When we made the decision to home educate, one of the things that we considered to be important to Damian and I was that we didn’t disadvantage the children. It may seem like an obvious thing but we wanted to make sure that, should our circumstances change, and the children needed to enter the school system, we wanted to ensure they were at more or less the stage they would be at, had they been schooled from day one. We didn’t want them to enter the school environment behind their peers.
We don’t follow the national curriculum by any stretch of the imagination, we tend to follow a project-based style of work. Using projects that the children suggest, we focus our study into short pieces of work and that seem to work well for us at the moment and it enables me to work a range of skills into the things we are doing. That said, we do, as I have written before, follow a structure for maths and, to a lesser extent, English.
One of the things that I have found useful is the Core Knowledge Books. I saw these on Shelly’s blog and they sounded like the sort of thing that I might find useful. I have, so far, got the Year one and Year 2 books. I don’t follow these to the letter, but I do find them helpful in terms of me checking that we are on track for the core subjects and it gives me ideas for what to do in other subjects when we are in between other things. It also gives me confidence that I am delivering a broad curriculum for the children.
The books are really clearly set out and cover a range of subjects:
- Language & Literature
- History & Geography
- Visual Arts
I have found them to be really good for looking at things that might be age appropriate to cover with the children. For instance, I find history a real struggle; it’s a subject I loved as a child but I can’t seem to find a good way that works for teaching history to the children. We have tried a few bits and pieces but it’s not been something that has grabbed their attention in the way I had hoped. I have some ideas from the Year one book to cover with the children in the coming weeks and finding suitable materials has been fairly easy as I’ve had some key phrases to use to search resources sites with.
The same goes for art – there are lots of really good ideas for talking about art – things that you would probably have naturally covered anyway, but I personally find it useful to have this reference that I can prep from before we cover a lesson. Having the images in the book that it references makes things easier too.
In the music and the language and literature sections that are resources such as stories, poems and songs and these have been great as starting points for talking with the children. Having the suggested text to hand is really helpful as I know that in those moments when there’s some time to fill then I can pick the book up and I have something we can talk about.
As I noted above, I find the books reassuring. I’ve been worried about Maths but having these books as a reference tool gives me a framework to work within. D is confident and secure in most of the year 1 areas and is doing well with a number of the year 2 areas. I like that it gives me a really easy reference point and lots of ideas and language for the areas that he might be struggling in.
I have planned a few bits using the Year one book; mostly our work in Geography when we looked at continents. This work is ongoing and we will pick up on some of the continents we have yet to cover over the coming weeks. The book gave me lots of ideas about how to build on their existing geography knowledge in a logical and clear way.
The books also build on information year on year, so, for instance, the Year 2 book introduces the systems in the body, but builds on this in later books. I find it helpful to know what is expected knowledge; sometimes the children struggle with some ideas and concepts when we are chatting, and that’s OK. Some of the things we talk about are big ideas. These books offer alternative ways of explaining things, but also show me how to build on the things we are chatting about.
The Core Knowledge books aren’t necessary for home educators, but I think, for any parent of school-age children they are a really useful and helpful guide as to what your child might be learning and offer lots of ideas for teaching a wide range of interesting subjects. I’ll share my planning for E’s year 1 and D’s Year 2 in a few months time and much of it will be based on these books.
Often I hear those new to home education, or those in the midst of the famous ‘home ed wobble’ voice concerns at not really doing enough, or not covering the right things. These core knowledge books are a reassuring resource and one that has been well used by us so far. I purchased my copies cheaply from second-hand sellers, but they seem to be readily available via Amazon and are, in my opinion, well worth the RRP.