Saturday, August 25, 2007

Curriculum Ponderings

I've been teaching my children at home for good number of years now. This is fall #21, if my figuring is somewhat accurate.

By now most homeschooling moms have finished contemplating curriculum plans for the coming year. I have managed to put a rough outline together, but I'm afraid that's as far as I've gotten.

The dollars are a bit tight this year, and there are music lessons to add to the budget, so I have determined to use whatever texts I have on my shelf, whether they are the latest and greatest or not. There will be some consumable workbooks to order, but otherwise I will go with the same ol' stuff.

Don't get me wrong. I like new and different as much as the next guy (maybe a bit more) but I came to the conclusion some time ago that the endless search for the perfect curriculum is illusive and vain for this reason: there is no such thing as the perfect curriculum. Any workbook needs tweaking; all curriculum needs customizing. Let me clarify: some are better than others, no doubt, and it is worth asking around and getting input from people who are familiar with what's out there. But there's alot out there - and it's downright confusing!

So for the purposes of frugality and sanity, I have stopped looking too much. A browse through a curriculum catalog can be thoroughly depressing, or at least, discouraging. Nagging doubts soon ensue. "Maybe they're not getting the best math." "Perhaps I need to add French, Latin, music history, and an extra vocab book this year. And look at that geography text. I wonder if we can fit that in along with chemistry experiments." "Wow, the pictures in this series are more colorful than the reading books I just purchased last year. But I can't afford to invest in more so now my child is missing out..."

You cannot do it all. You cannot have it all. You do not need to. You do not need the best or the latest and greatest. Good curriculum, thankfully, has become more accessible as well as more available. This is wonderful! But the industry has taken off and is like any capitalistic, free-market venture - it is money driven. And that is okay (if you want to know my opinion, I think that is good, but that is another whole topic!) We just have to be aware of choices. There is excess and we must not get stuck in it!

Mostly I encourage myself and others to examine, then choose, and then be content. Make the curriculum work for you, not vice versa. I repeat, there is no such thing as a "perfect for you and your child" curriculum. Therefore adopt this paradigm: don't be a slave to the book - use the book for your purposes. Be creative with it. Supplement when something you value is not emphasized enough. Add drill if they didn't catch it the first time, or if they need more time learning it. However, if your student is catching on quickly consider deleting repetition rather than boring him to death. But for a quick speller, writing out "tan, can, van, ran" several times in one week gets a bit tedious.

Is the chapter calling for a research paper? Determine whether this is the best time for that, or would it be more advantageous to combine a research paper with next month's history assignment? If so, hold off until next month and jump to the next chapter instead. Trust me. The sky will not fall, nor will the ceiling cave in if you jump ahead or cross off an assignment.

How about spelling? Don't feel compelled to stick to the book. Take spelling from his writing, or lift words from the scripture passage he is memorizing. Build word families from it, discuss the spelling rule involved. Save the spelling workbook for those off weeks (or months) when you are too busy to be that involved. Then - don't panic if the workbook is not completed - it has been used as a supplement only.

So in the next few days I will peruse the bookshelves in my family room and determine the history topic to be studied this the year. Vocab workbooks will be pulled down (even though I ordered consumables I was so cheap that I had them write the answers in separate notebooks so that we can use the workbooks over and over.) I will order the same old math that I have now grown familiar with, even though there might be something more colorful available. It will still work. It has before.

This I've learned along the way: whether the curriculum is new or old, colorful or picture-less, a consumable workbook or a video lecture series, it is really up to me to make it work. Most of all, I need to renew my vision. I remind myself once again of the importance of the coming days and weeks, of how quickly they will slip away, of the privilege of spending my time with these precious children. And I remember that there is nothing more I would rather do than this. Absolutely nothing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post, Darlene. We used to skp pages of repetitious exercises. If you get it, you get it! As for your point about skipping around, the public school teachers do it too. They take what is required to be taught and use the order they find works best, which often does not coincide with the way the text is written. What is important is that students learn.

9:19 AM  
Blogger thisrequiresthought said...

I appreciate your attitude along these lines. I mean, really. The sky will not fall in if we don't get that perfect curriculum!

School starts next week!!
Thanks for de-stressing me.

10:05 AM  
Blogger abigaildaniels said...

These are some wonderful thoughts. I have already been feeling the pull to get something new, better, and brighter to help my children learn their letters, colors etc. I never knew that the pull would start this early!

Even though I often hear my mom repeat the same sentiments that you have expressed,it is wonderful to hear someone else repeat them! My children will learn their colors, numbers, letters and eventually how to read without the latest baby einstein toy or bright wooden letters or "educational" dvds!

1:33 PM  
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