Styles, Methods & Curriculum

"Legal Issues & Concerns" highlights how you determine what the laws are in your state.
"Getting Started" gives ideas about how the important issue you may want to consider before you take the plunge.
"Curriculum" describes how to determine the "method" you'll use in your homeschool.

There are many ways to educate your children at home and no single way is best. You can have "school-at-home" or you can find the way to make your children responsible for their own education. People are horrified when they hear that my student is responsible for his own education, but that's really the bottom line isn't it? To set your student on his own path to academic success? How you do that can involve one, or many methods. Curriculum is only a small piece of the challenge. Attitude is what you will find is the main ingredient to successful homeschooling. Get your student interested and invested in his own personal academic outcome.

I found that there are four elements in getting your student interested and invested in his own personal academic outcome. These elements add up to your "method". It's not really all that complicated, but these four items are important:

1. Recognize how your student learns
2. Recognize how you learn
3. Determine the best style to present opportunities for your student to learn.
4. Take on the role of mentor and let your gifted student be the student and the teacher.


learning styles

homeschool "styles"
keeping school records
high school transcipts

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Experience has shown me that knowing the dominant learning style and personality type of your gifted student is one of the most important elements to your homeschooling “method”. The next important element is knowing your own dominant learning style and personality type. They may not match your student’s and that can come into play when you are the mentor for your gifted homeschooler.

OK, you’re not sure what learning styles are. The key word back there was “dominant”, your gifted student will slide into many of these styles and personalities on a daily basis. It’s the dominant style and personality that you’ll need to learn to deal with. I think that psychologists will tell you that there are ways to test, or determine the dominant learning style and personality of your student, we had the tests done and they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about my student. The tests just gave me the “labels” I needed to research further. If you are comfortable with testing and can afford it, do it. If you are willing to go with what you already know about your student, you’re probably going to be accurate in your own assessment. Either way, find out what your student’s learning style is!

[Read more about Learning Styles  & Assessments ]


If you look the word curriculum in a dictionary you find the following definition:

Pronunciation Key (k-rky-lm)
n. pl. cur·ric·u·la (-l) or cur·ric·u·lums
1. All the courses of study offered by an educational institution.
2. A group of related courses, often in a special field of study: the engineering curriculum.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

There's really only two paths you can take with curriculum. You can buy one and follow it or you can invent your own.

You Can Buy a Curriculum
There are some many curriculums for sale that it would be impossible to list them all here these days. I haven't been able to find one that suits our needs, so we invent our own.

You Can Invent Your Own Curriculum
Eventually, you will want to assemble some sort of curriculum plan on your own. As swell as the ones are that you can buy, for your gifted student, you'll find that somehow you'll need to "tweak" what you buy. There are many books and websites available that can help you with what your student should know. But is it what your student wants to know? Is it what your student needs to know to go where he wants to go?

[ Preview our course of study or build your own curriculum ]

Whatever You Do - Keep Records!

You'll hear homeschoolers get into discussions about "how" they homeschool. Some people are even fanatical about this, with gifted students, you'll only need to be fanatical about your own personal sanity in this adventure. I have found with my bright kid, "how" tends to vary - a lot. However, homeschool styles that you hear other homeschool families discuss can help you determine how to help you operate your life while you home educate a gifted student. For example, "unschooling" can translate to "relax, it will work out" in the gifted home educator's realm, and eclectic can mean, "well, that worked yesterday". But seriously, homeschool styles can help you manage the method you choose to present topics and ideas to your bright student.
Style Links
The Family Unschoolers Network
Radical Unschooling

Learn in Freedom
Unschoolers Unlimited (Connecticut, USA)

Eclectic Eclectic Home Schooling on the Web
Waldorf National: Waldorf Home School
Charlotte Mason

Democratic The Sudbury Valley School
  Classical Education The Well-Trained Mind



Homeschool Co-Ops

The Homeschool co-op is a great way to share the work and expertise! There are many ways to form a co-op and no two ways are the "same" or "right".

