We are very Canadian-focused! When we first began homeschooling our oldest child, I began with an American curriculum that taught the alphabet as “A is for Alligator”. We stopped learning phonics for that day because I had to spend time answering her question, “Mommy, what’s an alligator?” Would she see one? Not likely. We live in Canada. Was it relevant to her life? How much could we accomplish in teaching a skill, especially if would continue to be distracted away from the original purpose of a lesson? Did this confuse or confirm a concept in my child’s brain?
Please understand that there ARE some great publishers of curriculum in America (USA). However, I have often found that their examples can sometimes be so irrelevant or overly proud of their country that it hinders my children’s speed at learning what is more important to them here in Canada – it delays them. And I don’t have extra time especially when I have young children, to spend discussing American life which they can learn about later – in its own context or a better frame of reference. (Yes, PSLC does provide a lesson about alligators – but it is in animal science under “reptiles”.) I really like to use Canadian examples or at least, something that is meaningful to both countries – let’s say “A is for Apple” – an item that a child here can touch and see on a regular basis. Let’s make a lesson stick the first time because it is so relevant and builds on what a child already knows to be true! (Then we can have more time in our day to learn lots of other stuff if we’re not constantly repeating the real point of a lesson or being delayed because we have to explain an American thing or figure out a substitute example for our children.)
For content, I like to begin with what a child knows and then expand knowledge from there. Doing this builds confidence and helps schooldays flow more smoothly. I also value exposing children to a broad range of subject areas and topics in order to touch their palette with lots of interesting things. These 2 ideas are similar to how I was taught in the public school system in the 1980’s. (BTW, I usually had non-boring, caring teachers too!)
Two things to remember here about how PSLC curriculum is presented. One, learning gaps are a pet peeve of mine so I wanted to be comprehensive enough for my own children (the initial students I wrote/am writing for). And two, I developed them based on my perspective/worldview, educational background, and creativity.
Because we have a goal of providing broad-based yet comprehensive, practical yet academic resources for Canadians, we do aim to meet or exceed the topics/knowledge and skills for much of the Canadian Ministry of Education standards as I viewed them when I began writing our first editions (e.g. 1995-2008). Most of the time, I strongly considered Ontario’s standards as I designed the lessons; the other provinces/territories/states have similar concepts to learn in approximately the same grades for elementary. (Note: The last time I checked my province’s website briefly to see what had changed in more recent standards, I didn’t notice any significant changes to worry about so I’m not planning to continually update my curriculum in any big way to meet new standards. Oh, I might change around some graphics, layouts, and fonts or minor text changes, but the concepts and skills of what I learned as a student and/or what I’ve taught my children are quite satisfactory in my opinion. On any sub-topic that customers think is missing or incomplete, they’d do what teachers do often and that is to supplement it with another resource or their own ideas.)
Q: Why do you try to follow the educational standards set forth by a secular government in your curriculum?
- Home educating teaching parents make a commitment to be responsible for the academic education for their children and in doing so, give a strong impression to the government that the education provided at home will meet or exceed expectations in skills and knowledge covered. Of course, there must be the flexibility to choose various methods, resources, perspectives, timing, etc. of how that is accomplished and the opportunity of teaching extra subjects our individual families deem important (e.g. music, sports, phonics, spelling, penmanship, agriculture, handcrafts) but the commitment does indicate that the home schooled children will receive an equivalent or better education in the academics from the parents.
So, may we encourage you to teach good reading skills and how to express oneself effectively through writing. Keep up with upper level math skills and science topics beyond just a nature study or only learning the four operations (+, -, x, ÷). Communicate a good understanding of your own country’s history and geography. Being able to speak/read basic French is a good idea. General computer skills are also a good idea. (In our family, we also add to our days some music and art skills, homesteading-type skills, and other things – in other words, we personalize, our “school-days” include more than just using the resources we sell.)
