skill.

It’s also important for children to have a general grasp of social studies (history, how government works, their local community) and science. I would also argue that getting a general appreciation of the arts (music, art, theater, literature, dance), how to take care of oneself (physical education, health, nutrition) and general life skills are also important.

This might seem somewhat overwhelming, but it shouldn’t be – keep in mind many things can be learned through everyday life.

Enhancing Interest Areas

Some children love science, some are enthralled with music, and some really want to delve into history. When you’re choosing what to teach, consider areas your student is interested in already. It may even be helpful to use some of those interest areas to springboard into other areas. A reluctant reader may be more excited if basic readers are about dinosaurs. A child who loves to read might really enjoy a biography about a historical figure and be less excited by project-based learning for history. Your child will have her or his own interest areas – and that’s great – but it’s also important to take care to push the child out of that comfort zone. It’s one thing to use an interest area as an entry-point. It’s another thing to neglect mathematics instruction or a basic understanding of history because a child’s interest in bugs has taken over everything during learning time.

Becoming a Global Citizen

Even young children can become involved in some form of service learning. It’s important for children to learn where they fit in society – both now as children and as they grow up. Service learning opportunities can help with this, give children a firm feeling of connection with the communities in which they live, and empathy for those who have different backgrounds and experiences from their own. Right now, service learning is going to require a lot of thinking outside of the box. I’m hoping to compile a list of service opportunities forr kids while they’re also maintaining social distance.

That’s all great but… how do I know what they need to know?

When I’m choosing curriculum, I look at standards-based learning. While I follow the Classical method for learning, I also like to look at what state and national standards are for each grade level – this can also help when determining whether a curriculum is a good fit. Where do you find what the standards are for each grade? Here are some resources:

Core Knowledge Sequence – Not to be mistaken with “Common Core,” this is the sequence put together by those who created the “What Your ___ Needs to Know” series of books (which are a great K-6 resource for those looking for a place to start).

Massachusetts Framework – Massachusetts has repeatedly been ranked top in the nation for their education system. That’s not the only reason to check out their standards. They offer Digital Literacy, STEM, Health Education, Foreign Language, and Vo-Tech standards as well.

New Jersey Student Learning Standards – New Jersey also leads the nation in education, so it’s worth looking at their standards as well. They also list preschool teaching and learning standards as well as life and careers standards.

Common Core Standards – These are definitely worth looking at. It’s not “new math,” it’s a list of what students should know by which ages – and an attempt to standardize this between states so that students who move from say, California, can jump right in in Kansas and expect to pick up right where they left off.

Your Own State’s Standards – You’ll also want to do a search for your own state’s standards.

Keep in mind that standards are just a jumping point to help you determine what should be covered at each grade – they’re not an end all be-all. It’s easy to get caught up in them. Instead, use them to get an idea of what should be taught, when, and if your child seemed ahead or behind, where you should start with language arts or math.

This post is part of a Blog Hop by Timberdoodle with all kinds of tips for homeschooling while we’re social distancing to help flatten the curve.

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2 thoughts on “How Do You Know What to Teach?

  1. Pingback: Overview of the Homeschooling Planning Tools I Use | Just a Secular Homeschooler

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