One of the hardest things about just starting to home educate is choosing a curriculum.
Whether the local authority are coming to see you or not, before you make the final leap to home educate it’s a good idea to have a plan in place that will satisfy your child’s learning requirements. What the law states is that every child has a right and must be given access to an education. It’s not too prescriptive on the specifics which gives you some leeway when either assembling or choosing a curriculum, whether you want it to be structured or autonomous or something in-between. You can put it together yourself or you can buy a pre-assembled curriculum from an expert provider. Be aware there is no state-benefit or financial support for this, so be prepared to spend some money. Below are the curriculums we have used so far along with a few of others we’ve spotted along the way, considered but eventually not tried.
YEAR ONE CURRICULUM – GALORE PARK
In 2013 we had been considering home education for a while. Our son was unfulfilled at school and it seemed to us and him that he was wasting his time when there was so much more to learn than the national curriculum was providing. Some additional factors kicked in and we began researching it (home education) in more detail. We looked at a number of curriculums that were ‘National Curriculum’ based, that is they provide the materials you need to match the ‘National Curriculum’ in any given year. There are plenty of suppliers that do this such as Icthus, but as our son had been bored with the school fayre, we deeded to shoot a little higher. We eventually settled on Galore Park. In Galore Park’s own words:
Galore Park specialises in preparation for 11+ and 13+ Common Entrance exams and leads the market in textbooks for pupils studying at independent schools. Our Key Stage 2 and 3 textbooks and revision resources are rigorously checked by teachers and examiners before going to press, with most titles endorsed by the Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB).Galore Park Website
At the time we looked they also claimed to supply curriculums to over 200 private schools in the UK and provide superior content to the national curriculum. Of all the programmes we looked at it seemed to be the best for our needs so we went with it. The years programme we required was for an 8-9 year old so the equivalent of year 4 in the UK. In total for the year it cost around £200 to cover a number of core subjects like English, Maths, History, French, Science. We supplemented this curriculum with extra learning around these subjects and bought some extra books for Geography and additional learning. We had Art covered as this is the field of both parents and we have half a lifetimes-worth of beautiful art books. We also had a great discount for monthly piano and violin lessons from the local music centre, so when combined this formed quite a robust curriculum. As our son had a hand in selecting all his learning materials himself he was extremely enthusiastic about them. When they arrived, upon opening them the quality of the content could be easily discerned. The maths book alone was 3-4 times the thickness of the NC equivalent and absolutely packed with content.
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We have worked through most of these books now with great effect. They certainly come with quite a high recommendation from us and are ideal if you want to segue from the structure of school in smaller steps. They are a little more involved than the NC materials but remember you’re now giving your children much more attention and support. The books are a little dry because they are rigorous, so we supplemented the courses with other resources (which had always been our plan) such as lap book and project work. Whilst the books provided our core learning especially in science and history, they also prompted us to wander off along other lines of enquiry. Nothing is more valuable in home education than the time you get with your children, and this much improved one-on-one time gives you the opportunity to dwell on subjects and points that may be giving your little ones a little trouble. These aren’t always what you expect and small points that would be skipped over in a class of 30 children can be ironed out neatly before you progress. We give the Galore Park books 3 and a half stars.
YEAR TWO CURRICULUM
We had a great time in the first year working around the GP curriculum and exploring the whole raft of supporting home education materials we found online (you can see our list of great online materials here). During the course of our studies we saw more and more materials out there and were quite impressed by the range on offer from Schofield & Sims and so decided to go with them for the second year. We again went for a pretty full curriculum with only the intention of supplementing Art and Music ourselves.
The curriculum available is deeply impressive with materials banded into Key Stages that split down the subjects into topics like mental arithmetic, comprehension, grammar. So for example instead of one large maths book there are several slimmer books – Adding and Subtracting, Decimals and Percentages, Fractions, Graphs Charts and Data, Maths Practice, Multiplying and Dividing, Number Patterns and Early Algebra, Problem Solving, Shape Space and Measures.
The cost was approximately the same as the Galore Park curriculum had been the year previously, running at around £200-£250 (at RRP) per child for a good set of materials for the year, if you also buy the teachers editions. The teachers books are the more expensive ones in the set but justifiably so as they are so useful. The books are extremely well presented and we think they represents great value for money. Our costs increased this year as we now need material for two children.
The cost of a curriculum may seem daunting at first, but think of all the money you save by your child not attending a state school; we didn’t have to buy 2 sets of school uniforms, 2 sets of school shoes (usually by the term), pay for school dinners, PE kits, bags, school trips to museums that are free to enter and endless donations to various school funds. When all of this is taken into consideration it easily justifies spending money on a good curriculum or set of core books (if this is the path you’re choosing, if not it doesn’t hurt to have that money in your pocket to support your child’s learning in whatever way they need).
The design and layout of the books is simple and elegant from the classic garamond of the headers to the clear, fun illustrations. The books are very approachable yet comprehensive and have a handy colour-coding system for ease of reference. There are textbooks with heavyweight glossy covers and much cheaper work books with paper covers for your home students to work in directly.
The KS1 (Key Stage One) level books which we will be using for our youngest child’s first year of ‘official’ home education are excellent. The learner can work in the workbooks which are designed to be very engaging and visually stimulating and we have procured a range of them which will take him right through to next year.
The range of books for our older child are as mentioned earlier, expertly broken down into topics within subjects and this will allow us to focus on his weaker areas much more easily. This modular approach makes them immediately more accessible and the learning framework easier to plan.
The website is very good, easy to navigate and has clear guidance for teachers, tutors and parents allowing them to select the subjects they need and get directed to the relevant titles with very little fuss. There also appears to be very good support contact options, it’s not very common nowadays to find a phone number contact for support, but there’s one here and it’s not a premium number either. On the face of things the curriculum looks absolutely amazing and we’re very excited about getting into it. We will update this review as we get more experience with the material.
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