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Reverse Curriculum

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

One of the things I don't love about curriculum is that it tells you what is important. Now I know, I know - I'm sure great minds, or at least moderately well-intentioned minds got together and poured through a subject and decided what is of note. The idea is that they are saving you ALL this time and research and sparing you the drudgery of wading through information to give you a "Here is what you need to know". I'm sure there are circumstances when that's great, that's what we are looking for sometimes, I get it. But specific answers to those types of questions are, not exaggerating, at your fingertips now. You can search anything and get the facts. Use curriculum if you like, by all means. I just don't want you to use it because you believe it is the best way to learn. Most subjects are best learned, retained and applied when it is relevant to the learner. When we connect with something it sticks. It inspires us to learn more, go deeper. Being told what is important to know is a different learning experience than exploring a subject on your own and discovering it organically. Deciding for yourself what is important, relevant.

Learning in this Relaxed way can electrify your brain. I mean, it can connect you with material on so many different levels that it all gets wired in to your memory in so many areas it's kind of remarkable. It lights up your mind like the Fourth of July.

This is why I love the Reverse Curriculum Model. I coined this phrase many years ago when we began to learn this way. Instead of relying on a curriculum to tell us what to learn. We create a curriculum as we go, recording what we have learned. It's a system of binders. You learn and record what you've learned. You create the binders based on your needs for records, your child's interests. No two would look the same. Break them down by broad subject and when one begins to swell move it to it's own binder. History, for example we break down by timeline, and then as it grows we break it into centuries, decades, etc. I wish it was more complicated. I wish I could make it seem really hard to grasp and I could package it and sell it to you $199.00 every year. Sorry.

An activity as simple as making a paper airplane explodes into a magnificent trail of study. A day spent making paper airplanes, googling "best paper airplane designs" leads to YouTube videos. Different structures and materials are explored and you can learn all about aerodynamics. The week evolves into more learning about planes. You watch the PBS Documentary Wright Brothers' Flying Machine. You visit the airport, maybe you visit a small local, municipal airport and take a tour. For around $50 you can even get a flying lesson, where you take the stick and fly a plane. Or you can just read a few paragraphs about the Wright Brothers in a history textbook and call it a day. This kind of learning dives deep into things your child is interested in. How many children might be interested in flight but the dry presentation of a textbook failed to spark any desire to learn? They aren't even able to connect the invention of the Wright Brothers to anything in their lives. Did you know Boeing recently projected a pilot shortage of 800,000 pilots in the next 20 years. Maybe something worth exploring for your kids? When you are neck deep in this kind of learning it's very exciting. It can also move quickly. It's good and worthwhile to employ the Reverse Curriculum plan to help retain information and resources. If you are in a state that requires more stringent record keeping it serves as a reliable record as well.

As you experience each of these things you or your child can journal, print, draw, or copy information and store it in the appropriate Reverse Curriculum Binder. The airplane study we just discussed touches on many subjects - Engineering, History, Science, Career Exploration, Current Events. It's going to look different at each age level and for every child's interest. For those in a state requiring documentation or who need to document the journey for other reasons. Reverse Curriculum is a great plan. After a trip to the airport a younger child might draw the planes they saw and write a simple paragraph. A high school student might spend 30 minutes researching that airport online and write a couple paragraphs about the volume of traffic and travelers who pass through it and how it's grown over the years. It's okay to print information too and add it as well. After watching the documentary they might write a review, or a summary article or make a video about it. An older child might write a historical narrative and add it to their history binder. As you explore this subject for example one child might become fascinated with planes used in combat or airport security, or the attacks of September 11th. You have no idea where it will go and you cannot plan for it because each child will naturally gravitate to that which is interesting to them. They will do the exploring, you do the facilitating. You try to stay ahead and make suggestions and other times you just try to keep up. At the end of the day, you have a custom curriculum for each child. It's already built to their interests, and their learning style because they created it. There is no subject that cannot be explored and broken down this way.

Isn't it harder? More time consuming?

I suppose it depends. Homeschooling this way is a hands-on, learning alongside your child approach. I understand why it might seem like it's much more work. The alternative which people will proclaim is "easier" is the textbook, or complete system approach. Purchase the entire curriculum for this year and administer it. It's filled with busy work activities so that you can assign it and walk away. It's no different, no different at all from school. Maybe it's a Christian curriculum so it's taught from a faith perspective. Maybe it's a little more interesting, or a little less repetitive. Essentially it's school books, that have been nudged this way or that way to appear less restrictive. In reality it is school at home. In school the teacher wants to assign work and get back to grading papers, writing lesson plans, whatever. Teach a lesson on the board and walk away. Come to me if you have a question. Most of us begin teaching at home this way because it's all we know. The Greek Method of Learning is what we experienced and we think that's how it's done. What amazes me though is often moms will argue with me that my way, is too much work. That it's too challenging for a large family, or a wide age range or not possible for families where mom is sick, a child has special needs, etc, etc. Those same moms are on the support group boards daily, weekly looking for advice on changing curriculum, methods, help for this child, that child, needing a different approach for reading, writing, math. They have kids they are fighting with all day to accomplish work, they are exhausted, stressed, and feel greatly burdened with the task of homeschooling. Please tell me how this is easier again? I submit to you that it is different, not harder. Emotionally it is vastly more enjoyable to spend time learning with your children than trying to play "school" and be the teacher. And here is the magic. When you choose to learn this way at home, you train up your children to be self-directed. After a few years of learning this way most children will know how to do this and your job becomes ever more enjoyable and rewarding. By high school they are self motivated, they have developed interests, passions, and they know how to find answers for themselves.

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