or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at Home and Beyond › How do you decided what to teach?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

How do you decided what to teach?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
We are beginning K (and preK too, unofficially) this year and I am a rookie homeschooler.

We are in Maryland and have required subjects to teach (and show in our portfolio reviews.) I purchased materials for English (reading & language arts) and math.

But I did not purchase anything for science, social studies, music, art, or health.
I know my kids learn things day-to-day just living and being curious kids but I need to prove "regular and thorough instruction" according to MD state laws.
And I actually WANT to teach them lots of wonderful things.

I feel like that's a lot of subjects to figure out all on my own, all year long. Starting to feel a little nervous and overwhelmed. greensad.gif

Please share if there's a method to your madness wink1.gif and any helpful resources, guides, etc for how you figure out what to teach all year.

Does anybody use their district's/county's/state's curriculum guidelines?

Thank you!!

ETA: sorry about my title typo. On my phone and I guess it likes "decided" better.
Edited by danaf617 - 8/23/12 at 7:14am
post #2 of 27
I'm surprised you have required subjects for kindergarten?!? What is the age that mandatory education begins in MD? I believe most states it is 6-8, so kindergarten isn't even necessary to be official.
post #3 of 27

There is very little method to my madness, especially with a kindergartener.  For kindergarten, I think random exposure to random science and social studies information is fine.  What we've done is mostly just read aloud a variety of books on science and social studies topics, not trying to focus on any particular theme.  Sometimes we go to a museum or a nature program and I also put those experiences in our portfolio under social studies or science. 


Kindergarten age social studies at our house is mostly just reading books about other places, times, and cultures and going on the occasional field trip (a tour of the post office, for example.)  We spend more time on science, because DP and I are interested in it.  We just naturally end up talking about science stuff a lot, so the kids are bound to pick up basic science information whether or not we deliberately try to teach it. Sometimes we do a science experiment or build something with Snap Circuits.  The kids spend time catching and observing insects, frogs, salamanders, etc. and they learn a lot from that, because I'm a fact-spewing former wildlife biologist who likes consulting field guides and Googling to learn more about what we see.  We have a garden and that gives the kids a chance to learn things about plants and how they grow and what they need.  


For art, I mostly just let the kids draw or paint or cut things out of paper when they feel like it.  I have one kid who really enjoys art, and because she's so interested I have done a little more deliberate art stuff with her.  We've done some exercises from a book called Drawing with Children, I've signed her up for some art classes, we've visited some galleries to look at art, and I've checked out some kids' art books from the library to read with her.  We don't have to cover music specifically here; one of our required subjects is Fine Arts, which can include music but doesn't have to.  I didn't make any attempt to actually teach anything about music until this year when DD was in 3rd grade.  This year, she started learning to play the recorder.


Health is a required subject here, so every year I try to think of a couple of health topics we can include in our portfolio. For instance, we might read some books on a topic like germs and then DD could draw a picture related to the topic.  I just randomly pick topics based on what books we come across or what I happen to think of.


If you feel like you want to be more systematic than that and you want ideas about what topics you "ought" to cover, you might want to look at What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know (and the succeeding What Your First Grader Needs to Know, etc.)  Those books include a lot of things your kid doesn't actually need to know; they're not about the minimum you need to teach to keep up with kids in school, but more about the author's idea of the ideal education kids ought to be getting.  So I wouldn't take them as your instruction manual for teaching, just as a source of ideas.

post #4 of 27
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

I'm surprised you have required subjects for kindergarten?!? What is the age that mandatory education begins in MD? I believe most states it is 6-8, so kindergarten isn't even necessary to be official.



Maryland has a mandatory kindergarten law.




My DD will be 6 in November and is absolutely ready for kindergarten.  Our homeschool laws require a Notice of Consent to your county and no more than 3 portfolio reviews per year.

My county does one in the fall and one in the spring (year-end.)


