Custom Curriculum Defined
A custom curriculum is one that is designed to specifically to meet the needs of the individual who will be learning. This can mean anything from being hand-picked by a professional to being researched and written by the one who is schooling the child. Basically, if the curriculum is tailored around the student's needs, versus coming in a generalized plan for a specific grade level, it is a custom curriculum.
Pre-Packaged Curriculum Defined
A pre-packaged curriculum is one that is designed to meet the needs of a specific grade level and subject. These can come as one whole grade level package containing all materials needed or can be sold as individual subjects. They will most often be catered to a specific age, grade level, or subject. These generally cannot be modified, hence the label "pre-packaged". This could be anything from an online plan to one with textbooks and materials.
Which Is Best?
There is no one answer to that question. Every child is different. While one child might thrive on a pre-packaged curriculum, yet another may do better with a custom plan.
Here are some things you can do to figure out what works best.
- Look at how your child has performed in school in the past, be it home school, public school, or otherwise. Has your child been able to keep up with lessons fairly well or does your child lag behind or push ahead? A child who is progressing at the expected rate for his or her grade level may do well on a pre-packaged curriculum. One who has areas that are ahead or behind the standards will likely benefit more from a customized curriculum.
- If the child hasn’t been to school yet (traditional or homeschool), think about the things he or she has learned at home. Does the child consistently measure up as planned or does the child seem to go full speed ahead or need additional reinforcing? A child who is consistently ahead or behind will benefit well from a customized curriculum that will cater to his or her abilities, as well as work on inabilities.
- Also consider your child's studying habits. Does your child understand what is being studied? Is it enough or too much, according to your child's actions? Watch to see if your child is comprehending his or lessons well. He or she does not need to always be spot on, but lagging too far behind can be a sign that a child needs a customized plan, as can surging too far ahead. Both are signs that a generalized plan may not be in the child's best interest. However, if the child is thriving well in comprehending the lessons and only gets frustrated every now and then, a pre-packaged curriculum could be the best fit.
- Does your child often wish for more schoolwork or ask you for a large amount of extra information to delve deeper into the subjects being learned? On the other end of the scope, does your child get overly frustrated daily or consistently receive low grades and test scores? If your child experiences either of those situations or something similar, he or she may benefit more from a customized curriculum.
- Is your child thriving and content with school? Does your child consistently score good on tests and receive mostly B's or above? Does your child need only a small amount of assistance when completing schoolwork? If any or all of these sound like your child, a pre-packaged curriculum may be the best option.
Advantages and Disadvantages to Pre-Packaged Curriculum
One advantage to a pre-packaged curriculum is that the child will always be performing at the required standards, providing the work is completed well and on schedule. A disadvantage to this could be the fact that if a child needs extra help, there really isn't extra work included in a pre-planned or pre-packaged curriculum, so you may have to purchase extra workbooks or materials. Some families get frustrated with this aspect, as pre-packaged curricula often carry a hefty price as it is. If you don't mind supplementing with other materials as needed, a pre-packaged curriculum could work for your family.
Another disadvantage to a pre-packaged curriculum is that if the child excels quickly, the parent may end up buying three or four grade levels worth of curriculum per year, which can get pretty expensive. If your child excels quickly already, you may need to consider this. Homeschooled children are often known to complete more than one grade level of work in a school year or to perform one or more grade level higher than their age requirement.
Advantages and Disadvantages to Custom Curriculum
An advantage to a customized curriculum is the fact that the child can get extra practice where needed and more challenge in another area both at the same time. For instance, if a child in 3rd grade is at a grade 10 reading level, but is still at a grade 3 math level, that child can have both levels be appropriate to their situation. A pre-packaged curriculum may only contain materials for one grade level. However, that isn't always the case, as some curricula contain materials for all grade levels. Also keep in mind that a pre-packaged curriculum plan can be used as part of an overall customized plan.
Making the Final Choice Between Pre-Packaged and Custom Curriculum Plans
There are many ways to choose or form a curriculum for your child. The main thing to keep in mind is that whatever plan is chosen, the child's skills and learning abilities should be considered when making that choice. Carefully think about which option may better suit your child and go with that plan. If the plan you have chosen is not working, it can always be changed. So, don't stress yourself out too much over making the decision. That is one of the many benefits to homeschooling. Your child does not have to stick to a plan that isn't working for him or her.