Spend any time on homeschooling sites and you’ll find a thousand different ways to do it. You’ll learn that no way is any more right than the others. And you’ll read how those differences are what make the homeschooling canvas so colorful, the practice so effective and the lifestyle so very worth living.
My style is rather structured. I would classify myself as 80% curriculum user. I either buy our curriculum or create it myself. I use curriculum not because I think it’s the only way or the best way. I use it because it works so well for me and my family. And where an organized curriculum isn’t the right fit, that’s where the 20% comes in.
Everyone is different. For us, curriculum and schedules work with what our family wants to teach and learn. We like it because the framework that comes from using a curriculum helps to structure our days and covers a lot of bases.
But curriculum also gives us the freedom to deviate from it any time we like. Many people don’t realize you can do that. We venture outside the pages all the time, hopping back in and out again any time we want.
Somewhere along the way, I realized there were things I wanted my boys to learn that would never be found in any curriculum. So, I wrote it out, and started calling it our life curriculum. It’s unique to us, but I thought you might like to take a peek at what’s inside.
As you read, remember that I am raising boys. I think most of this curriculum applies to girls, too, but I am adding that for clarification, and as a disclaimer, too. Also be aware that my views may be considered more traditional or more conservative than others. I’m the mom, so I get to do that. These are my goals, for raising my young men, in these times, with the values they will be competing with in their own generation. Yours might be a lot different.
This is not the full list, but a subset of what I try to teach in our home. If I manage to do this all, I think my boys will all graduate in pretty good shape. Don’t you?
Take a look:
Nutrition: My goal is for my kids to leave home with an understanding of proper nutrition versus treats and splurges. I want them to understand (while eating in a college cafeteria, for example) what constitutes a complete meal, and which foods to eat sparingly or generally avoid. When surrounded by dorm mates subsisting on noodles, chocolate paste and white bread, I want them to know the difference between lazy, unhealthy eating and dining to nourish the body and mind. Most of these lessons happen in everyday life, though sometimes I offer a separate class in cooking or home economics. Specifically, I make sure to teach:
- cooking from scratch a large variety of meals
- locating recipes, or feeling comfortable mixing ingredients
- safe food storage
- use and cleaning of small appliances
- using up leftovers and avoiding food waste
- using food to promote good health
- how to shop grocery stores, where to find foods locally and online
- how to compare prices and determine value
- sourcing natural or healthier options when possible
- using herbs and spices to enhance flavor or achieve health benefits
Hygiene: I want my boys to leave home knowing how to take care of themselves in areas of personal hygiene and grooming. I do not (any longer) enforce a code of dress or hair style, but I need them to know that these factors make an impact on how they are perceived by others. I try to strike a balance between their sense of individuality and the need for them to to fit in and not offend. And though it irks me to have to discuss such things, I know their survival and success ultimately depends on it, particularly those of my kids who have chosen careers that come with protocols for dress and appearance. I do not advocate using chemical self-care products (any more), so we are currently converting ourselves to natural and home-made powders, deodorants and acne treatments. We are still working on this area. With my husband’s help and guidance in this area, we teach things like:
- shaving, mustache and beard grooming
- hair care, including washing and styling, and tying it up when required/appropriate
- acne prevention and treatment
- toileting habits
- body care (showering and cleanliness)
- nail and foot care
- handling body odor
- teeth care (surprisingly, many children are never taught to floss properly)
Relationships: I really want my kids to thrive in this area. My own childhood experiences combined with the possible isolation that can result from spending lots of time at home, I have purposed to make sure they are well-versed in this area. It seems I am constantly working on this one, and these skills are forever being challenged in one way or another. I persevere. By using discussions, books, practice and role-playing, I teach:
- how to act in different situations around all kinds of people
- the difference between a friend and an acquaintance, how to be a good friend
- how to stand, sit, talk, make eye contact, read social distance and use body language appropriately
- listening skills, not monopolizing conversations (gifted and intense sometimes struggle with this)
- how to value all others, patience, tolerance, recognizing strengths and differences
- not to say everything they think aloud for all to hear
- peer pressure
- loving kindness to all living things (thankfully, an easy one for my kids)
- conflict resolution within the family and in the world (how to handle, how to forgive, how to move on)
- the differences between men and women, as much as I understand them, with a bias toward chivalry and traditional male/female roles (holding doors, giving up a seat, feelings and emotions, understand urges versus making intellectual choices)
- courtship and dating, relationship goals, outcomes, where things can go wrong
- the benefits of marriage and family
- general “gentleman” behavior, adapted for modern day
First Aid: Self-explanatory, but my goal here is simply to make sure my kids can take care of minor illnesses and injuries on their own, can find reliable information they can trust, can locate a health practitioner if they need one, and to know when to seek help.
Home Maintenance: Our children have always been assigned many different chores, thus this is something they learn as we train them to help and contribute around the home. Before they leave our home, I want them to be able to:
- perform simple maintenance (light bulbs, smoke alarms, squeaky doors, circuit breakers, pool, water shut off)
- perform simple fixes (leaky faucet, leaky toilet, broken hose, repair a chair leg, trouble-shoot appliances or sprinkler systems)
- simple installations (faucet, disposer, window or door)
- heavy cleaning inside and out
- moving and cleaning furniture and carpets
- have attempted a variety of other tasks, such as painting, roofing, carpentry, and plumbing
Automotive Maintenance: Basic car maintenance is something I wish I was taught. Aside from changing tires and replacing oil, I have always felt quite helpless on the road. In contrast, I want my kids to feel comfortable around a vehicle, and to know what to attempt on his own versus what requires the help of a professional. This is my husband’s area, and one he is presently working on at this stage of their lives. I have no idea what they will learn in his charge, but I know he’ll do a great job. (Maybe I should take this class, too!)
