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How to Use Free Online Resources to Develop Personalized Curriculum

You want to have in depth lessons that tailor to your child’s learning style and interests.  It’s part of why you started homeschooling.  But how to do this on a budget without spending a fortune on expensive textbooks and curriculum packages that your child complains are “boring” even though it cost more than your first car?

The internet is full of free or inexpensive information, ideas and presentations if you are willing to take the time to research and prepare.  It will mean putting in some hours up front, but savings in cash and the improved quality and relevance to your students make this worthwhile.

What kind of resources can we find online and where do we find them?

  • Documentaries – Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime
  • Worksheets – Teacher and Homeschool blogs, class sites, websites, and sharing forums
  • Book lists and curriculum guides – Blogs and sites for teachers and parents, publishing company sites, syllabi for classes and courses.
  • Text and images for literature, history, and art – Various webpages, Library of Congress site.
  • Free Online video courses in various subjects and how-to videos in home economics, shop, and the arts – YouTube

 

I found something cool online.  How do I turn it into a course?  That’s up to you.  It can be as simple as getting an interested child a guitar and having them follow a good YouTube instructor to teach themselves.  It can be as involved as creating a full high school course with assignments, worksheets, essays and tests around a documentary series.

Examples of How to Create Curricula

My middle schooler had learned about the Revolutionary War.  He was mostly interested in the wars in history and by focusing on wars, we need to learn about the surrounding circumstances, and so I agreed units on the wars would be a good way to explore history.  This particular child likes to work alone and learns very well from documentaries.  So I googled around for a few days and found a college professor who assigns documentaries for extra credit and requires them to fill out comprehension questions as they watch to prove their work.  All free to the public.  I used these free worksheets for him to fill out as he watched the Ken Burns’ Civil War series which was free on Netflix.  Then I assigned a few essay questions along the way and ended by reading the Red Badge of Courage and a final essay.  What did it cost?  About $10 for the Red Badge of Courage and a binder and the cost of printing the materials.

 

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My dyslexic son can only read for so long before getting exhausted and overwhelmed.  So, I developed a unit on American Short Stories that built around the Holidays in October, November, and December and invited some friends to join us. (Think Edgar Allen Poe in October, O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” in December.) All the short stories are public domain and free online.  I googled each story to find some good discussion questions and literary terminology and to educate myself as the teacher.  I developed a teacher’s guide for myself using these resources and a student guide including a glossary of literary terms and some visual guides that were all available free online.  Now my son will learn about the short story and be exposed to multiple classic American authors, while learning to analyze literature.  I also googled up some good essay questions for each story.  Now I have a complete semester of American Lit in a way that is more fun and meaningful and doable for my student.  Cost?  I did spend about $10 at teacherspayteachers.com for some worksheets to coordinate with the stories and it will cost something to print the stories and resources out.  That’s it.

 

World War I Curriculum

Now my high school boys want to study the World Wars.  So this semester we will cover WWI.  Low and behold, there is an entire YouTube Channel dedicated to unpacking WWI week by week:  The Great War. But it’s a little too much information.  I created a schedule, picking the videos that seemed most important or interesting.  Then I ordered a map of the world pre-WWI and devised some follow up activities.  I’m including this below if any of you want to use this unit in your school, or wish to get some ideas for ways you can adapt other videos or online information into a more comprehensive unit.  We’ll watch a couple of the better WWI films too, like Gallipoli. I had a request from my boys for a WWI video game too.  They got a kick out of seeing the real-life battles and circumstances in the game.  What did it cost?  The game was $20, the map was $20, some school supplies we needed like note cards, a scrapbook, and journals came to $30, and I spent a few dollars on Teacherspayteachers.com .  Not too bad for a complete history semester for 2 high school kids.

 

 

World War I – The Great War (High School Course for .5 credits)

We are doing this class in 30 days for an accelerated/intensive class, but it would normally be stretched out over a semester.  The Great War series is content DENSE, but the AV aids like pictures, maps, and film is exceptionally helpful in better understanding the content.  The host is engaging and a common theme is generally an appreciation for the horrors and tragedy of war and the immense scale that modern warfare creates.

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheGreatWar

 


 

Our schedule for the curriculum.

We chose 180 of the 300+ videos.  The videos average 10-12 minutes in length. I selected these by looking at the titles and ensuring I hit the most important events and battles of the war and also by choosing topics I knew would interest my sons.  Each entry tells the title of the video, where to find it on the YouTube channel, and has a follow-up activity for the boys to complete.  The activities were chosen to engage in multiple areas: language, visual, kinetic, logical.  This is especially important for my dyslexic son.

Materials

  • Large Corkboard
  • World map from 1915
  • Pushpins of assorted colors
  • Green, white and yellow yarn
  • Large Index cards
  • Journal (160 page minimum)
  • Scrap book and scrap booking materials (20 pages)
  • Folder with worksheets and People Pages printouts (pictures of the different people from “Who did What in WWI”. This is easy to google.  I pre-printed this for my kids, but you could have them find and print their own.)

 

 

Map Work

  1. Using a Note Card, write the key points about the county on the lined side.  Be careful to choose the most important points.  These should be bullet points:  not full sentences, include important dates, and with small legible writing.
  2. On the blank side of the notecard, make the country’s flag in color. Research and be sure this is the flag of that country from that time.  If there is intricate detail in the flag, you may make the flag less detailed.
  3. Punch a hole in the card and tie it with a yellow yarn for Allied nation, green yarn for Central Powers and white for neutral powers. Attach it to the correct country on the map with a color-coordinating pin.

 

Journal

  1. Label the top of the page with the date of the video or title of the special.
  2. Do this journal as if you are living through the war from the home front and recording this information from the news as it unfolds, week by week.
  3. Write 5 complete sentences about the video. Make sure you focus on the most important points from the video and not on random details.
  4. Add illustrations to the page for interest.

 

People Pages

  1. Find the picture of the person from the video.
  2. Center the picture on a scrapbook page and title the page with the person’s name.
  3. Fill in the rest of the page with important details about the person and some illustrations.

 

Timeline

  1. When watching the review video, jot down the events they recap and the dates. Look up any dates that aren’t given.
  2. Using an online timeline generator, input these dates and print a timeline.
  3. Attach the timelines in order to the corkboard under your map with pins. These should build on each other as you go.

 

Worksheets

  1. Occasionally you will be assigned worksheets instead of another activity.
  2. Keep the completed worksheets in your folder.

 

The Worksheets I used:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Great-War-Prelude-to-War-Worksheet-2431259

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/World-War-I-Map-Activity-1914-and-1918-Europe-Maps-1972528   The first half of this worksheet pack was done on the first day and the rest at the end of the course as “The Effects of WWI”.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/World-War-I-Vocabulary-Matching-Worksheet-533330

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Wilsons-14-Points-3645010

 

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