Saturday, August 29, 2009

Three Different Kinds of Teaching in Curriculum

The following post was inspired by my homeschool planning for the 2009-2010 academic year.

I understand that all homeschooling curriculum is different. After looking at and using different homeschooling curriculums over the years it seems to me these three categories pretty much describes all of it.

In one kind of teaching certain content is taught in a grade level. If this content is not taught, it is not reviewed the next year, and the content will not then be directly taught. This could be said to be the case with vocabulary words. Usually the same words from last year are not re-taught the next year. Sometimes the content is cycled through and repeated years later, such as the history sweep as recommended in The Well Trained Mind, where history is taught from the beginning to the present divided up over four years, and is studied a total of three times, once in elementary grades, once in middle grades and again in the high school grades. Some science programs break up the content over those same time periods.

There is another kind of teaching where the student is taught basics in one year. The next year in order to move forward the student must already have the firm foundation of last year’s content. The second year contains a bit of review to refresh the student’s memory then the content gets deeper, more complex, and new content is taught. This could be said with math in elementary and middle school years. If a student was never to do any math lessons until age 13 they would have to start back with basic principles to establish the foundation (counting, addition, subtraction) before moving on to more complex math like geometry and algebra and so on. I’d like to think that a non-learning disabled student could pick up the math concepts quickly and move along at a good pace with their more mature mind and their brain that has already gone through certain developmental changes that allow for abstract and analytical thought.

The other kind of teaching which is probably never admitted by the curriculum makers is when the same things are taught every single year. What is taught in year one is taught in a simple way to the young student. In year two the work is increased a bit to keep it challenging but the base content is exactly the same. In year three again the work gets increased in quantity but the same stuff is re-taught. It seems to me this is the case for subjects like English grammar and writing composition. With topics like that if a young student never learned the content and suddenly began to study it, say at age 10 or 12 or 14, I’d argue that they could jump in to learn the same concepts and “get it” without any negative ramifications from having skipped learning and practicing it for years and years. This is especially true if one company’s curriculum does a brief review of each topic, so a new student would hear yet again about what a common noun and proper noun are, and so forth. Regarding writing composition, since a main goal is to communicate thoughts, older students in grade six or eight with more life experience and more opinions to share may find it easier to jump in and write more than a nervous second grader who still struggles to write without hand pain.

While doing homeschool planning it is wise to be alerted to these three types of learning. It might help the you make better choices. Don’t always assume that you must finish up all the undone lessons in the last year’s curriculum before moving on, it may just be a waste of time!


Two examples:
Last week a friend told me she didn’t finish a grammar program that is for kids in grades 1 & 2 (in one volume). She wondered if she should return to it for her now third grader or move on to the company’s grade 3 program. I said, based on my use of both of the products, to move on to grade three and don’t look back. In her attempt to be thorough she was going to make her children finish the former year’s curriculum before going forward.

Regarding my younger son, he completed only one third of the third grade grammar program in grade 3 as it was a low priority for me and it just fell by the wayside. Great progress and lots of work was done in other content areas so I am happy for the successes of the year. I was just comparing the company’s grade four curriculum and see no good reason to finish off the grade three work as the grade four level re-teaches every single subject, all the same content! I don’t think I could get him through 2/3 of grade three plus do all of grade four in one year, and even if I did, I don’t know what the point would be of doing so much review! So I’m going to get rid of the unfinished grade three and move forward to grade four language arts with my grade four student. I think it will be just fine!

Not that it matters to the general discussion but in case you are curious the curriculums mentioned in the two examples are:

First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind for grades 1 & 2 by Jessie Wise



First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind 3 by Jessie Wise






First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind 4 by Jessie Wise





Disclosure: I purchased all of the curriculum materials mentioned in this article for our use in our family's homeschool.

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1 comment:

Crimson Wife said...

The repetition in FLL 1/2, 3, and 4 is the reason why I only had my DD do the first in the series. Last year, we wound up not doing formal grammar at all. This year, I'm using a totally different kind of grammar curriculum called Story Grammar for Elementary School: A Sentence Composing Approach by Don and Jenny Kilgallon. It does provide some review of concepts covered in FLL 1/2 but the focus is on sentence structure and imitating well-written model sentences from literary classics.

Do I think this particular curriculum would work for every student? No. Many kids need the kind of repetition in the FLL series or Stephen Hake's grammar series (now published by Saxon). But my oldest isn't one of them IMHO.