Thanks Alyson for asking for a discussion on 'curriculum'. I've started a new topic. :-)
I take curriculum to mean a 'course of study', a deliberate action with education as the intention. The education could be aimed at a specific outcome, but it is impossible to learn one thing and not learn a dozen or more other things at the same time (most of which we are unaware until we come to use the knowledge, understanding or skills later and wonder how come we know them!)
I use the terms 'learning program/plan' and 'curriculum' interchangeably. However, I do see the 'curriculum' as the overall plan and as such it is broader in its scope and time-frame.
A home-grown (rather than purchased or downloaded) home education curriculum talks about and is responsive to the family's values as well as beliefs about the role of education in all of our lives (not just the children's). It is tailored to the emerging personalities, talents, interests and abilities of the individuals within the family and the particular circumstances of that family. And it is responsive to the community and society in which the family immediately lives: although both would cover the essential things all children need to learn, the home education curriculum of a a rural family living a homesteading lifestyle would naturally be different from an inner city family. Both would be flexible and adaptable, changing as the needs of the individuals grow and develop, as well as to the changing social environment.
Because a home-grown home education curriculum embeds family values and beliefs, it creates a firm foundation on which confidence can grow. I have met hundreds of families who, after homeschooling for a week, a few months or even a year or two, experience doubt and insecurity about what they are doing with the children. Often this is remedied by buying a different 'curriculum', new books, online learning programs, etc. Instead of these materials adding value to the family's educational plan they become the 'curriculum'. The same thing can happen if we implement the state or national curriculum - unless it 'fits' our world view and family's specific needs, sooner or later we end up doing things that don't work that we feel we should or must do or we're 'failing' as home educators. Personalising your home education curriculum helps to avoid these issues.
Most of us end up with a home-grown curriculum running through our heads if not recorded on paper or the computer. Thinking about what we want from an education for our children when we start homeschooling or unschooling and putting our thoughts and those of our children down somewhere so that we can revisit and review them regularly (I would do this annually), helps build our confidence as educators. And it has been my experience that we're less prone to radical shifts in direction, saves us money in the long term, and is less stressful overall because it is naturally more consistent and stable. A home-grown, personalised curriculum is a foundation stone.
Within this kind of curriculum we can feel confident to explore education, create and implement more specific and detailed unit studies or learning programs, add resources to cover specific content or skills, etc as the need emerges.
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