Knowledge Rich Curriculum  – It’s not about what you know? Right?

During the bad flooding in northern NSW last year, I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother. My grandparents were living with us at the time and watching the news was a daily ritual. My grandma came to me one day, mentioning that she was glad that while she was watching the news coverage she’d been able to track in her mind exactly where the flooding was happening. This was because, she said, in primary school, she’d been taught to memorise all the rivers along the NSW coastline. Ma finished the conversation with a wish that primary school students were still taught useful things like that!

Just google it!

I’m ashamed to say I remember internally scoffing. I was thinking ‘that is not at all what primary students need to know’! Primary students are now learning 21st century skills like coding (well, really an iPad game that had some elements of coding), they could just google the rivers if needed!

However, I am glad to say that, in the way the older people often are, my grandmother was right! Knowledge was and is still incredibly important.

When it comes to knowledge – the rich get richer. The thing is, the more you know the more you learn.

For my grandmother, while watching the news about the flooding she was able to fully understand exactly where it was happening, what the towns around the flooding rivers might be. She would better remember what she heard because the names and locations of the NSW rivers were already stored in her long-term memory. The news story had more meaning for her, she could make more connections, think more deeply about it. She learnt more from it.

Yes, I could have watched it and googled all the rivers, but would I?

When it comes to knowledge – the rich get richer.

Now, the point of this story isn’t to encourage you to memorise all the rivers along the NSW coastline. It’s a reminder of the importance of a knowledge rich curriculum.

The more you know, the more you learn!

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham wrote about this in his book Why Don’t Students Like School?

He argued that there’s a cliché where classrooms that have students memorising knowledge (the type of education my grandmother would have received in the 1940s) are portrayed as lifeless, pointless, and decidedly old fashioned.

While there are elements of truth in this – dry, unconnected facts are not necessarily enriching for students. The assumption that we can do away with the learning of specific, rich knowledge all together and simply learn skills is false.

You don’t know what you don’t know

Willingham argues that knowledge is crucial to supporting our ability to think. Students can only learn to think, if they have something to think about!

(This is why at My Homeschool we provide a knowledge rich curriculum, as we know it provides a strong foundation for future learning).

Grandmother knows best

So, like my grandmother was able to gain more information and think more deeply about flooding in NSW because of her background knowledge (aka –  knowledge rich curriculum from primary school) , students who know more have the ability to learn more.

The very fact that I used to hold the misconception that skills were more important than knowledge simply proves the point. I couldn’t critically think about the science of learning because well, I didn’t know much about it!

My grandmother, who sadly recently passed always had a deep fascination with nature. She could hear a bird call and tell you what it was. She loved, appreciated and was skilled at interacting with nature. While at school she had done nature study, and in her old age she had a wealth of knowledge that she had started building from when she was a little girl. Her skill at gardening was her knowledge applied. Throughout her entire life this knowledge enriched her, delighted her and enabled her to continue to learn even in her final months.

So, here’s to knowledge, and to grandmothers!

A knowledge rich curriculum is an educational approach that emphasises the acquisition of a broad range of knowledge and skills. It provides students with a strong foundation of information that will benefit them beyond their school years.

Using this type of homeschool method, students develop a deep understanding of key concepts and ideas, which can be applied across a wide range of personal, academic and professional contexts. Additionally, a knowledge rich curriculum can help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as they learn to analyse and synthesise complex information.

The Charlotte Mason Method is an example of a knowledge rich curriculum.

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