Developing a Personal Curriculum: learning for life.
By Sally Lever, first published on Fruitful, September 2, 2014
'Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever.'
September is traditionally the start of the academic year. What thoughts and feelings does that idea trigger in you? Enthusiasm? Excitement? Joy? Or is it something more like dread, fear or lethargy? Many years ago, the start of September used to trigger a tightness in my chest, a feeling of pressure and contraction that I couldn't explain. It wasn't just the end of the summer, but a residue left over from school days and returning to the drudgery of a curriculum imposed on me by someone else.
This stress continued until I became self-employed and then started to home educate my children. At that point it became evident that we were each of us free to follow our own curriculum.
As we embarked on this stage of our lives, we found ourselves on a creative and, at times, messy but fun journey. I'd like to share with you some tools I learned from my children for life-long, heart - engaging, self-directed learning.
Identify purposeful projects
At any one time, my sons would be specialising, not on a particular 'subject' , but on a defined 'project'. Their projects were likely to be within favoured areas of interest and I noticed that they would galvanise materials and ideas together to create a project that they'd then work on day after day. This wouldn't be to the complete exclusion of everything else, but by reducing focus on other things to a minimum. For example, one son had a long standing interest in the emergency services. While he was majoring in 'fire', he developed a project around how to escape a fire in the home, looking at all the details of house plans, use of sound, images, materials etc.
As an adult I found I could do this too. When there's something that catches my interest and I know I want to learn more, motivation often flows more easily when I create a project around it, so that the interest has a tangible purpose with which to ground it.
Allow exploration too
Sometimes I feel in the mood to learn and am not yet in touch with what's coming next in my curriculum. This could be a very trying time with my sons when they felt this way! They would flounce around, loll about and generally get in the way. Occasionally they would experiment with various ideas until they landed again, got their bearings and took off on another learning mission.
Ditch the hierarchy
We're encouraged to believe, through the conventional education establishment, that some subjects have a greater value, and are therefore more worth studying, than others. When we develop our own personal curriculum, there's no longer any need to subscribe to that idea. So, we can ditch the heirarchy. This leaves us free to assign our own value to whatever it is that we wish to learn, whether that's an academic pursuit, vocational, creative, or any combination of those.
Let the heart lead you
My sons were not at all bothered about what others thought of the structure, timing or content of their curriculum. They just did their own thing. I would say they were sparked by moments of intrigue and inspiration. Sometimes, though, a new arena of learning would emerge from sheer desperation. A project would stem from a long-struggled-with solution to a tricky problem. It became a mixture of rational thinking and insight but it was still ultimately heart-led. Eventually I graduated to allowing myself this joy too. It was this willingness to follow my heart that led me to transpersonal coaching and group circle processes.
Scrub the time divisions
Any area that's worth exploring actually doesn't need to be a separate 'subject' or hobby at all. Often it can be integrated into what's already happening in life. An enduring back injury, for example, led me to take an interest in Yoga and walking for health. I find them easy to incorporate into everyday routines and activities. This approach eliminates the need to compartmentalise wellbeing activities - they simply become part of a healthy and enjoyable way of living.
Volunteer to teach
Teaching can be such a rewarding process when it's seen as an opportunity to learn. I like to consider teaching as a way of giving back to the world something of enhanced value. The enhancement happens when a particular interest takes on further enrichment through insights gleaned during in-depth, enthusiastic study and engagement. Maybe you think what you have to teach has all been said before. This might be true if you're attempting to deliver material from which your heart is disconnected. If it feels like a subject that's come alive for you, though, I would urge you to trust your unique understanding and presentation. The greatest learning comes through teaching as we put ourselves in a position to listen deeply to others as they wrestle with the material we've processed and push at the edges we too are facing.
I learned this creative and radical approach to learning for life from my children: The steps on the development of our personal curriculum can simply reveal themselves as we integrate acquired wisdom and allow next questions and explorations to arise.
Was this article helpful? Was it worth $1.00 to you?
Your gift of $1 or more helps to keep this site operating
and reassurance to families
better outcomes for their children.
Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
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.
"You've been an inspiration to me, I love the way
you really listen to people." Vanessa
"Whenever I read your writing I always come away
with increased confidence in my ability to provide and
share a wonderful learning journey with my family!" Davina
"Your guidance, understanding, support and words of
wisdom changed our lives. We now offer support and
organise many homeschooling events for others." Lesley
"Thank you once again for your prompt and friendly service.
I am convinced that your books are going to add
quality and peace of mind to my journey of teaching my kids
at home! Just from studying your website, until almost
in the morning, I 've been encouraged!" Louisa
"Thank you for all your many,many reassuring words
over many, many years. You probably don't know exactly how
valuable you are to the Australian Home Education community.
I've been reading your stuff for maybe 8 years or more now.
And I'm very grateful." Gythaa
Want to learn how to write your own education plans to suit
your unique children's
individual learning needs?
Looking for quality curriculum and teaching tips ?
Over 1000 reassuring and
informative articles to help
build your confidence as an Educating Parent
You are invited to join Home Education Australia!
One well-organised space to find and share information,
resources links and
more to support all home educators
across Australia, including a directory of posts and threads , where you
can source all your needs related to home education and
find what others are seeking and finding within Australia.
Welcome to the World of Home Education
and Learning without School!
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
The information on this website is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal or professional advice. This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.
The Educating Parent acknowledges the Traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Owners, the Custodians of Australia, and pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people viewing this website.
"Your guidance, understanding, support & words of wisdom changed our lives." Leslie
"I feel specially inspired by Beverley's words and, the more I read her comments, the more inspired I feel, since
my need for support, respect for different parenting styles, and information are fully met." Marijo
and Unschooling Pack
Each Pack contains a copy of the following:
Natural Learning Answers
A5 or A4
Learning Naturally Diary
Learning Maths Naturally
A Sample Approved Natural Learning Program and Review
Only $29 or $33
Home education is a legal alternative
to school education in Australia.
State and Territory governments are responsible
for regulating home education and have different
requirements, however home educating families
are able to develop curriculum and learning programs
to suit the individual needs of their children.
Without revenue from advertising
by educational suppliers and Google Ads
we could not continue to provide information
to home educators. Please support us by letting
our advertisers know that you found them on
The Educating Parent. Thanks!