Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - July/August 1995

The Moore Foundation, Box 1, Camas, WA 98607

Curriculum is An Individual Matter

by Dorothy Moore

Probably the greatest overall advantage in home education is its opportunity for flexibility in learning. Even though you may not verbally plan it that way, it inevitably reflects your real philosophy (your reasons for homeschooling), your goals, your resources and your methods. This does not necessarily mean that you will be successful, but it does mean that you have decided on a program that you are certain will fulfill your children's needs.

Some of you go to book fairs and because you are religious and want your children to be, you buy religious books. But will these religious textbooks make your children religious? Some of you believe that if your children were in second and fourth grade last year, you must buy third and fifth grade books. Will this ensure that they succeed in their grades? Some children survive on standard, structured programs of textbooks and workbooks and appear to be successful in conventional schools or we wouldn't see so many school book companies at homeschool book fairs. But what does this do to their creativity, versatility and thinking skills? The main problem in these scenarios is that the individuality of the child is not considered.

It reminds me of my last classroom experience with a fifth grade in a public school in Southern California. I was teaching several Hispanic children who did not speak English at home and achieved at a first grade level. I also had a few children who were operating at a high school level. And some were at all levels in between. Even though that was what was expected of me as their teacher, did I use all fifth grade books? No way, if I wanted them to do their best. I went to our well-stocked book room and found materials for each child's level. A basic premise in education, whether remedial or not, is: Start where the child is, move forward at his pace and help all to have success experiences every day.

Sadly, I didn't have the variety and versatility in materials that we at the Moore Foundation have been able to accumulate. Nor did I know children individually as a mother does. But I did my best for my thirty children as many teachers in conventional schools do every day. May only regret was that my best was dismal compared to what any loving, committed mother or father with ordinary education, ability and skills can do with low stress and low cost at home.

So what then should be the basis for your curriculum plan? Your philosophy (reasons for homeschooling) and your goals for your child may be your own and as a parent, that is your right. But if you want highest character, creativity and achievement, your resources and your methods must be tailored for each individual child.

You may remember an article written by Ed Dickerson of Iowa which was printed in the MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL a few months ago on "Feet, Shoes, and Shoehorns." He compared a conventional curriculum for a nine-year-old boy to a shopping spree for "nine-year-old boy shoes." When the salesman tries to fit the shoes from a shoe box clearly labeled "nine-year-old boy shoes," we find that they don't fit. So we conclude that the boy's foot is defective or even that the salesman is not skillful enough with the shoehorn. Since children's minds and personalities vary even more than their feet, common sense tells us that we will not do the best for them when we try to fit the child into a prefabricated curriculum instead of one that is tailor-made for him.

The first thing we need to determine is the readiness of each child. We usually think of age and maturity as vital. Private and public education make serious mistakes here, as evidenced by many children in special education who are not learning disabled, but merely learning delayed or learning different. Do read our book, Better Late Than Early to avoid serious errors with your child.

Readiness, as a principle, however, is not limited to early education. Success in mastering any subject comes faster and better when the individual has the readiness necessary. For example, it may require a prerequisite learning like competence in math before going into engineering. Other times, it might require some physical ability, before mastering any sport. But in every case it demands a certain motivation. When our son wanted to learn to ski, they said he was the first one on the ski slopes in the morning and the last one in at night. And he learned to be an expert skier. Remember this even in dealing with an older child, perhaps one who has been burned out with unsuccessful schooling.

The young child under 8 to 10 years who has been properly trained to work and serve in the home and has not been spoiled by television and other self-serving activities is generally eager to learn. His questions are evidence of that. But don't interpret this motivation as readiness for formal school. To maintain this motivation is vital. He indeed is ready to learn but only in the area of his ability, interests and aptitudes. Many parents kill motivation by pressuring young children with formal materials which are not compatible with these basic principles.

Rarely will you find a child who doesn't like to be read to, spend time with you in your work or explore with or without you in the back yard. In these areas you can't make a mistake. If a child asks what words say or wants to write his name or other words, help him. Yet just because he expresses an interest, don't take that as a signal to get him a reading or writing book or start him on a heavy phonics program. It's when we impose our ideas of what to learn on a child that we likely get into trouble. As long as it is his idea and he shows continued interest, there is no problem. However, this is entirely different from allowing a child to do whatever he wants. Don't confuse readiness with proper discipline.

So read Bible stories, nature stories, biographies   only the best books to him, share your work with him and allow him to spend lots of time outdoors exploring things of nature. And when he is older, remember the same principles. Use his interests and aptitudes to lead him into motivation for reading, writing, math, science and social studies and find the easiest way to accomplish the skills he needs. Why agonize over the traditional way, when a game will accomplish the same thing with pleasure or at least painlessly. That is why we handle Math-It, Winston Grammar, Game-Way to Phonics and real books about people and events instead of textbooks. The emphasis in homeschool should be doing real things and reading real books for the simple reason that these are the things children normally do without any pressure from anyone, provided their time is not occupied with too many sports, television and computer games.

That doesn't mean that we never use a textbook, especially in a sequential program like math, but we are still concerned that children often do not have the basic understanding of numbers which is developed over several years of experience with real money, games and mental arithmetic as a prerequisite to formal math. Many math teachers agree with research that indicates formal math should come much later than it usually does   even to junior high school. I think of the time a mother sent us a note with the return of Saxon 54 explaining that her 9   -year-old daughter had had only informal experience with numbers, including Math-It and other games as found in Ruth Beechick's An Easy Start in Arithmetic (one of three books in Beginner's 3R's) and she thought Saxon 54 would be "just right." But, she said, "It is too easy. Could you please exchange this for Saxon 65?"