Know Your Why: Choosing What to Teach in Your Homeschool

curriculum handwriting how-to planning Jul 31, 2023

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21


Choosing curriculum and knowing what you should teach your homeschooled children can be overwhelming and confusing.  Family and friends like to give unsolicited advice.  We also hear so many opinions from others on social media.  Sometimes we cram activities into our days just because we were taught that way, or because that is just how it's always been done.  It can be difficult to sort through the noise. 

That's why we love this verse above from Isaiah -- whether we choose this or choose that, the Lord is with us.  We don't need to fear or be anxious.  We can quiet the noise in our minds and listen to HIM

God gives us answers and he gives us discernment.  We are our children's first teachers.  We know them best and know what they need to learn.  We know their hearts and we know their knowledge gaps.  So when we choose what to teach in our homeschools, we don't need to fear, we only need to ask for wisdom and know our why for doing what we're doing.  There are only so many hours in the day, and so it's important to make the time count.

As you are planning for the year, ask yourself, "Why DO I think I need to teach this?"

This question came up many times in our homeschools, but I can remember one specifically when my oldest son reached about 3rd grade, which is around the time when cursive is normally taught.  As a public school reading teacher and literacy coach, I started asking myself if this was even something that needed to be taught.  Do my kids really need to learn cursive?  People don't even write any more in this digital age!  What is the point?

However, after thinking about it, I did come to the conclusion that I wanted my kids to learn it.  Why?

-I thought my kids might actually enjoy it (they didn't).

-I thought it might improve the quality of their handwriting. One of my sons had particularly messy writing (It didn't really help him, but that's ok! We tried!).

-I wanted them to be able to read cursive -- like letters from their grandparents or old family artifacts or historical documents (like those found in the National Archives!).

 -I wanted them to be able to sign their names (they can!).

I'm not saying everyone needs to learn cursive, but for my family, these were the reasons we did it.

So, do you know what you're teaching this year and the WHY behind all of it?  Here are some activities/ subjects where parents typically question the WHY: grammar, higher math, handwriting, memorization of times tables, spelling tests, book reports, telling time on analog clocks, music lessons, Shakespeare, and you can probably think of more.

Of course we have strong opinions on whether or not these skills should be taught (ha!), as I'm sure you do, too! ;) 


We have 9 questions to ask yourself when you are considering what to teach and how your kids will benefit.  Remember, the number of hours in the day are limited, and we want to make them count -- quality over busywork!

  1. Is it a life skill they will need in adulthood?  If so, teach it! Things like laundry and basic car mechanics are great examples of this, but so is formulaic essay writing, as it helps one organize thoughts and communicate more effectively.
  2. Is it a skill they will need for the next step in their education? If so, absolutely do it!  If you're not sure, include it anyway! Better to be safe than sorry.  For example, if your child is starting high school work, but you are not sure they will go to college, prepare for it anyway by teaching higher math and science classes with labs they will need.  It's easier to have them and not need them, than to get to the end of high school and be missing credits.
  3. Will it build character?  If so, do it! Taking time to teach Bible lessons and/ or build good habits are both examples of this.  There are even books and curricula you can buy to teach manners and etiquette, which helps children practice hospitality.
  4. Will it give them knowledge about the world? This is a no-brainer!  The more our kids know and understand, the better they can process the world around them.
  5. Will it teach them knowledge about God?  If so, do it! If you can choose a science curriculum that teaches from a Biblical point of view, you should definitely consider that one over a secular version.  Teaching subjects with a Biblical point of view has a purpose of laying a foundation of faith that can't be matched anywhere else.  It's multitasking curriculum. ;)
  6. Is it a new topic that your child may really take to? Give them the chance to learn about it! Exposing our kids to LOTS of subjects, books, and ideas can change their life.  I heard a mom once say that her daughter absolutely loved diagramming sentences, and had she skipped that part of the language arts curriculum, her daughter would have missed out on this delight.  You never know what gifts and talents your children have hidden in their little bodies!
  7. Will this subject complement interests they already have? If so, do it!  When my nature-loving fisherman son was in high school, we used a SCUBA certification class in the community as an elective and added it to his transcript.  He was required to study material, take quizzes, figure out the dive calculations, and do a certain number of actual dives, so we counted it as curriculum.
  8. Is there research behind what I'm choosing to teach?  If so, learn it and teach it! If not, don't do it! This question can help determine if some activities should be taught or not.  For instance -- spelling tests.  I'm sure I will step on toes here, but there is not much great research on the practice of having kids memorize random words and then testing them at the end of the week.  So why do it?  Find materials and/or programs to teach important skills in ways that are backed by brain science and research.
  9. Will it teach them something they can use for God's kingdom in some way? If so, include it! Making time for activities like music lessons, foreign languages, sports, volunteering, and pursuing other interests may lead to opportunities down the road to tell others about Jesus. Colossians 3:23 says "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."

We hope these tips have given you confidence in choosing your curriculum and making your plans for your homeschool days. KNOW YOUR WHY!  And if YOU have questions about knowing what to teach, reach out and ask us.  We discuss topics like this in our weekly community meetups and would love to connect with you too! Learn more about our community.

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