And yup, those subjects are listed in our homeschooling laws.

post #5 of 27
I just got done checking MD law, and saw it was 5-16 for mandatory education. Sorry.

You need to get more info from someone familiar with your area about what they look for, so you don't stress out about things you don't have to worry about. Do you know any experienced hs moms in your area, or an evaluator?

I think most folks are going to suggest being relaxed with kindergarten, but if you're concerned about the legalities, that's another matter. Find someone who knows, and I'll bow out now, since I do not have that information.

Good luck!
post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 

thank you, pek64.


We are new to the area, and the state, so I don't know many people yet. I did meet another HSing mom at the library the other night though. She gave me her email addy so I guess I'll try there first.


It was funny - the kids and I went to the library for the first time and got our library cards. I took one look at this mom and her HUGE stack of books and just knew.  LOL

We ended up at the card catalog next to each other and I said, "You don't homeschool, do you?" and sure enough she started giggling.

She did give me a few tips but my 4 yr old monster...cough cough... I mean son, was acting like a caged animal set free so I was distracted.

post #7 of 27

To my mind a child is receiving regular and thorough instruction if they are spending their lives with a caring adult who facilitates their learning through providing a variety of experiences, participating in interesting conversation, answering questions and providing implicitly or explicitly requested resources. I 


I mean regular and thorough instruction in the Health subject area need consist of nothing other than reminders to brush teeth, comments about why you're wiping down the counters after food prep, reinforcement of handwashing habits, comments about the better nutritional value of whole wheat vs. white bread, questions answered about what a fever is, what cancer is, what a collarbone is, reinforcement of habits of regular physical activity. This stuff isn't all packaged up as a "course of study" but it's integrated with life and internalized through direct action in a way that a course of study never would be.


I could write a similar paragraph about the other subjects you listed. I understand your enthusiasm for providing a Regular and Thorough Program of Instruction in the sense of an organized parent-directed curriculum, but I would encourage you to take seriously the cautionary advice of other parents about not adopting too much structure at this age and level. In a homeschooling situation, without the social conformity pressure of peers or the presence of a separate, transient person in the role of teacher, it is crucial to preserve the child's internal self-directed drive to learn and master. Children will comply with structure in school in a way they, uh, tend not to, at home.


When adding academic structure, add a bit at a time. Start by alternating tiny bits of math or language arts. Wait for the honeymoon period to be over. Observe your child carefully. If she is still enthusiastic and seems to want more, by all means, add a bit more structure. Again wait. Observe. Reassess. If you get to Thanksgiving and your child is loving daily sessions in math and language arts and is asking for more social studies than readaloud stories, or is begging for systematic piano instruction, or wants a workbook to go with the hands-on science explorations you're occasionally doing at the regional park or in the kitchen, consider adding something at that point. Or else just continue following those interests and enthusiasms organically with a more home-grown approach.


Don't over-think. Education-ese, the language of professional educators and bureaucrats, can look and sound intimidating. You have to mentally translate that stuff into common sense language.


"Provide a regular and thorough program of instruction in math, language arts, social studies, health, science and the arts" in my homeschooling world translates into "Be a sensitive and creative facilitator of your child's interest-led learning, which will naturally cover a wide range of areas."



post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 

Miranda - Thank you so much for your reply. I absolutely agree with you. When we lived in NJ and the law didn't even require a letter of intent, that was my plan. The idea of a portfolio reviewer checking up on us really has me thrown for a loop.


