Determining Your Method and Developing Curriculum

"Legal Issues & Concerns" Gives ideas about legal issues you may want to consider.

"Getting Started"
Gives ideas about important issues you may want to consider before you take the plunge.

Describes how to determine the "method" you'll use in your homeschool.Outlines organization tools.

There are many ways to educate your children at home and no single way is best. You can have "school-at-home" or you can find the way to make your children responsible for their own education.

People were horrified when they heard that my student was responsible for his own education, but that's really the bottom line isn't it? To set your student on his own path to academic success?

How you do that can involve one, or many methods. Curriculum is only a small piece of the challenge.

I found that there are four elements in getting your student interested and invested in his own personal academic outcome. These elements help you determine your homeschool method. Your method is how you will develop and administer curriculum.

1. Recognize how your student learns.

2. Recognize how you learn.

3. Determine the best way to present opportunities for your student to learn.

4. Take on the role of mentor using organizational tools highlighted on this page to develop a curriculum and then let your student be the student and the teacher.

All of the topics on this page are discussed at length in my books.


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Experience has shown me that knowing the dominant learning style and personality type of your student is one of the most important elements in determining your homeschooling “method”. The next important element is knowing your own dominant learning style and personality type. They may not match your student’s and that can come into play when you are the mentor. You can do a lot of research on this idea, I did, and you'll come up with something very personal for your homeschool.


[ More on learning styles here. ]

You'll hear homeschoolers get into discussions about "how" they homeschool. Some people are even fanatical about this. There are several “established methods” homeschoolers employ and the words “style” and “method” are often used interchangeably when one is describing their method of homeschooling. You’ll eventually learn that your student's “(learning) style” is going to mostly determine your “method”.

We dabbled in most of these methods at one point or another and landed on “Eclectic”:

Well Trained Mind
Charlotte Mason

I found with my bright kid, "how" tended to vary - a lot so we crossed over many of these methods. That's what eclectic implies, a mix of everything that works.

You may find that one of these methods works just fine for you, but does it for your student? Often these methods can come with an entire "curriculum" recommended, have your student preview it. If they are not interested in it, it won't work. It's why we landed on an Eclectic method with a traditional curriculum.


Why Keep Records
As part of developing your curriculum, it is important to remember to keep good records of your child's homeschooled years. Homeschool record keeping can be as important as the curriculum that you choose. Well-documented records could potentially become critical at some point in your future. Sometimes this documentation is required for school officials, application for enrollment in a new school, legal matters, or possible family matters. Stay on top of your record keeping so that if you ever need them, everything will be in order.

Reasons to Keep Records
Being Prepared and Organized in how your home and homeschool operates is the key to sanity! Organization helps you to mentally prepare your presentation of lesson work on a daily basis.
Documented Evidence
Proof that "education" is taking place. Who would want or have good reason to know this? College? Grandparents? School officials? Legal/Court? Applying for a scholarship?
Nostalgic Value
Records of this nature enable you to hold onto memories, parents' or kids,' giving you something to reminisce with in years to come.
Progress Evaluation
This type of tool helps you see where you've been and what has been accomplished and mastered so you can re-evaluate where you're going and what to do next, what to emphasize, and what to eliminate.
See and know the overall picture of where you're headed; Record keeping helps keep your student headed in the direction where you both want to go. Helps you verify that your child is equipped and prepared for the future they are destined for.
Portfolio Material
These are items that can be part of or included in a creative, well-presented, well-rounded portfolio. You want it to represent your student's progress, accumulated knowledge, and/or expertise in a particular area.


All of the topics in this section are discussed in detail, including examples in my books.

How to Keep Records

You need to keep 2 kinds of files.

The General Student File contains basic administrative materials, it is your master file that you ammend each year by including the School Year File.

The School Year File contains academic and attendance materials and is kept on a yearly basis.

Record keeping doesn't have to be complicated. Simple records are fine, just be consistent.


Examples of Record Keeping Tools
All of the items here are tools I used to develop my own "record-keeping-system".

Attendance & School Calendars

A Daily Log

Example of an "at-a-glance" daytimer at Amazon.

Use a calander or a day planner to keep your notes, study topics, outings, deadlines.

(I had a large spiral bound calendar that planned our week where I wrote the items/topics we intended to get to during the week. It was a week at a glance type of calendar.)

A Weekly Calendar

A day timer is also a good idea for your student. It helps with their own personal organization. They can list what they hope to accomplis and keep their own notes.

(To keep my student organized, we used a chart that listed Monday through Friday across the top and the time of day down the left hand side. For each day we populated each box with subject names using as many boxes for the length of time we planned for the topic. This changed for each “semester”. It was a visual attempt to plan each day. Example.

Course of Study

A Course Survey
The course survey is what I used to put on paper all of the topics my student wanted to study in a year. It was the starting point for the year. My student had access to the course survey so he could add or subtract items. It always included the planned list of books and literature that were going to read/use as well. Generally, our course survey was 7-10 pages.

Study Guides
Our study guide (some call this a syllabus) described in detail the topics listed in the Course Survey Overview. It included resources we used and the activities and projects we wanted to accomplish. It also had numbered classes that could be tied to a calendar, which we rarely did, but I was just that organized then. I developed one study guide for each “subject” or topic. Each guide was specific enough to take my student along a certain path, but is loose enough to permit a tangent into an obtuse topic. The collection of these study guides became our course of study for that year.

  Progress Report

A progress report outlines your progress. It states what you did and sometimes, how well you did it. It's easier to produce progress reports and/or report cards if you keep a daily journal of some sort.

I didn't individually grade each bit of work, we addressed problems immediately, rather I gave an overall assessment of how I felt my student did in each topic each semester. Because my student wanted to know how he was doing, I made report cards for him. One version I used is here. This practice in middle school allowed me to readily generate transcripts as we got closer to high school.





Up to the 6th grade, I kept an Annual Summary that listed what we accomplished and where we needed to improve. They were notes for me, but I kept them in case I ever needed them for another purpose. I was opposed to keeping track of “grades”, but my student wanted to know how he was doing. So, as a compromise, as we approached the 6th grade, I began to keep track of “grades”, (progress reports) in addition to my Annual Summary. I generated “report cards” each semester and then blended them with elements from my Annual Summary to create a “Basic Transcript”.

The Basic Transcript was a visual record that showed how I evaluated progress in each subject but it also encapsulated the elements of the Annual Summary that I preserved in more detail from this point forward. Both the Basic Transcript and the Annual Summary became part of The Annual School Year File. When we approached 9th grade, I started keeping more Detailed Transcripts that were used in college admissions.


The diploma, promotion or honor roll certificate you issue in your home school is just as valid and represents the same work (if not more) than what you might receive from a "school". Examples here, here, and here.


There's really only two paths you can take with developing curriculum. You can buy one and follow it or you can invent your own.

You Can Buy a Curriculum
There are some many curriculums for sale that it would be impossible to list them all here these days. I tried one for 3rd and 4th grade. It was a disaster and we stopped midway through 4th grade. I wasn't able to find one that suited our needs, so we invented our own.

You Can Invent Your Own Curriculum
Eventually, you will want to assemble some sort of curriculum plan on your own. As plentiful as the ones are that you can buy for any student, you'll find that somehow for your student you'll need to "tweak" what you buy. There are many books and websites available that can help you with what your student should know. But is it what your student wants to know? Is it what your student needs to know to go where he wants to go?

[ A brief overview of our course of study is here but it is covered in greater detail in my book: ]

Developing a Traditional S.T.E.M. Education: Middle School


Other useful resources:

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