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Ask HN: Can there be an open source homeschooling curriculum?
40 points by bradenb 14 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 17 comments
My wife and I have been reviewing homeschool curriculum for my daughter's upcoming 4th grade year. Here in Utah the laws are very relaxed around homeschooling: you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you tell the state you are homeschooling. I'm not sure I love that, but it does allow for flexibility.

What we've been finding is that nearly all the high-rated courses are non-secular and we've decided we want to keep our kids in a secular curriculum. We've evaluated trying to edit the courses or pick-and-choose but it seems like in many of the offerings religion is so deeply-rooted in the work that it would be a very difficult undertaking.

My wife feels like the prospect of designing her own courses is very daunting and so it made me wonder if there has been any kind of effort to open source homeschool. Now more than ever it seems like a great time to have something like this available (we don't want our kids in a classroom while COVID is a concern). So far I've found mentions of open source schooling but nothing concrete or usable.

What I don't know is: what challenges might there be to creating such a thing? In Utah it seems very usable, but I'm sure each state has their own homeschooling requirements that maybe make this idea unlikely to take hold.

I'm an atheist and secular homeschooler, and I'd like to encourage you not to worry about working with religious homeschoolers. They can give you good answers to your questions, and if you get some religious content in your readings, it shouldn't be a problem. I compromised and combined some homeschooling and some state schooling and often preferred the theistic religion of some the former to the nontheistic religion that permeates the latter.

I think you should put aside the quest for "open source" curriculum and choose the best items you can find a la carte. The point of homeschooling for me, as a secular homeschooler, was to create a customized educational experience tailored (meaning adapted on the fly) to what each child seemed to need and what seemed to work. That meant not looking for comprehensive curricula but trying different things for different subjects. Keep working with other homeschoolers, online and off, to find materials to try. It's very difficult to predict what will work before you try it, because kids are so different. Reviews and recommendations help, but steel yourself to the hard fact that doing the best job will mean expensive trial and error.

Bootstrap is open source https://www.bootstrapworld.org as in you can print off the work books or use pyret which runs in a browser with no install. Functional style programming of math for kids they successfully run in many state schools. You can even email Shriram if you wanted to ask him questions about the curriculum he will probably answer. He specializes in education https://cs.brown.edu/~sk/Publications/Papers/Published/

Wildberger has elementary and grade 9 Australian math curriculum too in his channel https://m.youtube.com/user/njwildberger/playlists?view=50&so... but with some advanced math thrown in sometimes. Needs someone to teach it though, like hiring a local grad student or yourself. Foreign countries like Australia or Canada may have open curriculums for elementary http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/grade4.ht...

I was homeschooled in Oregon from 5th grade until I went to university. There’s a pretty big community of homeschoolers here, so that helped. Especially for the younger ages, you’ll find that you can be vastly more efficient with your time than school, so try not to worry too much about hours spent “in class”.

As far as the religious part is concerned, a significant portion of people who choose to home-educate their kids are strongly religious, and finding a community of people who are not can be quite hard (I’m atheist, so I totally understand). I know of some resources in Oregon that might help.

For curricula, it’s important to realise that home education is about creating a good learning environment at home for your child, it’s not about replicating the school environment at home. If you want a good list of milestones for various subjects, look into what other countries with good education systems have in terms of their key goals. Singapore and the U.K. have very well structured national curricula. Pick and choose what you want. I used Oak meadow as a vague guideline early on and that was alright. Just do what works. Focus on things they find interesting. Talk to your kids about their interests, about your jobs, let them play. Homeschooling is fun. As they get older, they can do courses at community college or online specialised classes. I personally was able to get into university in the U.K. by focusing on getting very good exam scores in SAT subject tests (which are pretty easy), and by following the curricula for GCSEs and A-levels, but this focus came later.

In terms of government oversight, my experience is that there is none (at least in Oregon, and from what you’re describing, also in Utah). This is a blessing and a curse. On one hand there’s nobody breathing down your neck micromanaging your curricula. On the other hand there’s no external barometer for if you’re doing okay. If you do choose to follow this path, know that it can be a lot of work for you and your wife, but it can be incredibly rewarding to see your kid learn and grow the way you do when you’re homeschooling, and if you do it right, your kid will really enjoy the experience. It’s not the right fit for all kids though, and some learners really need the structure of school. I hope you do well, and if you have any questions, ask.