Umbrella schools - "Defined simply as schools that help homeschoolers homeschool – come in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Most are private; many are Christian; an increasing number specify no religious worldview. Some are highly structured; others boast complete flexibility with respect to what your teenager learns, how he learns, and when he learns it." (by Cafi Cohen)
Homeschool Community Learning Centers - "In the last two or three years local homeschooling networks have started providing themselves with a new form of learning social institution. They don't yet even have a universal name. To start examining them we could call them "Cooperative Community Life-Long Learning Centers (CCL-LLCs)." These community centers are cooperatively owned and controlled by the member families they serve. They provide counseling, mentoring, supplies, facilities, workshops and classes. Most importantly they use all aspects of the community for education." by Bill Ellis Read more. (From Creating Learning Communities)

CO-OP Resources Co-Op Curriculums, a business started by Cathryn Lewis and Linda Barrett, is the result of over 27 years of combined homeschooling and Co-Op experience!


Why Keep Records
It is important to keep good records of your child's homeschooled years. Homeschool record keeping can be as important as the course of study that you choose. Well-documented records could potentially become critical at some point in your future. Sometimes this documentation is required for school officials, application for enrollment in a new school, legal matters, or possible family matters. Stay on top of your record keeping so that if you ever need them, everything will be in order.

Some states require that a record be maintained of school work completed during the year under existing homeschooling laws. Other states require only that you track the number of days spent, and average number of hours per day. Still others require no records at all. Tracking your students' progress and work completed is a small task when done regularly on a daily or weekly basis. Attempting to document what was accomplished during weeks or months past can be a monumental effort. Journal records documenting what was done and what was learned can be extremely valuable to you as the teacher and your students when assessing goals and accomplishments.

Reasons to Keep Records
Being Prepared and Organized in how your home and homeschool operates is the key to sanity! Organization helps you to mentally prepare your presentation of lesson work on a daily basis.
Documented Evidence
Proof that "education" is taking place. Who would want or have good reason to know this? College? Grandparents? School officials? Legal/Court? Applying for a scholarship?
Nostalgic Value
Records of this nature enable you to hold onto memories, parents' or kids,' giving you something to reminisce with in years to come.
Progress Evaluation
This type of tool helps you see where you've been and what has been accomplished and mastered so you can re-evaluate where you're going and what to do next, what to emphasize, and what to eliminate.
See and know the overall picture of where you're headed; Record keeping helps keep your student headed in the direction where you both want to go. Helps you verify that your child is equipped and prepared for the future they are destined for.
Portfolio Material
These are items that can be part of or included in a creative, well-presented, well-rounded portfolio. You want it to represent your student's progress, accumulated knowledge, and/or expertise in a particular area.

How to Keep Records
You basically need to keep 2 kinds of files. The General Student File contains basic administrative materials. The School Year File contains academic and attendance materials and is kept on a yearly basis.

Tips for Record Keeping
It's easier to do your quarterly progress reports and/or report cards if you keep a daily journal of some sort. Record keeping doesn't have to be complicated. Simple records are fine, just be consistent.

Record Keeping -- In a Nutshell

General Student File
Obtain your child's cumulative (cum) file from the public or private school they previously attended if you are withdrawing or did withdraw your student from public school. Place it in this file. Keep any correspondences regarding your student’s withdrawal, including the certified mail receipts. Start this file or portfolio if your child is just beginning to home school. Keep you child's health and immunization records in this file. Use this file to house school year files from previous years. Keep transcripts in this file.

School Year File Contents:

1. Annual Homechool Notification
This is the method you use in your state to notify the Public School system that you are going to be homeschooling your children. Keep any letters or other correspondences from the district. Always use certified mail, keep these receipts as well. Make a couple of copies of what you receive from Public School system in response to your notification to keep with you for discounts and other places where you may need proof that you are legally home schooling.

2. Course Survey
Keep a course of study (course survey) on file for each year. A course survey is a list of the subjects that will be taught and what materials will be used to teach each subject. This can be an overview or a detailed survey.

3. Attendance records
This can be accomplished by keeping a school calendar of the days and hours your child "attends" school.

4. Progress Report
It is helpful to keep a record of the child's progress in each subject. You can do this as a progress report or a report card. If your child is high school level, you'll need to begin a high school transcript. Keep samples of your child's work. You might also like to keep a record of books your child has read.

