Building Your Own Curriculum and Staying Organized

Author: Marianna Bartold


Marianna Bartold

The most important thing about home schooling is to remember why it has been chosen as the method of imparting knowledge of God and academics to the children. We want our children to know and love our Catholic faith. If parents practice the faith in and out of the home and church, and try to season all things with love, patience, and firmness, the children will learn to follow the examples set before them. Marianna Bartold and her husband Tim have home schooled their children for the past four years. Marianna is the leader for her local Catholic home school support group. She resides with her family in Clinton Township, MI.

When many parents start to home school, they use an outside curriculum source that assists them by sending pre-chosen books and pre-planned lesson plans. This is an excellent way to begin and continue home education for many reasons;

Sooner or later, parents begin to toy with the idea of looking for and choosing books on their own. The reason may be that parents feel more comfortable with the idea of home schooling after some experience with it. Perhaps they have discovered the individual learning styles of their children. It may come down to the simple question of economics. (It is definitely cheaper to build your own curriculum.)

There are a few things parents should consider when deciding on whether or not to" strike out on their own," so to speak.. The list includes (1) the self-confidence of the parents in their teaching abilities and experiences, (2) the parents' motivation, (3) how much money is available to spend on books and supplements, (4) the time parents have available to choose curriculum and plan for lessons, (S) the ages of the children, (6) the learning strengths and weaknesses of each child and (7) the parents' willingness to take on all aspects of the organizational responsibilities and delegation of duties.

Parents' Trust in God

First, parents must realize and remember they have the continual graces from the Sacrament of Matrimony to use in, among other things, the upbringing of their children. They have given their children a life, a name, and a faith. Both parents must know it is their God-given responsibility to see to the proper education of their children, no matter which approach they choose to incorporate. Knowing this, parents will have confidence in themselves because they trust God to help them.

It is often helpful for parents to write down the reasons they home school or want to do so. With this list of reasons, in addition to articles clipped out from daily newspapers, magazines, etc., pinned to a bulletin board, they can often be used to reinforce and strengthen the conviction to home school on difficult days. By adding a little prayer and offering of the day's tribulations, a family can turn all their daily duties and studies into merits and graces. (Remember Our Lady of Fatima's requests to offer the sacrifice of our daily duties.)

Looking for Resources

Next, a careful look at the books already in the home can reap a nice harvest to be used in the home school. Pile the books and divide them into grade levels and subject matter, taking into account each child's strengths and weaknesses. Don't forget storybooks, picture Bibles, audiocassette learning books, and any learning games that may be tucked away.

Then the search to supplement the family library begins. Getting books that the family needs can be challenging and rewarding. Catholic curriculum providers like Seton and Our Lady of the Rosary sell some books on an individual basis. Libraries, bookstores, garage sales, or family and friends who want to get rid of books are other places to tap into.

Another consideration is going to sources other than Catholic ones. If parents decide to look into these resources, I would like to add a word of caution — choose carefully. Many catalogues sell publications that espouse anti-Catholic ideas and present false information, especially in many of the popular Language Arts and History text and workbooks.

On the other hand, there are many resources and supplements that are not hazardous to either Catholic or Christian beliefs at all. Some hands-on manipulatives and math helps are a few examples that come to mind.

Keeping Records on Your Own

After the books have been chosen, the lesson plans must be planned and written. How one approaches this task depends on personal taste, the way the parent teaches, and the way the family approaches time management. Some people write their lesson plans day-by-day, while others want to do so week-by-week.

A lesson plan book that records all educational work done is a valuable record to keep. Most book stores or supply houses carry teacher planning books, as do numerous home school catalogues. A family can also make their own master planner, subdividing into week and day plans for each class.

The records need not be extensively detailed, but they should be kept in a consistent manner. Try to list the books and then the pages worked from, as well as checking off work as it is completed.

The parent planning the lessons may want to prepare for each child, one at a time, going through each book for each subject. Another approach is to go by the subject first, and plan for each child's lessons on that particular subject. Many do this simply because the family studies subjects together, according to the ability of each child.

Taking Each Child Into Account

Children's ages will affect the way a parent teaches. A family with many preschool children and/or babies in the home, with only the eldest child being taught, will have a different schedule than a family with more children who are "officially" learning and have only one toddler running around.

Further, the abilities of each child must be considered. Not only must a child's strengths in certain subjects be emphasized, but the child's weaker or less-favorite areas must be worked on.

