What exactly is Curriculum?

Homeschoolers use the word “curriculum” differently from educators and sometimes it can be confusing about what exactly it is.

#1 Curriculum refers to government learning standards

The Manitoba curriculum refers to a series of documents that specify learning outcomes (or skills) that children are expected to achieve by the end of each year in each subject.  These documents do NOT include any lesson plans or resources that are to be used.

The province does have a specific list of textbooks, books, resources and teaching manuals they recommend. These resources are listed and can be purchased from the Manitoba Learning Resource Centre. Many of those resources, especially textbooks, are custom published for Manitoba curriculum learning outcomes and are very, very expensive.

(Other governments and organizations offer their own curriculum learning outcomes. Core Knowledge offers a free single document for K-8 here.) 

#2 Curriculum refers to a single-subject program

Homeschoolers most often use the word curriculum, when they are talking about resources that include lesson plans and activities for a specific subject area. We ask what math curriculum someone is using. We are not asking about learning outcomes. We are asking what program someone is using that has lesson plans and worksheets that will help us teach math to our child. These programs are not specially created for the provincial guidelines and so may differ from what a child might learn in the public school. 

Examples of single-subject homeschooling curriculums which include lesson plans and worksheet include

  • Jump Math
  • Teaching Textbooks Math
  • Beast Academy Math
  • Pandia’s Real Science
  • TOPS Science
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding
  • Beyond the Book Report middle years language arts
  • English for the Thoughtful Child
  • Voyages in English
  • Oak Meadow, which offers all subjects but as individual manuals
  • Khan Academy Online, which offers all subjects but as individual courses
  • Study.com, which offers all subjects but as individual manuals

#3 Curriculum refers to a multi-subject, integrated program

Homeschoolers also use the word curriculum to describe a complete program that tells them what to do every day for every subject. Sometimes we call this a “complete curriculum.” Sometimes these programs offer just an Instructor’s manual with a listing of resources to be purchased separately, and sometimes they offer everything in one big bundle.

Examples of multi-subject homeschooling curriculums which include combined lessons plans, worksheets and other various resources include:

  • BookShark
  • Torch Light
  • Time4Learning
  • Moving Beyond the Page
  • Sonlight (Christian perspective)

#4 Curriculum refers to a list of resources which are used in a particular style

Homeschoolers may use the word curriculum to refer to a list of resources they are using in a certain style. Parents are expected to learn this “style” for themselves and then instruct their children in the style using the listed resources. 

Examples of style-focused curriculums which include book lists, but not usually lesson plans or teaching guides include:

  • The Well Trained Mind, which uses classical education
  • Wildwood Curriculum, which uses Charlotte Mason principles
  • Waldorf Essentials, which uses Waldorf principles
  • Project-Based Learning, which uses a Reggio-inspired approach

In Manitoba, homeschoolers are not required to follow the Manitoba Curriculum. We are only required to provide an equivalent education. This gives us the freedom to choose and use a variety of programs that may be different from what the same aged children are doing in the school system.