> so it made me wonder if there has been any kind of effort to open source homeschool.

Yes, many; see, e.g., https://openeducationsource.weebly.com/full-curricula.html

But you probably want both open source curriculum and open source supporting materials, which is harder to find, because while selecting high quality educational materials and assembling a curriculum is a lot of work to do without expectation for recompense, it's dwarfed by the work of actually creating the materials.

There’s some out there, of varying quality. > What I don't know is: what challenges might there be to creating such a thing?

You may want to look into open educational resources (oer), as well as the obvious like khan academy.

The enemy of improving experiences, if there is one are the textbook companies committed to keeping education in the physical past to maintain their billion dollar industry at the cost of better immersive learning experiences.

Ultimately, new ways are emerging and you can be part of the improvement by creating and contributing OER.

I have a background in creating and delivering K-12, post-secondary and industry regulatory training, and would be happy to chat more offline.

I feel it's not impossible, more like it just hasn't been initiated. It requires synthesizing parts off of common core, and then parents being effective at not just dishing information but capturing the essence of techniques of delivery and engagement itself. Heh, sorry for the non-answer. I guess what i'm saying is it's a trailblazing/pioneering project for whoever commits to that endeavor in a non-secular and modernized way.

It feels like a big challenge. In particular having to be compliant with common core for states that don't allow you to simply "wing it." That said, it feels like a big enough market that it would be a perfect candidate for crowd-sourcing courses.

I haven't seen Oak Meadow (I'll check with my wife... she has looked at a lot more). K12 seems to have a lot of negative reviews (primarily for their online offering, but also their homeschool courses). While I'm sure it ends up being sufficient I'd really like to see someone of the quality that I see in the non-secular courses.

There is plenty of neutral material out there. You can always supplement that with secular material. Think reading comprehension etc. For printed workbooks, I really like Evan-Moor. I bought a bunch of them for my daughter for the Summer.

Saxon Publishers use to be the gold standard for homeschool kits, but they switched up the material. You hear many complaints about it over the years since the change. I was fortunate to get a used kit for math before my daughter turned 5.

There are other sites like ixl.com that are good if you want adaptive problems on a computer. They cover the complete common core.

If I were going to put together something for home use, I would seek out the very best videos on YouTube and I would embed them in html. You can minimize the auto suggestions and other videos they try to push on you being on the main youtube site.

I'm not sure if this is the sort of thing you're asking about, and I didn't do this myself but there is a thing called the "International Baccalaureate", it's a sort of education plan that regardless of where you are, if you follow it you would be prepared for higher education/work basically anywhere in the world (so if you were in Costa Rica, like I am, and got it, when you are 18, you could go to the US, Canada, the UK, or the EU for university, with minimal or no classes to "catch up")

Interesting! From their website it looks like you must become a "school" (about $4000 USD) and that gives you access to the material? I guess theoretically you can be a school of one for teaching a single child.

You can also work with specific institutions that will allow your kid to take the IB tests if you’re in a jurisdiction that doesn’t require you to legally be a school if you’re home-educating (as you’ve said, Utah does not).

Khan Academy khanacademy.org is a free online learning site. It has a complete math curriculum, and is branching out into other topics.

Khan is awesome. And if we end up building our own curriculum we will likely be using it for math. It doesn't seem like the one-stop shop we would like though.

At the elementary level, and in English, I've never seen anything that came close to the original Singapore Math [1]. There's your one-stop shop.

(US Edition since you're in Utah. US Ed converts spelling to US and some of the units to non-metric, so students practice with both metric and non-metric units instead of metric only. Standards Ed is just as good as US. It is same content as US Ed but reordered somewhat to match pre-Common Core CA system. I'm guessing Common Core is another re-ordering of the same "Primary Mathematics" content. If so, it should be equally good. They no longer use this in Singapore for reasons that relate to integration with their non-math curriculum, but that is not relevant to someone using this as a purely math curriculum.)

[1] https://www.singaporemath.com/primary-mathematics-shop/

Just out of curiosity, do you see this as being different from open source curriculum and materials for teachers/schools/anyone?

I don't have a good recommendation there either, but I was wondering if it is necessary to restrict yourself to "homeschooling" curriculum in particular?

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