Thursday, April 2, 2009

Choosing Developmentally Appropriate Homeschool Materials

As we (my daughter and I) make progress together in relationship development and in our school-at-home, I am studying and planning ahead.

Relationship development and school-at-home are so tightly intertwined that I sometimes cannot separate the parts and recognize which is "school" and which is "RDI(r)". Guided participation is front and center, sometimes using real life and sometimes using "schoolwork" as a background activity. I have my background/research + my gut instinct and we have a consultant, which help us stay within the boundaries of "developmentally appropriate".

From the moment I understood that my child fell somewhere on the autism spectrum, I've always spent some time and energy on next steps. I have never wanted to get to a new place in development and have to feel as if we're standing still because I haven't researched any next steps. Researching those next steps gives us options.

And, so, I'll let you in on what I'm tossing around in my mind. I would love to hear from you in terms of your thought process and your experiences.

As I look over materials that are marketed to homeschoolers, I see soooooooooo many beautiful products. Thorough. Comprehensive. Materials that *I* would like to study.

But, knowing where my daughter is from a developmental standpoint, I have both a gut instinct and education about child development that those materials that appeal to *me* and what *I* would enjoy are NOT appropriate for her.

I'm still learning about how to think about choosing a curriculum or a resource in terms of "developmentally appropriate" in terms of her level of intersubjectivity, joint attention, a concept that is sometimes referred to as "theory of mind". I've blogged about intersubjectivity and joint attention in the past, and I withdrew my daughter from public school BECAUSE the school would not use a developmental framework as an approach. I am certainly not going to homeschool her and use materials that are appropriate for her AGE but not her DEVELOPMENT.

I am not interested in pushing content for the sake of content. I am not interested in more rote memorization of facts for the sake of passing a test. And as I am test driving some material at home, I realize we're way too close to pushing content and making content more important than relationship development and love of learning. And I don't want to do that. I've been trying to clarify for myself what falls under "developmentally appropriate" and what does not.

I know how to make this decision as far as math concepts go, and I've gotten better at choosing reading material. But when I think of "academics" like history or social studies or geography, I have been struggling to define what is and what is not developmentally appropriate.

I just read an article called "History is Not Chronological," by Cheryl Lowe, that explains to me what I could not explain to myself beyond that gut instinct. I had several "a-ha" moments that clarified what I already knew but could not put into words.

Here are a couple of excerpts from that article:

Page 19: Principle #1: "Students in the early grades are not developmentally ready to learn history chronologically." ...

Principle #2 is a BIGGIE in terms of what to teach my daughter: "We must fit history to the child, not fit the child to history." Lowe continues: "In other words, the Order of Knowledge is not always the same as the Order of Learning. The Order of Knowledge is based on some abstract principles, such as chronology, logic, complexity, etc. The Order of Learning goes from familiar to the unfamiliar, from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex. The Order of Learning must unfold the subject and reveal its underlying order in a way that the sutdents can grasp and understand it. Another way of saying this is that the content and skills must be age appropriate."

The part of that paragraph that was my "a-ha" moment was this sentence that takes into account past and present experience and present level of development (think Piaget's developmental stages) and that also includes level of intersubjectivity: "The Order of Learning goes from familiar to the unfamiliar, from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex."

Cheryl Lowe is partially correct. "Age appropriate" is the wrong term. Instead, I have learned that the content and skills must be developmentally appropriate. I'm guessing she did not consider children w/ developmental delays as she penned that article.

If you are the parent or teacher of a student or students with developmental delays, resist the urge to look for "age appropriate" materials. Instead, seek "developmentally appropriate" materials. If you feel the weight of content delivery over the joy of learning, you may need to step back and determine if the material is developmentally appropriate.

I have new food for thought as I search for materials for my daughter and me to use together. I'd love to hear about your experiences.

HERE is the article from which I quoted, in it's entirety. And an article on the same topic is available on-line, here.


Prince Andrew and the Queen Mum said...

i thought i was reading an exerpt from CM! i just read similar from her 20 points yesterdday.

Penny said...

What except, what 20 points? SHARE! (please?)

Penny said...

I found 20 Principles here:

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