Monday, October 11, 2010

Update on the curriculum adventure.

Today I went through over 200 American History for Kids pages. TWO HUNDRED. And that was just today. I went through a bunch yesterday and the day before, too. I have about 30 left open on my computer to check. Most of them were boring, text-intensive, poorly written. One was sensationalized beyond being educational. Some were legitimately interesting. Some were good but not fourth-grade appropriate (I don't think I want Caleb learning about the sexual liberation of teenagers between 1950 and 1990). Many, many, many of them were legitimately educational but heavily slanted toward social causes. There are far far more sites on black and/or female historical figures than white males, even though white males actually were dominant in the primary events in US history for 200 years. So in 200 sites on US history, I found dozens and dozens on slavery and how mistreated African-Americans and Native Americans and immigrants were (and these were all the slickest, most media-savvy, nicest looking and most interesting sites), and only one or two that had any sort of information on Benjamin Franklin. There were more sites on Franklin and Edison in the science sites than the history sites. That's fine, except Franklin really did play a rather significant role in getting France on our side in the Revolution, and we wouldn't have won without him. Not to mention everything else he did in his lifetime. I am totally good with making it clear that people oppressed and abused each other historically and we need to not repeat those mistakes. But I don't think I want Caleb learning a history of victimization and how evil white men are. He's going to grow up to be a white man, after all. I want him to learn about how great men can be--all men--minus the color-coding. The more we focus on racial issues, the more they become issues. (Interestingly, US courses mostly don't cover white Americans who have been victimized, like the Acadians or Mormons). I prefer the Sesame Street approach--everyone interacts as humans, and we get to forget that we are all varying shades of brown. But I was surprised how many interactives are tainted by victim culture or feminism.

So history today and tomorrow.

Last week I went through at least 500 Physical Science links.

I'm getting a little bored. Also pretty good at telling right away if a website has viable content presented in an engaging way.

Unfortunately, Caleb's 4th grade curriculum has nearly 3000 activities in it, and I was kind of aiming for 2100 or less--12 per day.  So now I have to go through and sort everything out and choose the best links for each topic (because really, he doesn't need to explore Colonial Clothing three times) and eliminate any duplicates and get them in order. Good thing I enjoy that kind of work!

The goal for each subject is to have a core curriculum that is legitimately educational and created by someone else (like the Hippocampus AP History curriculum Caleb has for his history). Preferably, this is something that includes lessons, texts, worksheets, tests, and activities. Then I fill in the gaps with cool, interesting enrichments stuff from all over the web. The curriculum should be slightly challenging intellectually (but only slightly), while the enrichment stuff MUST be easy, fun, engaging for that age. In subjects I'm extremely confident in (mostly the arts--so writing, literature, music, art, etc.), I create the core concept myself and fill in the gaps. For the more "academic" subjects (history, science, math), I find a complete curriculum and use it and fill in the gaps.

I have finished two years of preschool, all of kindergarten, all of second grade, and nearly all of 4th grade this way, and it's been fun.  When I'm done with Caleb's curriculum (hopefully by tomorrow night), I will quit for the year and move on to sorting all the clothes in the house because that's the next biggest disaster that must be dealt with. Not as fun as making online "Freeschooling" for the kids, but necessary at this point.

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