So how does this work, anyway?

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3 years ago, a 30-minute conversation convinced me that I would home school my daughter though the preschool years (read more about that here).  I’ve spent countless hours since then daydreaming about what our curriculum might look like.

My husband tells me the word curriculum is jargon, and asked what exactly it means. Maybe he’s not the only non-educator reading. Or, maybe he is (hi honey!). Either way, I think it’s appropriate to clarify here what I mean by “curriculum.” When I think about curriculum, I’m thinking of a course of study – general concepts that we will address and a general structure within which we’ll address them. A curriculum gives some guidance as to the direction that will be taken, but does not necessarily define an outcome and leaves room for interpretation and flexibility in terms of the specific path taken.

3 years ago I knew – as both an educator and a parent – that I didn’t know enough yet to begin planning lessons, specific activities that would take place. I knew that the goals of our learning would be influenced by my daughter’s interests and abilities, as well as family decisions (such as budget and what type of kindergarten she might attend) that we hadn’t made yet. So… I focused my daydreaming over the past few years on a curriculum structure. How would I organize our learning in a way that was flexible, yet emphasized skills and content I believed were important for a preschool student?

As I thought about the curriculum structure, I also thought about you. Yes, you. Remember, this project was always intended as both a professional and personal exercise. While it’s important that the curriculum I develop is appropriate for and responsive to my daughter’s needs, it’s also important that it’s flexible enough to meet the needs of other people’s children and the goals of other families.

So, my goals in developing curriculum were:

  1. Flexible enough to meet both our needs and the needs of many children and their families.
  2. Structured enough to give guidance to planning of specific lessons
  3. Able to prepare preschool students for a variety of “next steps” – various kindergarten settings, another preschool, home school, etc.
  4. Interesting – for both the parent/teacher and the child.

What did I come up with? Something I’m really excited about – you’re going to be hearing a lot about it over the coming weeks and months… here goes:

Every 1-2 weeks, Betsy and I will be exploring one place in our city. These places might be as simple as the bank or grocery store. They include free, omnipresent spaces like parks. They’ll include events like concerts. We will also take advantage of some of the many resources – like zoos museums and aquariums – that we’re lucky enough to have access to in a major city. I have a list of over 30 destinations so far and the vast majority will be available to families in all types of communities – urban, suburban and rural.

Prior to each visit, we’ll utilize the resources at our local library and prepare for our trip by reading applicable books – both fiction and non-fiction. I’ll also work towards involving Betsy in additional aspects of the planning. My hope is that by the end of her preschool experience she’ll feel comfortable creating a simple budget, choosing a mode of transportation to use, and creating a plan for how to use our time during each of our outings, with support from me. This will obviously take some time and scaffolding (don’t worry… I’ll walk you through that on the pages of this blog!).

The goals of each outing will vary. Some will have a specific, strong curriculum focus in terms of content and skills to work on. Others will be more open-ended. I have ideas about how I’ll address concepts related to science, math, the arts, literacy and social studies. I’ve also considered skills that are important for preschoolers to learn, such as writing their own name. I’ll talk a lot on this blog about the thought process, and professional decision making, that takes place during each of our outings. I’ll also provide you with some insight into how to best approach outings with your students to maximize learning in a way that is developmentally appropriate.

Finally, after each visit, we’ll reflect on our experiences. Betsy and I will both engage in some sense-making activities. We’ll draw and write about what we experienced, review pictures, and talk through how we can apply the learning. I’ll, of course, use blogging as a primary mode of reflection.

So, the cliff notes version:

  • About once each week we’ll visit a key destination… Our “tour” if you will.
  • In preparation for that visit, we’ll check out related books from the library.
  • After the visit, we’ll do some reflective activities, including journaling.

Please let me know what you think in the comments. Does the curriculum I’ve described excite you as much as it does me? Can you envision leading this type of learning with your preschool aged child?

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