Buying Educational Resources
by Beverley Paine
extract from Learning Materials for the Homeschooling
Most home educators feel compelled to buy specific curriculum materials, and nearly all of us fall prey to advertising that sings the praises of particular learning toys or educational aids. The truth is we don't need any of those things to encourage our children to learn, but it's nice to have a few, well-chosen and effective items. I've never believed the myth that learning has to be fun. Children learn for all sorts of reasons. If a child is engaged and interested in a topic, or wants to do or build something, then that child will be motivated to learn. Don't make the mistake of dividing life into `play' and `work' - help your children understand that work can be fun too and that play can be work: it's all learning!
The following set of questions can be helpful in determining the value of curriculum resources and materials, educational aids and toys:
- Does it comprehensively serve a definite purpose (need)?
- Is the item or program complete, or do you have to buy future instalments or components?
- Is it comprehensive; does it cover all the elements you need?
- Does it integrate with other subject areas?
- Does it include a carefully planned or sequenced development?
- Is the context at the child's existing levels of understanding or skills?
- Will the content extend the child's understanding and skills or does it simply reinforce current ones?
- Is it open-ended, or limited in its application? Can they use it for other purposes than the main intention?
- Can you use it again for other children?
- Will it communicate, and make sense, to the children (and adult!)?
- Does the material include useful teaching/learning aids?
- How willing will you be to spend time with the material - is the information and guidelines clear and easy to implement?
- Is it really better than something else - have you checked out other resources, including existing knowledge and materials already on hand?
- Does it use un-biased language?
- Does it foster independent exploration?
- Is it the kind of thing that will be used often, or will it sit unused on the shelf?
- Is it recyclable?
Home educators tend to use and adapt ideas they've seen work elsewhere and some even make their own `student workbooks', ducational games and aids. In addition to being tailored to the learning need at hand the children can have input into the making process, thus learning or practicing valuable skills in many curriculum areas. It's easy to fall prey to the prevalent cultural belief that learning must be fun, or to peer pressure from other families to buy the latest whiz-bang educational toy or game. Advertising and attractive packaging are designed to convince us that our children need these products to progress educationally. It pays to look out look for simple and inexpensive alternatives, or to make them at home. The money saved can then be spent on something of real value that you wouldn't normally be able to afford.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment 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. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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