What Makes a Quality Curriculum?
A quality curriculum has teaching guides which are clear and understandable, have layouts which are not cluttered, are organized in an accessible manner and offer supportive notes, reminders and explanations.
A quality curriculum gives teachers confidence in not only what to teach, but, more importantly, how to teach.
A quality curriculum is based on principles and goals. The lesson plans should not waver on these. Without principles and goals, a curriculum is empty and meaningless.
A quality curriculum is one in which the teacher values the methods needed to implement it, because these methods are well-developed, insightful and based on a true understanding of child development.
A quality curriculum is flexible enough to shift and adjust around the very real idea that not all children are alike. Yet, while flexible, it should still hold true to those established principles and goals.
A quality curriculum should bring a genuine spark of interest in each and every learner. Interest doesn’t always translate into playful joy or excitement. Interest is sometimes understated in appearance. It doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
A quality curriculum contrasts the light from the dark –giving children a chance to find truth, beauty and good. Children make stronger connections with what they learn when they place value on what they learn. Valuing as an act grows as children begin to organize and distinguish between what is true and what is not true; between what is good and what is not good and between what is beautiful and what is not beautiful. These ideas come from reading and learning about different people and their ideas and struggles. Events from which history revolves are based on people and the choices people have made. Art, history, music appreciation, citizenship, philosophy and literature are intertwined because of this. Geography, natural history and science broaden our knowledge of the world and how we can best live in it. Everything about being educated is about being human and how to connect to humanity. You cannot separate this basic idea from the science/art of education. If you try, you will lose focus on the most fundamental part of being educated, leaving only unconnected parts and not the whole.
A quality curriculum is always the one offering students as many opportunities to take in knowledge and make it their own, while simultaneously offering teachers a comprehensible plan for doing this.
A quality curriculum is designed with all children in mind –meaning the resources, stories, paintings, music, poetry, events and people on which is built should reflect this diversity. It cannot keep all children in mind unless it is a curriculum that all children can value.
What Doesn't Make a Quality Curriculum
A quality curriculum is not always best when written by someone or several ones with long lists of credentials. Degrees and experiences are subject to many interpretations. One with a PhD in Biology who has taught for many years is definitely a good contender for a high quality science or biology-focused curriculum, but this alone does not decide this. Understanding how children learn and in what way they learn best is equally as important. On the other hand, quality curriculum generally does come from someone who has at least some knowledge about the subject at hand –especially someone who is passionate about it- or has an excellent understanding of child development and how children learn. Homeschool moms, especially those with some experience with teaching and education can and do write excellent curriculum guides. As children grow older, and subjects become more advanced or specialized, then a wise curriculum writer will be honest about their abilities and advise homeschool parents to utilize other resources. It seems that if we decide that only authors who specialize in the subject of the curriculum they write is to be the minimal standard for quality curriculum, then how can we reconcile this with the idea that typical homeschool teachers do not have high degrees and experience in all of the subjects they teach. Why must only the curriculum meet this standard? If we apply this same logic, then shouldn’t all homeschool teachers meet this same standard? And if that’s the case, then maybe only a few select people are truly capable of homeschooling their children. This sounds very much like the argument made by all of those who do not support homeschooling. If we offer caveats for homeschool teachers, then perhaps we should add them for curricula written by homeschool teachers. Those caveats apply both ways.
A quality curriculum is not always best when aesthetics are the main focus. Be wary of glossy covers and pretty pictures. Some of the best curriculum is not always the most beautiful and this may be because the author’s focus was on the curriculum and not how to best sell it.
A quality curriculum is not always best when either the student or the teacher consistently feels overwhelmed or frustrated throughout the learning day.
A quality curriculum is not always best if it does not adhere to your family's specific educational goals and principles. If you are not sure what these are, then you should take some time to consider them. This will allow you to then better match a curriculum to them.