How Do I Know What My Child Needs to Learn?

Your own knowledge of your child’s strengths and interests, combined with some general knowledge about typical courses of study, can make it easy to determine what learning you want to tackle next.  Then you can look for materials and methods to bring that learning to your child.

How do you get that general knowledge about typical courses of study?

You can refer to resources like Rebecca Rupp’s book “Home Learning Year by Year,” which provides an overview of what skills are covered at each grade level.

You can:

  • Google “Typical Course of Study” with or without your child’s grade level
  • Read the World Book Encyclopedia’s typical course of study, or look at it online at http://www.worldbook.com/typical-course-of-study
  • Read through your school division’s curriculum scope and sequence
  • Go to resource fairs and homeschool conferences
  • Talk to other homeschoolers
  • Join homeschool e-mail lists / read homeschool blogs
  • Look through catalogs
  • Read the Virginia Standards of Learning (but you don’t have to follow them)

You don’t need to pay much attention to grade levels when you’re looking at a typical course of study.  Start first by looking at the grade your child would attend at school, but also look at the grades behind and ahead. You’ll likely find that your child is at different grade levels in different subjects, and that the skills listed at a given grade vary depending on what resource you’re using.  What you’re looking for is a sense of what skills and topics usually follow the material your child has already mastered. An older child or teen can help identify areas of interest and future study.

 If your child has been learning at home with you all along, you probably have a pretty good idea of what he or she already knows.  You can likely read through a list of skills for different subject areas and check off the things your child has already learned and what may need some more work. If you’re not sure, you can ask a few questions or have your child work a few sample problems to find out. If your child has been attending school and you’re embarking on homeschooling, it may take you a little while to get a feel for their current knowledge. A placement test might be a useful tool for an older child coming out of school, especially in math. Many textbook providers offer placement tests; some are available online at no charge.

 Homeschooling allows a child to move at an appropriate pace in each subject—and your child may move more quickly in some subjects and more slowly in others. There is no need to force a child to a specific grade level in each subject by pushing in some areas or holding back in others. Children learn on different timetables; some children learn to read seemingly on their own at young ages and others take more time or need more help. Some years you may make fast progress in math or science or history, with several “grades” worth of material mastered; other years may have a different focus. You can adjust your plans as you go along to make sure you are meeting your goals for a balanced education and appropriate progress.

 It can be useful to separate what you’d like your child to learn from how you’d like them to learn it.  For example, you might want to enroll your son in piano lessons because you want him to learn music theory and the skill of playing an instrument, not to mention the artistic value of creating beautiful music.  When you execute this plan, though, you might find that lessons don’t go well– he doesn’t want to practice, the learning isn’t happening, and the music isn’t beautiful.  It might be that your son wants to learn how to play the guitar– it’s the strings that call to him– and he can learn the what of music theory, instrument skills, and beautiful music with a how that appeals to him– a guitar.

 Your child’s interests and strengths can help you decide how to work on the skills and topics you’ve selected and give you some guidance in what sorts of materials may work the best.

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