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How to Choose Curriculum, The Highly Distractible Child

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, July 30, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 60 July 30, 2007
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2007 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Guest Article
-- Choosing Curriculum
Helpful Tips
-- Literature Cookbook
Resource Review
-- 100 Top Picks by Duffy
Reader Question
-- A Distractible Child
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

How to Select Curriculum
by Nancy Welliver, Guest Author


Selecting curriculum is one of those topics that an entire book
could be written on. Since this is a newsletter and not a book,
I will provide some general information to help you get started.

Whether you are new to homeschooling or a veteran, selecting the
right curriculum for your child can be the toughest part of home
education. With so many options available how do you know which
to purchase? There is much 'fluff and twaddle' on the education
market. Many items are difficult to use, overpriced, and time
consuming. Figuring out which materials have educational value
and are right for your child -- before you buy them -- will save
money and frustration.

Before getting started, we need to understand what curriculum is.
According to The New Lexicon Webster's Dictionary, 1989 edition,
curricula is 'a course of study'. Notice it does not say it is
the textbooks used. Your curriculum can include the studying of
woodworking, sewing, auto mechanics, interior decorating, music,
art, gymnastics, etc., as well as the core subjects. So your home
education program can and should include materials and opportuni-
ties for developing your student's natural talents and interests.

Before you select which materials to use, sit with your spouse
and children (depending on their maturity) to pray about, discuss,
and decide what your family's educational goals are. Be sure to
include academics, character traits, religious beliefs, talents,
interests, possible careers, etc.

A few tips at this point may be helpful. No matter how much you
spend in time and money there is no way your child can learn
everything there is to know about a particular subject, let alone
learn everything there is to know about all subjects. The idea
of education is give the student a foundation on which to build
and to teach them how to apply what they have learned, as well as
how to the find the information they need and use what they have
learned wisely. "Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get
wisdom. In all your getting, get understanding." (Proverbs 4:7)
If they learn to do these things, then they will be able to con-
tinue to grow in wisdom and knowledge throughout their lives.
Most of what most children 'learn' is just so they do well on the
test and will be forgotten. True education is much more than that.

Textbooks are only tools, written by people who do not know your
child. The authors have written according to their own opinion
of what the 'perfect average child' should be doing on a given day.
There is no such thing as the 'perfect average child' and the
authors' opinions are just that -- opinions. Each textbook has a
different idea of what is to be taught and when. Therefore we
should use them as tools rather than Bibles. Only the parent
knows where the child is or needs to be academically on any given
day. As the parent, you should be the one to decide if and when
it is time to move to the next concept. Bend and mold your curri-
culum, whether textbooks and/or other materials, to meet the needs
of your child. Do not bend, mold, or break your child to match
the curriculum. Pray and ask the Lord for guidance in this area.

Take into consideration your child's learning style. Working with
his/her natural abilities -- instead of against them -- will greatly
relieve stress and frustration for you and your child. For more
information on learning styles go to:

It is best to do your own research before selecting the materials
you will be using. This is not hard to do and it will help you
make wise decisions. If at all possible it is best to look over
several different programs. A good place for this is in your
support group. If your group does not have a 'curriculum share'
day, you may want to suggest to your support group leader that you
have one. This would be a time when parents bring in the materials
they have had success using within their home and share with the
group why it has worked so well. Others would have time to also
share their positive and negative experiences with the material
and why it did or did not help them, thus giving a more complete
picture of how a program may or may not work for others. If your
support group does not offer a 'curriculum share' then try to make
arrangements with at least one (several would be best) other home-
schooling family to look over their materials and ask questions.
Some questions you may want to ask include: How much preparation
time is needed? How long does it usually take to complete the
assignments each day? Does a specific curriculum allow time to be
involved in other activities throughout the week or would that put
you too far behind? Do you and your children like it? Why or why
not?, etc.

Home School Conferences and Book Fairs offer another excellent
opportunity for examining materials. Plan on spending some time
looking and asking questions at each booth that has materials you
are interested in. The workshops available at many conferences
and book fairs often give valuable advice and ideas, so plan on
getting to some of them as well. Prior to going, look through and
study several different homeschooling catalogs. This will give you
a better idea of what you are looking for. Instead of wandering
around feeling completely overwhelmed you will have at least some
idea of what to look at. The more you prepare ahead of time the
more you will get out of it.

There are a multitude of how-to homeschool books on the market
which would be beneficial. Many of these contain curriculum reviews.
'100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum', by Cathy Duffy, is
excellent. This includes a wealth of information for those getting
started, as well as reviews on educational materials and supplements.
'The Homeschooling Almanac', by Mary and Michael Leppert, includes
a resource guide to educational materials such as computer software,
resource books, art supplies and games, as well as books for History,
Science, Math, etc. It includes description and purchasing informa-
tion but the authors do not give their opinion of the products.

