Homeschooling Programs to the Test Before You Invest
a homeschool curriculum that matches the needs of you and your
child is one of
the most difficult and important decisions a homeschool family
makes. It isn’t easy. There’s a great deal of good
information about homeschooling available from friends, neighbors,
relatives, other homeschoolers, and the Internet. However, knowing
what to look for will help you find a program that is right
for your family and child.
homeschooling program is a lot like a pair of shoes: It has
to fit well to be comfortable and effective day after day. If
you start off with a good program, you can tailor it with confidence.
Careful evaluation is critical to success, say experts. “You
want appropriate, academically challenging lessons that inspire
your child to do his best,” says Jean C. Halle, president
of Calvert School Education Services, based in Baltimore, Md.
The company is the homeschooling provider arm of Calvert School,
which in 1906 started to offer its private school curriculum
to families who wanted to teach at home. Today, Calvert enrolls
17,000 students each year in its prekindergarten through eighth
grade programs. Calvert School receives thousands of calls each
year from families investigating whether the school’s
complete classical curriculum is right for them. “We put
a lot of time into helping families select what’s right
for them, based on the students’ competencies.”
says Halle. “Sometimes student is placed ahead or below
his age grade level. In math, for example, he may be placed
at a different level than the balance of his studies.”
“It’s critical that the curriculum be well suited
to that child’s needs in order for him or her to be successful.”
Parents should explore four main components of a provider’s
offerings when choosing a homeschool curriculum.
first step in a child’s academic experience should be
appropriate placement in grade. The ideal placement assessment
takes into account how your child arrived at answers in order
to evaluate both concept knowledge as well as his ability to
apply those skills. Because they offer details about a child’s
writing mechanics, vocabulary and spelling levels, sentence
structure, content, and organization skills, evaluations of
writing samples are important.
good curriculum will draw material from a variety of sources,
incorporate opportunities for practice to improve written and
oral communication, and help your child to learn, analyze, and
interpret information, not simply memorize facts. An integrated
curriculum allows the student to write about all subjects, to
think mathematically about subjects other than math, compare
and contrast geographical statistics history facts, and to review
and obtain valuable reinforcement of concepts taught.
manuals should provide good detail, including lessons that introduce
topics, explain concepts, coordinate subjects with each other,
and suggest added practice and enrichment. At the appropriate
age, the manual should be directed to the student, and the role
of the home teacher should turn to more of an advisory role.
If the provider offers answer keys for all daily work, parents
can confirm their child’s performance. Educational professionals,
who can offer strategies for teaching children with all learning
styles, should be available by phone, fax, or email, to answer
any questions you may have and offer suggestions for accelerated
or remedial work.
if your child is learning is important. A good program will
include tests, which evaluate both content mastery and skill
development. The availability of tests with answer keys can
be helpful. If you have difficulty evaluating your child’s
composition and other subjective work, you should look for a
provider that offers testing support in these areas. Another
key to success is evaluating the provider’s materials.
“Take time to review sample lessons, if offered by the
provider, to be sure that the curriculum delivers as promised,”
says Halle. “Your family is making a commitment for the
entire school year, so the time you invest in evaluating your
options is well spent.”