A parent can motivate a child by using his strengths as encouragement while gently challenging the child's weaker areas with the child's favorite method of learning.

The Team-Work Approach

Most important, the parents must be willing to take on more responsibility in organizing their time. This means making the whole family aware of the schedules, plans, and chores assigned to each member. Children must realize they are part of the team, too.

This is where some people hit a snag in their home education. Many parents are reluctant to have their children help in maintaining the home. They must realize that home schooling is total education, and they are preparing their children for the day they must care for their own homes. Nobody is doing children any favors when they are not expected to take on responsibilities. This is where the husband can be a great help to his wife who, in most cases, does the actual teaching. He must back her up when the children balk about doing either their studies or their chores. Together, husband and wife can work out a plan to institute in their home.

Because the mother of the family is taking on greater responsibility when she educates her children at home, her time becomes even more precious. The family will come to realize that home schooling is a way of life, which is certainly different than the lives of many of our contemporaries whose children are not in the home all day. Consequently, the mother doesn't have time to do all the household chores, errands, and teaching all in one day. She would be foolish to try to do so all by herself.

Delegating and Sharing the Work

The family must understand that mothers are the "keepers of the home" and not the "maids of the home." Children will not be harmed by dusting lower shelves, picking up their own dirty laundry and putting it in the hamper, helping to wash, dry and fold clothes (and the tricky part is putting them away!), storing away their shoes, setting or clearing the table, etc. The young ones can be an invaluable help in the home. Let them know it.

Both parents can supervise and work with the children as they are learning to do chores. Running through on how to do particular chores, letting the children know we will be inspecting the results, and informing them they will be doing things over if not done properly is a great way to start. Many children will try to slip out of their responsibilities by daydreaming, poking around, taking too long to do the job, or starting and stopping. Timing them the first time lessons or chores are assigned, by making a game out of it, is a good way to find out what they can do when they want to do it! However, it will undoubtedly happen that the children will try to "shirk the work."

Teaching Obedience

This is where obedience comes in. Those who will home school their children from their earliest years may be more fortunate in this than those who begin home schooling later. Explain to the children that there is always someone to obey, no matter how old we become. For example, we parents must obey God through the laws of the Church. One of those laws is, "Honor thy father and thy mother."

Give the children practice sessions on instant obedience, like learning to answer immediately when called, while also stopping what they are doing and walking straight to the parent who summoned them. Explain, even to the young ones, that no complaining, back-talk, or questioning will be tolerated. Then begin working on the studies and the chores again.

It has been my experience that children will continue to badger a parent, particularly the mother, until they can get the parent to break down out of sheer exhaustion. That is the beginning of what I call "Burnout Blvd." Both parents must present a united front to the children, letting them know that the father reinforces the mother's stance. Instead of letting the children rule, make it a policy to reinforce positive attitudes, sunny dispositions, and quick, properly done work with praise and encouragement. Nip in the bud any beginning tendencies to disobedience. This can be done by giving extra chores in addition to those that either should have been done or were done poorly, or by taking away a toy, favorite ritual, or privilege. It is an old saying, but a true one, that children want a semblance of order and discipline.

The Virtue of Charity Really Does Begin in the Home!

Stress to the children that they are practicing virtues of obedience and charity when they help their mother with the housework. Teach them to be on the lookout for ways to help their siblings, too. Just because we are done with our own chores doesn't mean we can't help someone else with theirs.

Try to schedule everything absolutely vital to the home life. Do this by making a priority list — things that must be done each day or week. For some families, scheduling rising times, meals, chores, and class times helps to keep things running smoothly. Different tricks, like cooking two dinners every other day so that the extra dinner is put in the freezer, help give a little breathing room. Or let older children prepare dinners as the parent puts away clothes, gives the baby a bath, writes the bills, or attends to other duties. Break times between classes are great times to give the children "mini-chores" It lets them stretch and helps keep the house clean.

Another time-saver for dinner is the use of paper plates for, in my opinion, it saves valuable evening time for more important things, like praying the family rosary and letting both mother and children spend time with the father.

Do whatever is necessary to make the chores less of a chore, the home life less complicated, and the children happy that they are home schooled. Just don't get caught up so much in the schedule that it becomes impossible to bend. Some days the schedule must be thrown away for the day and things allowed to run their course. If aggravation becomes a matter of course instead of an occasional thing, something is wrong and adjustments should be made.

Taken from:
The June/July 1994 issue of
The Catholic Family's Magnificat!
P.O. Box 43-1015
Pontiac, MI 48343-1015