Friday, September 24, 2010

Homeschooling: the curriculum

When they were attending school, the kids also had what I consider to be bloated subjects: Living Skills, Human Society, Moral Education. That's not to say that the topics themselves were unimportant, but I thought they could be condensed and more focused. Did my children really need to learn that boiling eggs means putting them in boiling water? (As opposed to boiling oil, as some students thought.) Our two were already cooking curries and stir-fries by then, and doing most of the prep themselves. And did they really need to learn that students who prayed to God had a better chance of passing exams than those who didn't? No, I'm serious; they were really taught that one. No need to learn, just pray to God. The ignorant gall of such teachers is astounding!

By having my own curriculum, not only do I cut out all that ignorant crap but it also means including subjects that I think will pay off for them in the future. So, the core subjects are:


These subjects are taught three or more times a week. Level Two subjects are taught one to three times a week and include:

Chinese language
Calligraphy (i.e. proper handwriting)

I realise that one of the biggest problems with homeschooling is socialisation. With the kids in an isolated environment, I figure that the classes in Chinese, Wushu and Music should get them out and about a bit.

Does all that sound a bit heavy? Let me introduce you to Toru Kumon. Kumon was a Japanese maths teacher who was dissatisfied with the progress of his son at school. (Seems to be a universal problem, no?) Quoting Wikipedia:
The underlying belief behind the Kumon Method is that, given the right kind of materials and the right support, any child is capable of learning anything.
The child learns at her individual pace but does not progress to the next level until she has mastered the current one. Also, rather than two or three hours of intensive drilling in one subject, the Kumon method emphasises smaller bites of time to push key concepts before leaving it alone till the next day.

Where I differ from the Kumon method is that I add some traditional blackboard teaching to the sessions. I also don't insist on 100% accuracy. Every worksheet session is followed by a debrief. If the child can explain to me where they went wrong with an answer, that's good enough for me. (Not being able to explain their mistake means more repetition of that particular type of problem.)

Using this mix, I have taught Little Dinosaur how to tell analogue and digital time in one week. And The Wast is also learning the Greek roots of words so he has better tools to work with when manipulating metric measures. School runs from 9:00am to 1:00pm, Monday to Friday, and that's enough to tackle every subject except the external-party ones (Chinese, Wushu, Music) and Cooking. Then again, they don't see cooking as a chore but as a competition between them to see who can cook the better-tasting dish. An additional bonus is that they also eat more of their own cooking, which suits me just fine!

It's only been little more than a month since I started homeschooling but, so far, things seem be right on track, even if Little Dinosaur burst into tears when she found out she has to learn her times table from 1 to 9 this year.

* Kaz Augustin is an homeschooling parent who makes her kids cry on their worksheets. You can find her website at She has a food blog at and she's also on Facebook and Twitter. Just look for "ksaugustin".


Charles Gramlich said...

Interesting selection of topics. I don't know what Wushu is. But touch typing I can certainly see as a needed skill.

KeVin K. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KeVin K. said...

Wushu is both an athletic competitive sport with emphasis on stamina, balance and grace that looks like a combination of gymnastics, dance, and martial arts, or the martial art from which the sport evolved. Pretty much a one-stop physical education curriculum.

My two arguments against home schooling are lack of socialization, which KAZ is addressing, and the fact most families in the USofA use it to "protect" their children from secular education. (Y'know destructive concepts like science, art, literature and the ever-dangerous critical thinking.) Again, not an issue in KAZ' case.

I was a public school teacher for many years as was my wife Valerie. We considered homeschooling but realized we would probably kill our children. Fortunately there was a challenging private school in our area.

(Had to redact and repost due to howler of a typo.)

Liane Spicer said...

You've got the bases covered there, Kaz. They ought to thrive on that.

I've seen the powers that be here de-emphasize the core subjects and weigh down the curriculum with social studies and a host of other things, only to come right back around. It's not that the other subjects aren't important, but they shouldn't be so heavily weighted that the language, math and science suffer as a result.

Shauna Roberts said...

The only thing I see missing is house cleaning. ;-)

Seriously, though, it looks as if you've made some good choices for the kids. I wish I could have had a curriculum like this as a child.

Are you using cooking to also teach math, anthropology, and history?

Kaz Augustin said...

Charles, Wushu is exactly as KeVin described. It's a martial ballet that, we think, will stand them in good stead for any future physical endeavours they'll attempt.

KeVin, I appreciate your comments. I was wondering whether I was being "fundamentalist" in the other direction, but the kids still mix with others and I'm not against putting them back in school again...if we can find one we like.

Liane, I agree about the social sciences and have been following analyses of curricula in various countries, English and non-English (as much as I can!). Mix and match! It all seems to be about numbers of children "passing" a grade nowadays rather than getting educated.

And Shauna, house cleaning is not on the list because they do that already! It's part of their duties if they want to receive pocket money. I had to laugh at the cooking comment though. I've used cooking to explain the concept of ratios and also some history. Like, "What ingredients would Eurasians (my/their ethnic group) in Malacca in the 16th century probably not have had if the Europeans hadn't stumbled across Latin America?"

Jewel Amethyst said...

One of the things I find with organized education aka schools is that in most instances there is an emphasis on preparing students for a "job", and less emphasis is placed on entrepreneurism, self-determination and creativity.

With your homeschooling curriculum you have the opportunity to break the mold. From your curriculum it looks like you're heading in the right direction.

One crazy question: when they misbehave do you have a parent/teacher conference with their dad? (lol)

Kaz Augustin said...

LOL Jewel. You know what? Next time one of the kids acts up, I'll type out a letter addressed to J asking for a meeting regarding the behaviour of one of his children! Thanks for the idea.

G said...

Interesting post. Usually stories about people who home school out here in Connecticut are very light on the curriculum and very heavy as to the reasons why and the reactions of the public school system.

Personally, I think that whatever gets the child (or in the case children) the best education possible in the end, be it home schooling or not, is all that really matters.