Gas station without pumps

2012 May 27

Creating a homeschool curriculum

Filed under: home school — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:00
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We did not go through a complicated process to create our homeschool curriculum.  We were constrained by a desire to meet the University of California a–g requirements (although we can use test scores to dodge most of the requirements), so we knew we needed math, science, foreign language, English, and history.  Toss in the desire to do science fair, theater, and the MATE underwater ROV competition, and we had a full set of courses.  (PE came for free from bicycling to and from the community college for Spanish classes.)

Individual courses still took some effort to design. I chose the text and structure for the physics class, as well as designing the labs.  My wife chose the texts and structure for the English and history classes, as well as coming up with the writing prompts and providing feedback on the writing.  I coached the robotics club for the underwater ROV contest and found a mentor for my son’s science fair project.  (Spanish, theater, and math were easily, if not cheaply, obtained from outside providers.)

People doing homeschooling for younger kids or with a less constrained goal or tighter budgets of time or money may need to put more thought into curricular design.  I was just pointer to a series of blog posts that provides one parent-teacher’s approach to curricular design that seems reasonable, if a bit too ed-school for my taste (particularly the “writing goals” step, which we did not do):

Homeschool Review: Creating Your Own Curriculum, Part 1.

Creating Your Own Curriculum, Part 2– Information Gathering.

Creating Your Own Curriculum, Part 3– Writing Goals.

Creating Your Own Curriculum, Part 4– Pacing.

Creating Your Own Curriculum, Part 5– Selecting Materials.

Creating Your Own Curriculum, Part 6– Final Thoughts.

Of the steps in these posts, the one that caused the most trouble was “pacing”. Trying to balance all the things we wanted to do against how much time we wanted to spend doing them was tough.  By the end of the year, we had accomplished less history and English than we had set out to do, and science fair, robotics, physics, and math had taken up more time than we’d expected.  My son kept time logs for the consultant teacher, and we’ll analyze the logs carefully when planning for next year, as we expect a very similar mix of courses.



  1. Wow! The blog you point to sure did their homework. What a great series of posts. Thanks for the lead.

    My daughter is entering the high school arena, but is a little behind in some areas due to dyslexia, CAPD, ADHD…, so we use a pretty varied approach to learning. Our core is based on using Time4Learning (big benefit because they allow her 3 grade levels within each subject and they do the record keeping for me). We supplement with Teaching Textbooks, Drive Thru History (very visual spatial learner), and include whatever she is interested in learning more about. We are basically semi-eclectic unschoolers. I love the flexability we have, and am encouraged by her taking the lead in her learning.

    That being said, I am always on the lookout for new ideas and techniques. I like to keep it fresh.

    My Attempt at Blogging
    Quaint Scribbles and 3 D Learners

    Comment by Jackie — 2012 May 28 @ 11:41 | Reply

  2. If you ever have the time and inclination, I would love to read a blog post detailing your assessment of “Matter and Interactions” as a way of teaching physics to a bright kid. (As in father to son, not teacher to school class.) The idea, if I understand it correctly, is very compelling: boil (classical, I assume) physics down to a handful of principles, examine each area of physics through the glasses of these few principles until the principles become an abstract way of thinking about all physical phenomena, then lock it down by having the student create computer models that embody that understanding. Or maybe I’m just fantasizing that this is such a program.

    In any case, I’ll be teaching physics to my boys in the not-too-distant future, and I would value your opinion about this text. Does it really seem better than the usual calculus-based physics texts?

    Comment by Glen — 2012 May 28 @ 21:17 | Reply

    • We’re only just finishing Chapter 11: Angular Momentum of Matter and Interactions, so I can’t give a detailed critique of the whole book. Overall, the book has been a pretty good fit for my son and me—somewhat less so for the other student, who might have been better off with a more lecture-based approach.

      The book actually has somewhat less calculus than I had expected—a lot of the calculus is in “optional” sections (which we are doing). I also can’t compare the M&I approach fairly with other approaches, since I’m learning physics as I teach (aside from a little algebra-based physics I had in high school over 40 years ago). Approaches that seem sensible to me may not to someone who learned physics in a different way.

      I’ve done several posts on why I chose the book and how I’ve been using it. Look at for a collection of the articles.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2012 May 28 @ 21:33 | Reply

      • Thank you. I’ve been reading those other posts over the months as you’ve posted them, and I’ll continue to be interested in any further observations you may make. I know what your stated reasons were for choosing it—it sounded intriguing to me, too—and now I’m especially interested in your higher-level evaluation of how it turned out in practice. (Higher-level here meaning your sense of the text as a whole as opposed to details about conducting the experiments in specific chapters.)

        I may just end up coughing up the $130 and buying a copy for my own review. If it works well at demonstrating how all the various sub-topics can be understood by the repeated application of the same few underlying principles, it would at least make me a better teacher.

        Whenever you have an observation or opinion about it, I’ll want to read it.

        Comment by Glen — 2012 May 29 @ 00:16 | Reply

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