Please keep in mind that the children you will be teaching are
*your* children. The decision as to how and what to teach is com-
pletely up to you. No one can or should make this decision for you.
Be cautious of any 'expert' who thinks he/she knows what is best
for the education of your family. You, the parents, are the persons
responsible before God for the education and training of the children
he has given you. Pray and let the Lord lead. He would not have
put it upon your heart to homeschool only to leave you stranded.


Nancy and her husband Scott established Educational Accents in
1992. They are celebrating their 15th year in business!
Educational Accents -- http://www.EdAccents.com -- sells used
curriculum and books to fellow homeschoolers. They have over
8000 books online at their secure web site. The site offers
many unique features including, compatibility checker, condition
codes, 30 day return policy, backordering, and continuous
inventory updating. Best of all, the prices are some of the
lowest you will find in the used curriculum market! For this
week (July 27th - August 4th, 2007) only they are offering an
additional 20% off previous edition educational materials.

Nancy also is a homeschool consultant, workshop speaker and
former conference organizor. Nancy and Scott began their home-
schooling adventure in 1990. They have four girls ages 21, 19,
17, and 10. They have enjoyed educating their girls at home and
watching them grow and mature. Nancy says, "We have found the
teen years to be a wonderful time in which the girls really have
blossomed into unique, mature young ladies seeking the Lord’s
will for their lives and striving to follow Him. Like all
families we have had our trials, but the Lord has been faithful
and provided the strength and encouragement to continue on."


Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send your emails to: heather @ familyclassroom.net




Helpful Tip

Literature and Cooking

"Since our children have read many of the books in the Redwall
series by Brian Jacques, the Redwall Cookbook has become a favorite
of ours. Cooking is one of the author's favorite hobbies, and the
animal characters in the Redwall books enjoy many elaborate feasts
throughout the stories. The recipes for the very interesting menu
items in the feasts are now available, much to our delight! Our
children have been inspired to cook more, and to try some very
unusual dishes, all of which have turned out to be delicious."
-- Mary Beth A.


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas @ familyclassroom.net

Resource Review

'100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum' by Cathy Duffy

"The key to successful home education, homeschool veterans will tell
you, is determining your educational philosophy and marrying it to
your child's learning style. Then you can make an informed decision
in choosing the right educational curriculum for the child. This is
the formula for success. In '100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum',
homeschool guru Cathy Duffy can help you accomplish these critical
tasks. Cathy will give you her top choices from every subject area,
approaching everything through a Christian worldview perspective.
This book is a critical volume for the homeschooling community."

One of the things I like best about this book is how Cathy teaches
the reader about different learning styles, using memorable examples
of the three types of learners. In her reviews (and on a huge chart
listing her 'Top Picks'), she lists what learning styles would benefit
most from that particular curriculum.

-- Cindy Prechtel, HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Retail, $21.99 -- ONLY $15.99 at the link below!


Last Issue's Reader Question

"I need tips for a VERY distractible 12 year old boy! He has a hard
time completing assignments because he can't seem to focus. It's
not uncommon for 1 page of math to take 1 hour and 45 minutes! I
can't ever seem to move on with my other children because of his
problem. Does anyone have any tips for me? Does anyone else have
an easily distractible child?" -- Kim in NJ

Our Readers' Responses

"Hi, Kim! I also have one of those distractable 12 year old boys.
Last year (which was my first year homeschooling him) we had the
same problem. It would take 1 to 2 hours just to do a math work-
sheet. What made it so bad was that he would forget all he learned
by the next day. It was very frustrating for both of us. This year
I have decided to use more math games because he loves games and
hopefully he will retain more. But I have also made it clear that
any unfinished work would be done as 'homework' to do on HIS time
instead of taking up all my time. I feel like after a few nights of
working on his own he will decide it's best to get focused and get
it done in the morning. I've also incorporated a lot of copywork
and lapbooks this year. If he's having fun while learning it's a
bonus for both of us."


"Have you considered that maybe there are other issues involved?
Try reading Mel Levine's books, particularly 'The Myth of Laziness'.
I have a gifted child who used to drive me nuts with how long it
took him to do Calculadders and other math. It turns out he has a
processing issue that makes it difficult to do everything at the
same time. When I wrote the answers for him, he had no problem
doing things within the time limitations. He is now in a special
accelerated program for math and at the top of the class. It pays
to really understand your child -- and it is worth spending money
on special evaluations. We have also found that working on the
computer is more motivating and keeps his attention. He writes
papers, thank you notes, etc. on the computer and finds it easier
to accomplish those tasks that way." -- Cynthia H.


