What should you do when no written curriculum out there meets all your guidelines for a good curriculum? It can be hard to match what our learners need, especially if you need a secular curriculum.
When no written curriculum matches what you need, homeschool teachers can make custom curricula or use a few curricula together to match the needs of your students. To help your students be successful, use multimedia and other resources to supplement the chosen curriculum.
There is no subject I do not design specifically for my child’s needs. When I was first getting into it, I was extremely intimidated. As I have gotten more experienced with it and dove in, it comes easily. But the workload is still huge!
If you want something to say and impress people, let them know you design curricula for your homeschooled child and that they test in the 99th percentile for their age! It wasn’t what I wanted when I started, but I’m thankful I can do this for him.
No Curriculum Works! What To Do Next
There may be many reasons why you can’t find a curriculum that works for your family, but I have found my son’s needs due to disabilities have presented the largest challenge, along with ensuring he is getting a secular education.
Many curricula designed particularly for homeschooling contain a Christian worldview. And that works well for many families, but I want to ensure my son receives a rounded education with information from as many perspectives as possible. Not leaving out Christians, but not teaching from the perspective of that religion either.
Secular options do have fewer choices, but even less is the specifics of a particular disability. In my case, I need a self-directed, online program that utilizes videos and print, has no fine motor activities, no writing on paper, and is engaging.
You’ll have your own requirements, but whatever they are have proven difficult to find.
There are really two options you are looking at: blending curricula or creating one from scratch. It will be easier if two or more curricula can be added together to make a complete program. Writing a curriculum is no small task. If you can find a way to blend a few that already exist, do that.
Blending curricula entails taking two or more and adding them together in a way that meets the students’ needs that cannot be covered with only one. This may also involve adding additional resources that are not a full curriculum by themselves.
Creating your own curriculum is the more difficult path to take, but it is one way to customize the curriculum you teach to be exactly what you need. There are a few things to consider before you go this route, including how much work it is.
To create your own, you will check state standards and decide what you will cover.
Then, order the materials that you will need to create the curriculum. These are resources for you and not to teach with directly.
You will need to decide how to plan if you will do unit studies, term length, year-long studies, and a few other things. Then divide the subjects into sections of the area you will cover.
And the last step is to make a daily plan.
It is not an easy task, and I will personally work very hard to avoid creating something entirely from scratch, but it is often the only way forward.
Blending Curricula VS Writing Curricula
When you look for a curriculum in a subject, and there are many you like, but for one reason or another, it will not work for your child, you may consider whether you could blend it with another rather than creating it from scratch yourself.
Blending a curriculum involves purchasing one or more curricula and making a plan to include each of them. This may involve several full curricula or one curriculum plus a supplement to fill in the blanks of needs.
Creating your own from scratch involves finding the information that should be covered, creating your own schedule, and finding or creating your own teaching resources.
I don’t think I’m alone in preferring blending curriculum to create it on my own. And even the creation of a curriculum usually involves using resources available for supplements.
How To Blend Curricula For Special Needs Students
First, consider what you are looking for in a curriculum. Secular or Religious? Format of information delivery? Format of work? Curriculum velocity?
After you consider what you want and what you like from what you have found, see if there are things you can do to add to it or change something about what is there to make it work for your child.
For example, if you really like how a math curriculum works, but worksheets for practice don’t work, use the curriculum for the teaching part and then find or create games or other ways to practice that work better than worksheets.
There are many ideas out there for fun games, there are also many websites and apps that have math practice that makes it a bit more enjoyable.
By keeping the bulk of the curriculum and changing what doesn’t work, you will only need to customize part of the curriculum, making your job much easier than starting from scratch.
How To Create Your Own Curriculum For Special Needs Students
When a student has multiple needs, especially when they are not typical, it can lead you directly into creating your own curriculum. You may decide that no curricula work well enough that you can change parts of it to be suitable, and you need to customize the entire thing.
I’ve put together a step-by-step guide to how I approach curriculum planning.
Check State Standards
The first thing I check on when creating a curriculum is what the expectations are for the grade they are in. Some things I’ll throw to the side; others I will cover in much more depth than required. The younger the student, the more flexibility you will have. For example, high school students have very strict descriptions of what they must cover.
Most people think “Common Core” refers to a new way of teaching, but it is a set of standards that students should learn at each grade. This means that if a student finished grade 3 in Delaware and moved to California, they would have completed the same requirements.