We do things like you mentioned for the health topics but I feel like I need a way to make that tangible for a third party who isn't living our day-to-day with us. Even if it's a cute little craft activity about teeth brushing or something that this person can see.

post #9 of 27

You could keep a blog. Anecdotal reports and photos are great "evidence of learning" that don't intrude on your child's natural self-directed learning. I've kept homeschooling blogs on behalf of all my kids. They are lovely mementoes, enjoyable to write, and have always been considered more than sufficient evidence of learning in my jurisdiction. I post photos of notable events, jot notes about things of interest lately, keep track of trips and activities, scan in any artwork or pages of written work that I feel are representative of my child's increasing abilities, and occasionally just write a narrative "Day in the Life" post to give our supervisor a taste of the flavour of our learning lives. I use official Subject tags according to whatever my post was about. If I notice there are few entries that mention Social Studies, I'll just make a point of posting the next few such bits of learning that come up. I'll write a list of our recent readaloud stories, and comment on how the settings span a range of locations, times and cultures. I'll mention the questions my child had about how UPS is different from mail, and the discussion that sprang out of that, and that we got a book out of the library about the Pony Express. If we went on a walk in the woods to look at the fall leaves, and talked about what distance we walked and how to estimate it, I'll tag that as PE/Health, Science/Nature and Mathematics and post a photo. It doesn't take long for little entries like that to mount into an impressive body of evidence. A portfolio reviewer can click on "Mathematics" and quickly pull up all 37 posts that mention mathematical learning. 



post #10 of 27

well one method is to only sumit the minimum required samples in order to stay in compliance. Not sure about there but here it is one sample of each subject per quarter. 


 Some ideas though for keeping records for even 'on the fly' learning is to keep your camra with you. Lots of learning happens but doesn't 'produce' anything that can be kept in a portfolio. I take pictures of it, print them out, & caption them. Perfect for things like science projects, on the fly learning, handiwork, and so on.

post #11 of 27
Thread Starter 

thanks for the ideas, ladies!!  :)



So do most of you not follow any sort of structured program?  Are you all or mostly child-led learning?

post #12 of 27

I pick and choose for different subjects however much of my music, geography, and history follows the BCP (Baltimore Curriculum Project) which are free lesson plans online that follow the Core Knowledge Series.  It also has art, science, and some math & literature.  It might be something you want to look into and I imagine it certainly must line up with MD standards fairly well since it's used for some of the Baltimore charter schools.

post #13 of 27
Thread Starter 

Thanks Rachel!


I did see the BCP mentioned on here the other day and I've been reading over it and pulling some notes from it!

post #14 of 27
Originally Posted by danaf617 View Post

So do most of you not follow any sort of structured program?  Are you all or mostly child-led learning?

We aren't structured, but not exactly child-led either.  Some of what my kids do is totally their own idea, some things I suggest and they happily go along with, and some things I ask them to do even though they would rather not.  In some areas, like math, I have a plan for what skills I want to teach.  In other areas, like social studies, I don't start the year with any plan for what we'll cover.  I try to make sure that some of the books we get from the library or pull off the shelves to read are on social studies topics and normally during the course of the year we'll end up visiting some museums or doing other activities that can count as social studies.  I may suggest one or two other social studies things my kids can do for their portfolios if an idea comes to me.

post #15 of 27

In kinder, we covered many subjects with Five in a Row.  We also used a separate phonics and math program, but mainly it was just FIAR.  There is a FIAR forum with tons of ideas to go along with that curriculum.  Five in a Row (FIAR) is a literature based program.  There are also tons of free downloadable lapbooks you can use at homeschoolshare.com for FIAR.  They even have lapbooks/activities for many other books that are not FIAR.  I still use homeschoolshare even now that my sons are in 4th and 6th.

I've only HSed in CA and TN.  CA, my first experience, was super easy!  With an umbrella school, TN is pretty easy too.  I probably would be a bit nervous if I had to submit portfolios though, lol.

post #16 of 27
I know I said I was going to bow out, but I think I need to emphasize the points I already made.

I live in PA where we do an annual portfolio which is evaluated by an evaluator, whose letter gets added to the portfolio which is then sent to the school. As long as there is a positive evaluation letter, the school district generally approves continued homeschooling. I create a portfolio every year that will be acceptable to my evaluator (who I got to know so I know what she expects), and is likely to be accepted by the school district representative.

