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Age Appropriate Curriculum, Developmental Milestones, and Readiness: What My Child Should Be Learning and When

As a parent who is either homeschooling or considering homeschooling, you may wonder what the age-appropriate curriculum should be for your child. Although each child is different, most reach the developmental milestones and achieve learning readiness at around the same time or age. Much of this is due to neurological and biological maturation and cannot be influenced by pushing a child harder to excel in tasks that he/she is simply not ready for. However, there are times when a child's readiness for a particular skill or intellectual task is optimum and it is age appropriate to take advantage of this window of opportunity.

There has been a lot written about the developmental milestones for the child in the birth to 5 year old range before the child enters regular school. Most parents have watched to make sure that their child crawled at around 6 to 8 months, walked at a year, and began speaking in 2 or 3 word sentences before their 3rd birthday. But, what is age appropriate for a child of 9 to know and do? What are the developmental milestones for a 12 year old? When you homeschool, how do you know what the age appropriate curriculum for your child is? These considerations are very important because they will affect your child's ability and readiness to meet their educational goals.

As you choose your home school curriculum, you will need to consider whether it is age appropriate, judge your child's readiness for the curriculum, and see if it meets your educational goals. Many of these educational goals may be based on state required standards, but they can also be based on your child's strengths, weaknesses and interests. If you have a child with a learning disability or special needs, you will need to take these factors into consideration as well as the developmental milestones, readiness and age appropriate skills. A child with special considerations such as these may reach developmental milestones in a completely different sequence than a "typically developing child" and you will need to adjust your educational goals and expectations accordingly.

Here are some guidelines for age appropriate curriculum and basic readiness for each age group:

4-5 years old: Children at this age are still using concrete thinking, and will not be able to do the abstract thinking that older children are capable of. However, one of the developmental milestones is that they do know the difference between real and fantasy and they are asserting their independence as an individual. At this age some of the developmental milestones are:
- knows the basic colors
- knows basic shapes
- can count to 10 and identify a few letters
- Can hold a pencil or crayon correctly and can draw a simple human figure along with letters in their name.
- Enjoys telling stories and knows that stories have a beginning, middle and end.

Basic curriculum at this age should include:
- Continued development and refining of small and large motor skills.-Practice using scissors, and jumping, galloping and skipping as well as balancing activities. Use movement in all curriculum areas when possible.
- Beginning reading through phonics instruction, letter recognition, and rhyming. Reading readiness will vary by child, but by the age of 6 most children are beginning reading.
- Beginning math, learning one to one correspondence, and simple addition based on concrete thinking level and math readiness.

6-8 years old: Children of this age have reached more advanced developmental milestones with their small and large motor skills and also their level of concrete and abstract thinking. Here are some of the highlights:
- Uses scissors and writing utensils effectively
- Can tie their own shoes
- Written and spoken vocabulary increase by 100 percent
- Abstract thinking is beginning to develop, but is not advanced. Concrete thinking still dominates reasoning.
- Problem-solving skills becoming more developed.Here are some age appropriate curriculum activities for the 6 to 8 year old student:
- Have them write their own stories and plays to share with others.
- Give them simple 2 and 3 step problems to work out-allow and encourage abstract thinking or answers that are non-traditional when suitable although concrete thinking is acceptable and age appropriate as well.
- Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division can be included in the math curriculum in that order as readiness indicates.Continue to use manipulatives to tap into concrete thinking.
- Talk about feelings and relationships with others. This allows the child to use more abstract thinking. Encourage cooperative play and non-competitive games.
- Small and large motor skills are largely developed, but are becoming more refined, so plan curriculum in all academic areas that includes movement.
- Introduce literary forms such as poetry and have them create their own works.
- Let the child have input on what they would like to learn and give them age appropriate suggestions for curriculum. They may challenge themselves more than you would challenge them.

9-12 years old: This is an age with a lot of changes physically, mentally and emotionally but developmental milestones are not so clear cut. Age appropriate activities, skill readiness and developmental milestones may vary greatly from child to child. This is the time that many children are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD because they can no longer keep up with the demands placed on them in a traditional classroom setting. However, it is also an age where the level of abstract thinking increases to a large degree, likes and dislikes are well-defined, and they are trying to find where they "fit in" with their peers.
Age appropriate curriculum could include:-Self-directed study or unit curriculum that focuses on a theme and includes more than one academic subject area.Let the child choose the theme if possible.
- Lessons which involve ethical or moral judgment.  Children of this age have a strong sense of right and wrong.
- Higher level math with fractions, decimals, estimation, etc. 
- Allow for social interaction with peers to encourage relationship skills.
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