5. Extra Curricular
Keep copies of anything pertaining to athletic, music, dance, artistic and scholastic activities that may be viewed by outsiders to your school as "extra curricular". Keep documentation of community service and other volunteer projects.

Examples of Record Keeping Tools
All of the items contained here are tools that you may or may not choose to use. I have used them and have developed my own "record-keeping-system" using these tools. You may develop your own record-keeping-system from the ideas here.

  School Calendars

There are many ways to keep s school calendar. You will tailor your "school time" to how you work.

A Daily Log
Use a daily log to comment on progress, as an attendance record. There are many ways to document your school week.

A Weekly Calendar or Plan
This is an example of how to outline your school week. There are many ways to plan your school week. You may not necessarily stick to a plan at all, but a plan none-the-less helps! [Example - PDF Download]

A Quarter Plan
This is an example of a quarter plan. A quarter plan helps you determine the duration and number of times a subject occurs in a week, the total hours you need to plan for and the school year boundaries you will present the subject. [Example]

A Credit Hours chart

A credit hour chart can help you plan the total hours a student spends on a subject. This helps you determine credit hours for a transcript. [Example - PDF Download]

Course Surveys

A Course Survey Overview
Outlines briefly what you intend to present through out the school year. Generating a survey at the beginning of the year can help you plan what you intend to teach. Typically the course survey will vary at the end from what you wrote originally. It's fun to keep the "original" and an updated version to see how the game changes as your student does. [Example]

In some states, you are required to submit a plan of what you intend to teach. A course survey overview suffices that requirement. You will need a more detailed course survey for transcript or portfolio purposes.

A Detailed Course Survey
Can help with creating transcripts and portfolios. In this type of survey, you go to a higher level of detail in your planning. Optionally you can include a book list of your intended texts. It is important to update a detailed course survey throughout the year so you have an accurate record of what you did. [Example] Read more about my own course surveys [here].

  Progress Report A progress report outlines your progress. It states what you did and sometimes, how well you did it. [Example]
  Grade Sheets
Grade sheets keep track of how well the work was done. They can be a worthwhile measure of the teacher's work too! You can make tests, or you can evaluate the work done. A grade book is a cumulative record keeping that helps you generate a report card. [Example]
  Class Syllabus

A syllabus is an outline of a course. It is useful in reminding you what you plan to present, or as a record of what you did present. We develop our own study guides that contain a syllabus, the list of resources and activities we want to do.[ Example ]




Portfolio & Transcripts

Preparing for a portfolio review involves sorting through all of the material that has been collected through the year and deciding what contents will best reflect the homeschool year.

A Portfolio
A portfolio review, is one way annual assessments are done is some states. There is no right or wrong way to create a portfolio. The materials contained in a portfolio are decided by the parents and student. Material chosen should be varied to reflect what the student has learned, experienced and accomplished. Items you might include are:

1. A journal or "School Calendar" which notes activities and attendance.

2. A list of resources such as books, computer software, and field trips. Attach or blend this list into your "Course Survey" for the year. Attach a list of the books read by the student to the "course Survey" (be sure this list has the title and author's name).

3. Samples of the student's work, chosen by the student and parents. make sure these samples represent the subjects you studied.

4. Photos of field trips, artwork, projects and family life. Generate a "Yearbook".

5. Information, letters of notification and awards from activities "outside" the home school.

6. Standardized test scores, if you do testing. Your assessment measures grades, or progress report (one or both).

Preparing for a portfolio review involves sorting through all of the material that has been collected through the year and deciding what contents will best reflect the homeschool year. The purpose of the review is to provide a general overview of the homeschool year, demonstrate that the child is engaged in homeschooling and that progress is being made.

(Returning to Public School or for High School)
Transcripts may be required for college entrance or for re-entry back into the public or private school system. You can generate your own transcripts from your homeschooling records. The example I have shows the elements of a transcript and how to keep track of "credit hours".


We also have a page dedicated to keeping records in High School for college entrance here: [High School Record Keeping]



The diploma, promotion or honor roll certificate you issue in your home school is just as valid and represents the same work (if not more) than what you might receive from a "school".

Download your own to print and present! (PDF files)

Graduation Diploma
Promotion Certificate
Honor Roll Certificate

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