"Yes, I have an easily distractible 12 year old boy too! He has
all the symptoms of dyslexia and is a right brained learner. I am
in the same boat as you are because I have a hard time focusing on
my other children for the same reason.

I, so far, have just tried to keep lessons short like the Charlotte
Mason method recommends. But, like you, I am open to other sugges-
tions. I have to use materials that are colorful. He is a picture
learner and also is kinesthetic. We have to be very hands-on around
here. That is why I use unit studies for our main curriculum. It
keeps his attention better, especially if it is an interest of his.
And he loves to do science experiments and create things.

I think another good idea is to give short breaks every now and then
throughout the school day. Let him run around outside or do some
type of activity to get his energies out.

Know that you are not the only one out there with this problem!"
-- Heather L.


"First, you might try to identify the distractors and do your best
to remove them. Work in a room without windows; turn off the ringer
on the phone; let him do his math in a room by himself where the
movement and conversation of others won't interfere with his concen-
tration, etc. Give him some incentive for doing a certain amount
of work in a given period of time, for example: give him a certain
number of math problems, and a certain amount of time to do them --
whatever time he has left over, is free time. Start with a few
problems and plenty of time, then gradually increase the assignment,
or decrease the time. He does need to learn to stay on task, but a
boy at that age can be expected to have some temptation to get side-
tracked. Give him more frequent, but shorter, breaks. You might
need to teach him separately from the other children for a while."
-- Mary Beth


"What is he being distracted by? Both of my daughters were easily
distracted, but by very different things, so what worked for one
didn't work for the other. The one was distracted with movement
and sound. If she saw anything move, she had to turn around to see
what it was. It was the same with sounds. While she was growing up,
to stop her from being distracted by every little bit of movement, I
basically put her in a closed off space with no windows or any way
of seeing out of the 'corner'. She wasn't allowed to leave the area
until the assignment was completed. After the first week or so, I
only had to do this every few weeks when the effect had worn off.

My other daughter gets distracted (still at 26) by nothing at all.
I know that doesn't make sense, but, if she is in her preferred
study corner, five minutes after starting the assignment, she would
be staring into space. If you talk to her, she will jump, shake
herself like a dog and go back to work. With her, I had to put on
instrumental music, preferably of songs she had never heard before
or never had words to them and put her to work where I could see he
-- and call her back to Earth if I needed to." -- Melinda


"I am a homeschool mom with twenty years experience teaching
special education in the public schools. I now homeschool and
do consultations with parents of children with special needs who
are being homeschooled. I would recommend a few things you can
try today.

First, let's tackle the math issue. It could be that you are using
a curriculum that has 30 plus problems on a page, which is very
overwhelming. Make the curriculum work for you. Pull 3-4 problems
from the page, write them on a dry erase board one at a time. If
he can demonstrate mastery of the skill being taught in those 3-4
problems, move on! Some curriculums, especially those written for
public and private schools, have lots of practice problems as a
means of crowd control. There is a lot to keep the classroom busy
while the teacher attends to a few who are having difficulty. More
does not necessarily mean better.

Next, look at the curriculum choices for your son. Are they mostly
workbook type? Most students with attentional problems do not do
well with lots of reading, answering questions, fill-in-the-blank
formats. A more hands-on curriculum might be for him. Unit studies
are great because you can present the information to all of your
children at once, but each child can choose how they will document
their learning. A reader may read books and present what he has
learned to the others; a hands-on learner might make a timeline or
a model, dissect something, etc.; an artistic child may choose to
make a scrapbook page about what has been learning. For the atten-
tion challenged child, hands-on learning keeps them engaged longer.
Eliminating pencil and paper tasks also helps. Use the computer and
dry erase board, or let them use a tape recorder and record what
they have learned.

Finally, it is very important for children with attentional issues
to have a structured environment and to develop routines. Check out
www.flylady.net and her student control journal. Keep to a schedule.
Use a timer. Most ADD students respond well to the use of a timer.
Set it for fifteen minutes and say, 'Keep on task for fifteen min-
utes and do as much as you can. When the timer goes off, you are
finished.' Make sure that when the timer goes off, you keep to your
word. Soon your child will trust that timer and do more in fifteen
minutes than you ever thought was possible. Hope these suggestions
help!" -- Andrea B.

Answer our NEW Question

"I am starting to homeschool my 3 children this fall. My oldest,
boy age 10, is quite a bit reluctant to be homeschooled. I will
dual enroll him for extra acticvities -- plus he has Boy Scouts
and a small group at church. He's a very brilliant boy and VERY
socialable; he loves people. He is afraid he won't see his friends
everyday. Any suggestions to navigate my way through this one?"
-- Kelly G.


Do you have some input or experience to share with Kelly?

Please send your answer to: HN-answers @ familyclassroom.net

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