Not all states have adopted it, but most have. The ones that have not developed their own state standards. You need to check your state requirements and see the state academic standards. Click here to check on the standards for your state.
Decide What You Will Cover
After you have the standards of what you are expected to cover in that subject and that year, decide what you would like to cover.
For example, if you are working on 4th-grade social studies, the state standards may focus on the history of the state you live in. You may decide they are not ready for it, or you may have already covered it. So instead, you may decide to cover Early American History with some coverage of state history.
Use the standards to guide, but you don’t need to take them as what you will literally cover like a public school teacher.
Order Materials To Design The Curriculum
After you have decided what subject to cover, order some materials to guide you in curriculum preparation. These are not materials that you will use to teach the student, they are to guide you in the creation.
How much to order depends on your familiarity with the subject. If you are trained in science, you may not need to order materials to prepare a course on biology. In that instance, you will already know the areas you need to teach and may already have materials to refresh your memory on the contents of the course.
Don’t go crazy and order course materials like you are taking a college course. The books could be fun and, depending on the subject, it could even be film. You simply need to get a general idea of what to cover and materials to refer back to later.
Choose A Method Of Planning – Planners, Unit Studies, And More
Decide how you will plan. Consider how you work best and how your students work best. Personally, we always go for digital planning. I need something that will be easy to change later on. But I also love the process of paper planners.
Decide what is most important to you and what will fit you best. Look at reviews and take advantage of free trials before firmly deciding on one. Remember you will be using this for the entire school year, or what is left of it.
Then you need to decide what format you will be planning in. It might be best to plan only a few weeks out at first to see how it goes and make what changes you need to.
Unit studies are where you take a specific subject and get immersed in it for a few weeks. This can work really well for ADHD students. Many times this means getting immersed in a few subjects. For example, read books about the seasons, do the science of season change, and cover map skills by looking at season change and how it is different depending on location.
Consider other things that you will need to consider when you are planning, such as how the disabilities will impact planning.
Divide Into Sections
After you see what you need to cover and what you want to cover, break it down into smaller sections.
For example, if you are teaching beginning physics, you might want to cover electricity, forces, gravity, and so forth.
Dividing the subject into smaller parts will help to organize what you need to cover.
Look at how many weeks you have in a year (or how much is left in the year) and look at what you need to teach. Then decide how many weeks you will cover each of the areas that you have written out.
If you decide that you will have two weeks to cover the subject of electricity and you want to do science twice a week, you will have four sessions total to cover everything about electricity. When you go over the materials to cover this subject, you will be able to figure out what is the most important information to cover in the limited time you have.
Make The Daily Plan
Finally, we come to making the actual plan. If you start with this step, you will have the problem of not seeing the forest for the trees. Keeping this as the last step will help keep you from having end-of-the-year concerns that you didn’t get covered what you wanted to.
In the sections you divided, figure out how many sessions you will have to cover each idea and then break it down further into what you will cover.
For the example of electricity, if you have four sessions to cover it and your child’s best way of learning is hands-on activities, think of the four experiments you could do to teach the concepts contained within electricity. You don’t have to design each experiment, there are many books out there with plenty of ideas to pick and choose from.
Whatever you do, make sure that it has some flexibility. If the student gets excited about a concept, you should run with it. If they struggle with the concept, you should spend a long time on the subject. Remember that the beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility of customizing the curriculum to the student, including the time spent.
The Most Important Things About Curricula Creation
Whether you design a curriculum from scratch or blend existing ones together, always consider the student as the string holding everything together.
You must prepare to make changes to your custom-made curriculum, whether in terms of subject, timeline, or how it is taught.
I don’t ever recommend planning a subject taught daily to take longer than 20-30 minutes unless it is a field trip. Even a subject taught twice weekly shouldn’t be planned for longer than 45 minutes. You may end up working on it for longer, but your plan should never be longer than this.
This is mostly for younger students, but even for high school students, plan 30-minute sessions even if it means more than one session a day. It is difficult for anyone’s attention to be held longer than that. Break it up if you need an hour per day of a subject. That may mean planning two sessions per day.
The idea of creating this is to make it easier on the student. Keep the student’s needs stemming from their disability at the forefront and always plan to teach how they learn, whether it’s computer, experiments, running around, or specific and individual instruction.