Bright Kids at Home - Our Course of Study
When we started homeschooling at 3rd grade level, we used Calvert Curriculum, but quickly found that it was not enough for a highly gifted student. In the early part of 3rd grade I began developing supplemental study guides. 4th grade I hoped would be more substantial but I found as we went along I ended up generating many supplements to Calvert's curriculum. By the end of 4th grade I realized that I needed something "meatier" than what we were getting for our money with Calvert. I had also recognized that my student didn't seem to absorb materials the same way I did. His learning style was different than mine. That made for an interesting path to take. As it turns out, I am a sequential learner and my student is visual spatial. [read about learning styles] "Visual-spatial" was my summer chant between 4th and 5th "grade".
At the fifth grade I started developing our own courses of study, curriculum. For each topic I would research materials, find appropriate books, videos, activities and then make a roadmap of the journey we intended to take in that subject. I put these plans into a syllabus-like format so that they were easy (for us) to use and I ended up calling them our study guides.
Now, I don't mean to belittle the value of a purchased curriculum because for some they can be a great resource. But what you have to look at is is the idea that even though it may be a resource for mom (or dad), it may be a nightmare for the student. In our case it was a nightmare for my student in many ways, but a blessing is specific ways. This gets back to the idea of knowing how your student learns and knowing how you learn [let me read about this idea]. The nightmares were that we had to do certain things by certain times and some of the textbooks and workbooks were, well, part of the nightmare. The blessing was the idea that there was a certain structure of flow that my student found comfort in. He liked the idea that there was a certain path or roadmap that directed us.
The key to what I perceive our successes with curriculum is the idea that my student, from really day one, has directed his own course of study. In "Elementary school" years he told me at a high level what he wanted to study, for example how animals live in different places (habitats), how germs grow(biology/chemistry), why some poems rhyme (sigh) and I would find books, videos, classes, field trips I knew would be interesting to my student. In "middle school" years, when it was a topic we were exploring further, my student would be able to give me more specifics in what he wanted to deal with as far as materials and trips. Now that we have reached "high school" level, my student pretty much tells me where his compass is pointed and it is my job, if he hasn't already done so, to find the best and most challenging "stuff" for his pursuits. He gets to review what I am proposing prior to our "school year" starting. Everything I research for each topic for my student, I end up putting in a study guide and a course survey.
know that my student's focus can be pretty intense on certain topics
and this sometimes causes him frustration because he also wants to
move along in other areas too. So this the object of the game in developing
our study guides. Generally I develop one study guide for
each "subject" we are studying. Each guide is specific
enough to take us along a certain path, but is loose enough to permit
a wild tangent into an obtuse topic. "Birddogging" is our
very technical term for the intense pursuit of an obtuse idea. When
I ask my student where he is in our study guide he'll sometimes reply
"birddogging Agave plants today mom" - or whatever the pursuit