Monday, January 7, 2013

Blaze #1: Don't Be a Slave to Homeschool Curriculum

I'm starting a new series today that will address random topics, that I'm hoping will be like intentional "blazes" left on a trail.

I don't mean by that that everyone must walk the same road or choose the same things that I do... but just like a hiker will paint a certain colored mark on a tree indicating, "I went this way," that's my intent in this series: to share ideas, trails, perspectives that have been helpful for me and continue to be fruitful for me as I walk this journey of life.  To share the path I've taken, or the things I'm learning on the path.

At no point do I intend to set up a new form of legalism or a "method" by which you will be more holy or more right if you follow "my way"... but I do want to share ideas and patterns of thought that have been helpful in my life, marriage, parenting choices, homeschooling career, etc.

I'll call each one a "blaze" (like the painted trail markers I referenced above).  This is Blaze #1: Don't be a Slave to Homeschool Curriculum.

One thing I've seen a good bit of in our 6 years of homeschooling (not to mention the decade+ watching homeschoolers before we ever had children) is families/women who are slaves to their curriculum.

One "ditch" I've seen people fall into with curriculum is the ditch of thinking that only one curriculum is the right way.  These homeschoolers have become a slave to one particular method/curriculum.

It could be that it's seen as a "godly" curriculum... could be that it's perceived as the most successful, or "educationally rigorous"... could be that they view other forms as too confining ...could be that it's what someone they admire uses.  The reason isn't as important to me as the fact that I've seen it happen enough (in a variety of styles of homeschooling) that it is evident to me that too many people become married to the particular "form" of homeschooling they use, rather than letting the form serve the larger goals for parenting, training, sharpening, and shaping their children.

The other "ditch" I've seen is that of being a curriculum/style hopper.  These homeschoolers seem to think that if they could *ONLY* find the "right" way, their homeschool days would flow better, their kids would learn better, their patience would stretch farther, they'd find more joy in their schooling choices, their kids would obey better, etc.  So they hop from one thing to another.  They might try workbooks, co-ops, "whole book" curricula, DIY piece-it-together curriculum, this and that math program, this and that handwriting system.  One semester they might be "unschoolers," and then another they might be enrolled in several co-ops and using workbooks on top of it.

Whether out of a lack of confidence, or boredom, or for some other reason, these women quickly tire of the current choice, and are almost always on the lookout for the "next best thing."  Certainly, there are crummy curriculum choices... either crummy in and of themselves, or crummy because they don't suit the particular teacher or learner using them.  And certainly some curricula are more biblical, or will be better suited to a wider variety of learners, etc.  And different methods/approaches will produce different results and different attitudes within the hearts and minds of those using them.  But no curriculum or method, in and of itself, is a savior.  Some will "fit" better than others, but none will magically solve every problem you face.

To answer these "ditches", I don't have a one-size-fits-all answer.

I would encourage different homeschool moms in different ways.  One might need to hear: "don't focus in on using THIS METHOD so much as in reaching your child's heart!", and another might need to hear: "stop jumping around so much.  Pick a solid, mainstream math curriculum (one of the tried and true) and unless there are real learning issues involved, stick with it for several years.  Don't handicap your child by continually jumping from one to another which will end up creating gaps in their math education."  Some moms need to hear, "lighten up and let your kids enjoy learning!"  And some probably need to hear, "buckle down and don't leave your children at a disadvantage because of your own lack of self-discipline."

The main thing I want to say is, rather than being a slave to your homeschool curriculum (whether by believing that only one method is the "best" and overlooking issues arising with your family because of the problems with it, or by hopping so much that you and your kids never have time to stop and really adjust to and absorb the material), let your curriculum serve your family's needs.  It's fine to stick with one curriculum all the way through, and it is fine to use a wide variety of materials and methods as you teach your children... the main thing is to let nothing enslave you.

Keep the end in mind as you determine which "means" you will use to get there.  Pray and seek guidance from the Spirit.  Talk with your husband, and let his warnings and cautions and insights ruminate in your heart.  Seek counsel, if need be, from wise men and women who are farther down the "road" than you.

Rather than focusing on finding the "perfect" curriculum, or having the "perfect" homeschool family, focus on following the Spirit's leading for what God has planned for your family in this season.  Trust that He will lead you.  And then don't get sidetracked from that vision.  Let the curriculum serve you, and the purposes God has laid out for you.  And then be at peace.

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