1. Never use a curriculum
When I first started homeschooling, this was the biggest hurdle for me to overcome. I mean, after all, I have my degree in elementary education. I can come up with the curriculum on my own, right? Well, actually, even the very best teachers borrow other ideas from other teachers, so why can't homeschoolers?
2. Buy too much curriculum
Come on, raise your hand if you are guilty of this! See, mine is raised too. I know that I need to teach biology to my kids so I start buying or borrowing every single thing related to biology so that I can make sure I have all of the bases covered. The only problem with this idea is that pretty soon I'm overwhelmed. And I have so much amazingly wonderfull curriculum that I don't end up doing anything because I don't know where to start.
3. Try to do EVERYTHING
Our job as homeschool parents is to spread a learning feast for our students and then allow them to pick and choose the activities that appeal to them. However, sometimes we get into the trap that we have to do everything. Or that our kids aren't getting as good of an education as little Joey down the street. Just stop. Stop doing everything (or trying to). In the process of doing everything, you are killing the love for learning that is natural to kids and turning yourself into a monster in the process. Many curriculums were not created with the intention of doing everything. They simply list several options and you should pick and choose what interests you and your children.
4. Get lost trying to buy supplies
Don't you just hate it when it's time to do an experiment but you find that you don't have all of the necessary components to complete said experiment? I hate when that happens. It disappoints the kids too. And then we all end up frustrated because we spent all this time prepping for an experiment only to clean it all up and put it away a few minutes later because of missing stuff. So if an experiment calls for hard to find ingredients OR stuff that has to be ordered from the internet, we very rarely end up doing it. I save those big experiments for the professionals and usually end up finding a video clip and watch that experiment instead.
5. Do all of the hard experiments
Along the lines of keeping up with the homeschool family down the street, comes trying to out do them by doing all of the really hard and involved experiments. You know the ones I'm talking about--they take 2 weeks to actually complete and you need to keep copious records, not to mention it has to live on the kitchen counter leaving you no room to cook dinner for said 2 weeks. I have found that doing the seamingly simple experiments leaves us all feeling much more accomplished (and less stressed) than a hard and confusing experiment with lots of steps.
6. Give up when the going gets tough
I have my hand raised again here. In the past my intentions have been good and I have meant well, but by choosing to use too much, I've quickly burnt out and overwhelmed my kids. Library trips are great to fill out the lesson on cells, but reading all 27 books that you got from the library about cells might be a bit too much.
7. Never read the teacher manual
Teacher's manuals exist as a help to the teacher. I especially like if the teacher's guide is part of the student book making it easy for me to access. "Instructions are for cheaters" used to be my mantra, but more and more I'm finding that if I actually access and use the teacher's guide, implementation of a curriculum is just that much easier.
8. Insist on perfect 3 page reports with every chapter
Seriously?!?! A 3 page report? Yes, I have been guilty of this one. But really I need to remember that in elementary school, the idea is exposure, not mastery. Copy a sentence and learn a few new vocabulary words. Do an experiment. Make a notebook page using drawings and let the kids personalize it with their own information from the lesson. Trust me that this will be that much more effective than a 3 page report.
9. Suck the fun right out of learning
Just because I prefer to read a book when learning a new subject, doesn't mean that's how my kids learn. Discover what type of learning works for your kids and then tailor the curriculum to suit their learning style. I don't really like hands on projects, but if that's what helps my kids to remember, then I shouldn't hinder that.
10. Try to make your own curriculum
I can't tell you how many times I have tried to write my own science curriculum. I always start out strong and excited, but after about 3 weeks, I realize just what a challenge it is. So now I just leave curriculum writing to the people who have that specific ability. Just because I can write a curriculum, doesn't mean I should.
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I have honestly tried to teach biology, but really maybe I just suck at teaching it. This year I'm trying something new. I'm using Christian Kids Explore Biology, written by Stephanie L. Redmond, and sold at Bright Ideas Press.
This curriculum has obviously been written with homeschoolers in mind! All of the projects are do-able using things that might be readily available at home. If we don't have ingredients needed for a lesson, then we can skip that or save it until after we have made a trip to the store.
Another component that I love is that everything needed is in the book. There is an optional disc that can be purchased with the reproducibles on it, but those are all in the book. The back of the book includes an impressive and thorough book and video list, each divided by topic and lessons.
What I love most about this beginning biology curriculum is the reminder to keep it fun.
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