Evaluating Materials for Home Education
© Beverley Paine
When families are just starting out home educating it is very tempting to duplicate the school environment in the belief this will facilitate learning. Many families spend time carefully selecting educational materials which they hope will assist them with the teaching/learning process. Often many of the items chosen will remain unused, or seldom used as the education process unfolds in the home.
School learning and home learning are essentially different and therefor have very different requirements. However, as adults helping children to learn, teachers and parents have similar needs. The following is a list of questions designed to help in the selection of materials for any learning situation, and is especially useful when considering items such as curriculum or specific subject guidelines.
- Is it (the material contemplated) impressively whole/comprehensive/ well integrated with a carefully planned development?
- Will the content usefully extend the child's world (and therefor be at the child's existing level of understanding with extension possible, offering them interesting experiences rather than mechanical exercises)?
- Will it communicate, and make sense, to the children? (and adult!)
- Does the material include useful teaching/ learning aids?
- How willing will the adult be to spend time with the material - is the information within it easily accessible and easy to implement, is it attractive to the adult?
- Does it really provide more than any other source, including what the adult could provide from existing knowledge, materials already on hand?
- Does it comprehensively serve a definite purpose (need)?
- Does it offer plenty of material from which to select purposefully in trying to fulfil the aim of extending the child's world?
- Does it use clear language, offer aids such as questions, pictures, diagrams, definitions, glossary and references which will foster independent exploration?
- Once purchased will it continue to be a preferred source over other materials available?
- Is it available from other sources, such as friends, other home educating families or libraries, either for a more in-depth of examination before purchase?
- Will it continue to be useful for a considerable period of time to warrant purchase? (and does it have recycling ability?)
Finally, adults need to consider if the materials contribute to the learning activity for which it is being sought, or if it replaces true learning opportunities with ready made
solutions or practices, which may not be relevant to the children's individual learning needs as they arise, styles and rates of learning.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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