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Use a rigorous curriculum? Just what do you mean, Rochelle?
What's a rigorous curriculum?
Let's define what rigorous curriculum means. It's a curriculum that's not easy, not comfortable, not your average mamby-pamby stuff.
I'm not talking impossible. I'm not talking tear-inducing rigorous.
I'm referring to the feelings YOU get when you look at the curriculum.
Are you nervous it might be a little too much for your children? Are you unsure if they'll get it? That you can do it?
You want a good balance of doable and scary. It's just like picking a book for your kid to read.
You don't want to hand your 5th grader an easy reader. Your child isn't going to stretch their reading abilities.
You don't hand him a 5" thick book on quantum physics either and expect him to understand everything.
You want a book that's easy enough to give confidence, yet hard enough to push their abilities and stretch their minds.
THIS is what I mean by picking a rigorous curriculum.
Is that clearer now?
But my children... gifted?
I would NOT consider my children gifted.
They're smart, just sometimes I wonder if they know what color the sky is.
I want them to be gifted, but I'll be honest, I probably am to blame for part of it. I haven't pushed them near as hard as I could.
I purchase rigorous curriculum, and have high expectations, but then sometimes, I just don't hold them to it.
And sometimes, yes, I even underestimate them.
What's a homeschool mom to do?
Stop underestimating them. Stop underestimating me!
I resolved to change, to do better, to push push push because ohmygosh, I only have 8 years left with my oldest!!!
Panic time! How in the world am I going to make sure he's ready for college and life in just 8 years.
Someone get the smelling salts, I'm going to pass out.
I sat down with myself, gave myself a good talking to, and started to think.
- What were the areas my kids were struggling in?
- What are they behind in
- What could they do do better in?
- Where do I want them to be at the end of their time homeschooling?
- At the end of this year?
Then I took each piece of curriculum I had and evaluated it based on this clear criteria.
Some things were great, I just needed to enforce it better.
Some things, not so great.
I needed a different science curriculum. I love my Unit Studies, and I will keep doing them, I just find that it's so easy for me to drop things or not do them because I think they'll be too hard, or too time consuming, or whatever the reason.
Or I don't make it challenging enough.
Either way, it's lame.
An easy solution
Then came into my life, The College of William & Mary and their Center for Gifted Children (published by Kendall Hunt).
I saw, "for gifted children," and nearly clicked away, but then I got to thinking....
My daughter loves vegetables because I told her years ago she loved veggies. She proudly walks around telling everyone she loves veggies and she does! She tries every single one of them and eats broccoli.
I loathe broccoli.
The point is-- if I tell my kids they can do this science curriculum, then they may just believe me.
If I tell myself they can as well, then I'll approach it with a higher expectation and better perspective.
Sounds cooky, but guess what, it totally works.
Picking which unit study I'd try first was HARD. I have a 1st, 2nd, and 4th grader (the rest are preschool, toddler, and baby).
My 4th grader was the most behind, my 2nd grader is advanced, and my 1st grader is capable, but struggles with focus.
I picked the grades 2-4 level, What a Find! -- a unit study on archaeology. So cool.
Oh the books are beautiful. They are jam packed with goodness. Instructions, dialogue, examples, problems to solve, documents, assignments, and handouts.
Holy crow, I read the instruction manual the first time and thought, there's no stinking way my children are going to understand this. What am I going to do?
Some of it was hard for me to understand. It's for 2-4th grade! Maybe I'm not that smart after all. :-/
I was determined to prove myself right. My kids could do this! I just needed to give them the chance to try.
I read through the first lesson again and really pondered what it meant until I was comfortable with the topic: systems.
The next morning, I gathered the kids around the table, pulled out our white board and a marker and got started.
I love that they have us talk about a refrigerator, something each of my children are very familiar with (hello, they're sneaking food all the time).
We labeled all the part of the fridge, talked about what it does, what goes in, what comes out, what needs to happen for it to work.
My kids got it! They totally blew me away. Like completely and utterly. My 4 year old was even joining in on the conversation, and sometimes I'm not quite sure she knows her own name.
My 1st grader was 100% involved in the discussion, and so were my older kids.
We brainstormed other systems. They came up with a TON (you can see part of our list to the left of our fridge picture)!
When my 4-year-old named sand as a system, the other kids quickly realized that no, sand is not a system. Using the system parts they just learned, and the new vocabulary, they explained why sand was not a system.
They decided that sand was part of 2 other systems: the desert and ocean.
My Proud Mama tears were shed that day. Inside, of course.
I absolutely adore the problem-based study. It presents a problem to my kids. Since What a Find! is about archaeology, the problems are what an archaeologist would face every day.
Then we brainstorm what we need to know to solve the problems, the materials needed, the information needed, and any other important tidbit.
After that, we go about finding that information, come back, present it, and move forward with the next bit of problem until we are at the final dig where we put it all together.
It's really got my kids thinking, processing, and solving problems. They're getting it and doing fantastically.
I'm feeling more and more confident with their abilities as we go through each lesson. THEY are feeling more confident.
I'm realizing, they can do this. We can do this. I'm profoundly excited and relieved to know that my kids are capable of this high caliber curriculum.
I realized I wasn't pushing them to their full potential. I was staying safe.
Adding in more rigorous curriculum
Once we're done with this unit, we're adding in history and another science unit.
With the remainder of our curriculum and plans for the year I've decided each one will be given the full push. If it's not stretching my kids it's getting the heave-ho.
I only have so much time with each of my babies.
I only have so much time to teach the what they need to be able to do, understand, and know before they're moving out.
I know it sounds dramatic, and maybe I am being a bit dramatic, but we mothers know it's true. We don't have a lot of time even to teach them basic character habits, and as homeschool moms we have an even bigger job in front of us.
Give your curriculum a good thorough going over. What could be improved upon? Where are they struggling? What's not challenging enough?
William & Mary has science, social studies, and language arts curriculum to challenge your kids at just the right level.