With that in mind, I repeat my advise to get to know someone in your area (like the mom from the library). If you need to get the portfolio evaluated, take your time choosing an evaluator and talk with her or him, to be sure (as sure as you can be) that there will be no unexpected requirements come portfolio time!

Then, armed with that info, go about homeschooling as you planned, just keeping portfolio documenting in the back of your mind. If the reviewer is likely to want sonething you hadn't planned, post again, or PM me. I have had that situation once or twice.
post #17 of 27

K is not mandatory here, but we plan on loosely using Five in a Row as well-it covers Social Studies, Science, Math, Art, and Language Arts I think.  Maybe that would be a good jumping off point so that you can kind of "check the boxes" of what you legally need to do without feeling overwhelmed?  I am also using Explode the Code for phonics and Right Start Math and we will do some Spanish lessons once I get my act together to figure it all out :)

post #18 of 27

A few things:  find more than the one mom.  Check meetup.com, Yahoo groups and Google search.  Not sure where in MD you are.


I love Core Knowledge in theory but I absolutely could not handle it in practice.  I think the easiest way to accomplish what you're trying to do would be to buy or borrow their "What Your Kindergartner Needs To Know" book and work through it for the year.  It's VERY, VERY easy, child-friendly and really it's what I consider "Core Knowledge Lite".  I forget if there's activities in it, but you can certainly go through and find activities to do with your kids around the stuff you read together in the book series.  I keep records for "just in case" (the state I currently live in also dictates specific subjects but there's no annual reporting so I'm tracking for the sake of the person that may never come knocking on my door eyesroll.gif ).  I just put the required subjects into Homeschool Skedtrack (free and online) and then I log in the stuff we do in each subject each day.  At the end of the year (or quarter) I can print a report for each subject that includes the stuff we did and the resources we used.


So that's an option.


I also like HomeschoolShare.com.  You can find unit studies to go with countless books and they break out what subject area the activities are so you could easily log them.  For instance, here's their page for "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"  You could spend an entire week on that and hit multiple subjects through the book.  Not shockingly they have a ton of Five In A Row resources.  :)  But I've used this site for my 8yo son, too.



post #19 of 27

I used Stafall last year for Kindergarten.  I didn't follow it 100%, but it incorporated Language Arts, Social Studies and Science.  And my son loved the website.  Plus they have lots of worksheets and support materials.  Was really happy with Starfall.  

post #20 of 27
Originally Posted by danaf617 View Post

Miranda - Thank you so much for your reply. I absolutely agree with you. When we lived in NJ and the law didn't even require a letter of intent, that was my plan. The idea of a portfolio reviewer checking up on us really has me thrown for a loop.


We do things like you mentioned for the health topics but I feel like I need a way to make that tangible for a third party who isn't living our day-to-day with us. Even if it's a cute little craft activity about teeth brushing or something that this person can see.

Have you looked into making lapbooks?  My son loves them, and I put a whole bunch of stuff together that incorporate reading, spelling, math, etc. into one book.  He does them as he wants too, and it's a good visual thing to show someone.  My son loves showing them off himself, actually.  The last book he wanted to make was about candy, so I found some candy games - like predicting number of candies of various colors, and then comparing that to actual number of candies in a bag, and writing down the results.  That involved counting, adding, and also discussing fractions....5 out of 14 were yellow for example.  I also printed out a map of N America, and pictures of candies from US, Canada and Mexico...for a bit of a geography lesson.  And then there are the printouts for coloring by numbers (so more math).  We also did some writing of candy colors, etc to practice letters.  And printouts for word searches, etc.  I don't tell my son, we're going to do math now...or geography...just hey, let's play this game...and he also does only a bit at a time, not the entire book in one sitting.  And you can see where your child's interest starts to wane, so you don't have to push him (for example, mine got bored with doing fractions, so we stopped), but you can always do more if the child wants to.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Learning at Home and Beyond
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at Home and Beyond › How do you decided what to teach?