2. We agree with the idea of a broad-based education. We are aware that many public schools are not effectively meeting the standards themselves but that is no reason for home schoolers to lower good academic goals or drop a whole subject area of science or French in the overall picture of things. While we definitely believe that parents should have the freedom in how things are taught and from what perspective and to add in any subjects of family interest, we do not feel that it is proper for parents to eliminate whole subject areas just because they don’t feel like covering those general topics or just wanted all the time in the world to cover only their “favourite” things. We believe there should be a respectful balance in learning the favourite things as well as general stuff that your government wants all of its citizens to know about. In today’s generation, if a parent is uncomfortable in personally teaching a certain subject, there are many opportunities for providing resources for your student to self-teach or learn from another instructor (e.g. online).
Obviously, if you are just starting out or are in a major transition or family change (e.g. birth, death, moving, major illness), you might need to back off from doing all of the subjects for a period of time, however, it shouldn’t be the year-after-year goal to only cover what is traditionally called the “basics” of only reading/writing/arithmetic if your children are capable of so much more. For today’s generation in Canada, those “basics” also include science. (See this blog post where I explain more about the importance of science.)
A broad-based education is really more refreshing in comparison to a bleak “just the 3R’s” approach.
There is also usually still room to specialize in an area of talent and skill if you have a good broad-based education – one that doesn’t waste your time with a lot of repetitive lessons, trivia, or busywork to take up time. We DO encourage you to develop special interests as desired!
3. God has instituted both the family AND the civil government so we think both of these “authorities” need to be considered when one is faced with educational decisions on what to teach for academic skills – not just one of them. (Please note, we specify here “academic skills”.) Yes, we are aware that government “standards” have continued to add perspectives/topics to reflect a more anti-Christian philosophy and these “standards” would NOT be the ones we would encourage anyone to comply with. We firmly uphold that teachers (this includes parents since they are teachers too) should have the freedom to teach a topic from the teacher’s perspective. The above paragraphs refer to the normal skills/topics of traditional academic subjects, and not to the infiltration of anti-God/anti-Bible ideas. In those situations, Acts 5:29 applies.
We don’t feel that there is any good reason to not follow along with the general goals of studies as set forth by our government (other than perhaps to go beyond what their standards are whenever it is reasonable to do so). Simply put, it isn’t “wrong” to follow knowledgeable, secular advice for academics just like it isn’t wrong to follow educated advice when learning any other practical skill like cooking, fixing a tire, sewing, building a house.
For what that Bible teaches Christians to be like in response to a secular government you can further read Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Titus 3:1-2, and 1 Peter 2:13-17.
Q: Does this mean that you think that each child should be matched into a peer-related grade or level and all individually taught?
- Not at all! Homeschooling families OFTEN teach topics in a multi-age group. In fact, multi-age teaching (or guidance with resources on a same topic at the same time) is recommended for some subjects, especially in larger families up to a pre-teen stage. Plus if you have a couple of kids who are reasonably close in age, it can be a lot of fun to pair up to study and do projects similar to one another, even in the teen years.
Something to remember – multi-age teaching of a wide range of ages implies multi-level teaching for most things – that means not keeping your grade 4 kid bored and stuck with a grade 1 sibling’s level!
Exceptions: If you are only removing your child from the public system for a short time (e.g. a year or a few years), then you will want to be preparing for the future by understanding approximately the same topics/skills as the peers. If eventual plans are to attend public education in secondary years or post-secondary, be sure to look ahead as to the level of knowledge expected and try not to cram everything in the last year.
I do put (often a range of) levels or grades on my curriculum book covers so that customers can more clearly choose resources in accordance with abilities and goals for their children. And if they desire to follow Canadian Min. of Ed. standards in their own province/territory, it is easier to find something of an appropriate level of study if levels/grades are marked like this on the curriculum resource.
Personal Note: When I homeschool my children, sometimes, they are learning independently from each other in separate lessons and other times, they are learning together.
- Everyone should recognize that home education is a unique environment and that the sequence of topics plus how in-depth they are studied, should be according to the abilities, interests, and desires of family. And everyone should recognize that education should follow the pace of the student who is trying his or her best to learn. (A few students may need more motivation than others, thus the last part of that sentence.)
One of the great advantages to home education is that a student can learn the same amount of stuff as a peer in a classroom but take a shorter time in doing so. Any of them can usually receive more close attention and help because of the “small class size”. Quick learners aren’t held back as much and can have even more time to develop further interests and skills during the daytime hours.