Yard Maintenance: Our family has lived in the city and also in the country, so my kids have been exposed to a great variety of tasks in this area. Some of these jobs have been assigned, and others end up being performed serendipitously while trying to accomplish something else. Sometimes, these are included as chores, but other times, we purpose to teach them as a part of a life skills or other class. Because I want my kids to be able to take care of their own homes some day, I make sure they can:
- cut grass, trim edges, blow away debris
- plant and weed gardens, plant trees
- grow herbs in pots, water plants
- mix up basic natural pest-control recipes and apply them
- use chemical products with safety
- apply fertilizers and mulches
- pressure wash a home exterior, sidewalks and drives
- rake and bag leaves, know about composting
- trim bushes and smaller trees, bundle branches
- load and unload trucks and work vehicles
Business Skills: This is a huge category that includes many different things they need to know right now, plus other skills they will more than likely need as they get older. In homeschool, I teach keyboarding and computer use, reading and writing business correspondence, making telephone calls, understanding and paying invoices, using the postal system, setting up various kinds of accounts, and much more. Because we have owned several companies over the years, our children have also worked with us, and for us, and have be exposed to many different things. For the most part, our children now understand budgeting and advertising, payroll and temporary employment, partnerships and incorporation, royalties and payments, and much more. In this area, I also purpose to teach each child about Internet privacy, fraud and identity theft, reviewing credit reports, disputing bills, and more.
Financial Literacy: One of the most important skills we began teaching as our kids grew, we have continued to prioritize financial literacy within our family. My husband and I are living proof of living on a modest income, about saving (or not spending), buying wisely, purchasing pre-owned vehicles and furniture and more. In addition to teaching these skills ourselves, over the last several years, I have begun to incorporate packaged curriculum in this area (to make sure I don’t miss anything I don’t know). Our teens take several financial literacy courses prior to homeschool graduation, and have already put many of these practices into their lives. (I’m proud to say that our children do not pay a nickel for college and have been able to avoid student loans, too!) This area includes lessons about:
- credit and debit
- creating a budget
- wants versus needs
- creating savings plans
- shopping wisely
- gifting and charitable contributions
- buying a car, buying a home, buying anything (a computer, stocks, or health insurance)
Communication Skills: It comes as no surprise that homeschooled youth often grow into excellent communicators. Having the advantage of time, freedom of expression, and exposure to many different people and experiences all contribute to why this is so. In addition to what my kids pick up on their own, I also make sure to include communication in the yearly course line-up for every one of my kids. Over the years, my boys will take classes in:
- Writing of all kinds: story writing, research paper writing, creative writing, etc.
- Oral communications, speech giving
- Interpersonal communications
- Psychology and the science of human communication
- Other specialized writing courses, depending on the child, that may help in their chosen career
Mind and Body: My husband and I are both very interested in these areas, and we try to teach our children about the relationship between the mind and the body, and the interplay between behaviors and their impact on health and wellness. Depending on what my husband and I are studying at the time, our children are usually invited to study along. Sometimes, these ideas develop into courses; other times, they are learned as electives or hobbies in our spare time. Over the years, our kids have either read or discussed with us many different books about religion, philosophy, spirituality, physical fitness personal growth, and more. They have learned in churches, dojos, yoga studios, tennis courts, swimming pools, meditation rooms, via video, DVD, audio, online seminars, classes, books, family friends and from my husband and I, and so on. We are constantly adding to our home library and resources in these areas, so by the time they graduate, our kids will have learned about these areas, and more:
- Western and alternative medicine
- Religion and philosophy
- Drugs and diseases
- Human anatomy and body mechanics
- Exercises and overall fitness
- Food for health, supplements, herbs
- Relaxation, breathing, mindfulness
- Emotional and energetic healing
- The relationship between mind and body
Our life curriculum goes on to include goals in other areas, too, for instance raising animals as pets; helping and caring for their parents and elderly; understanding the judicial system, voter registration, and familiarity with common legal situations; personal safety and avoiding dangerous behaviors; taking care of the planet; charity and community service; and more.
In a large family (or any family), particularly when we all spend so much time together, it can be easy to teach these skills by example, without really even trying. On the other hand, it is also easy to forget whether or not a particular child was exposed to something, or if I need to make sure to include it within the next set of lessons, chores, or time with that child. Having these written down helps me identify what I may have missed, and also check off what I feel has been covered to my satisfaction.
Of course, the proof of success in these areas is always going to be observing my children in life and seeing if I have prepared them well enough in the areas they need. It is my hope that by sharing my goals with you, this may also help those of you preparing children to leave home, too. If you need help, just shoot me an email.
To your success,
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. A homeschooling pioneer and the founder of many groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks, is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the public school system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame, with no teaching background whatsoever. A writer, a homeschool leader, and a women’s life coach, Marie-Claire mentors in a variety of areas that impact health, education and lifestyle. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA, H.E.R.I., Home Education Council of America, The Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool Network, and many other events. Her articles have appeared in and on Holistic Parenting, CONNECT,Homefires, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of sites and blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.