Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Schole' Moments - Curriculum Paradigm Shift
As homeschooling parents, we can get caught up in spending too much time going to homeschool conferences, doing online research reading reviews, or frequenting our local curriculum stores; trying to decide what curriculum our children need for the school year. There are a lot of things out there vying for our attention and trying to convince us that we must do this or that in order for our student to "keep up" with other students or be a "STEM" student. All that curriculum "sell" is just begging for us to feel discontent, like we're not doing enough, like we fall short, and like we have to add one more thing to our student's curriculum list for the next year so they won't be handicapped for life. It's just a great way to stress ourselves (and our students) out.
I have had a life changing shift in my paradigm related to curriculum that has set me free. Let me help you make a shift in your paradigm about curriculum too. What if I told you that the curriculum itself doesn't truly matter, but more so what you do with the curriculum that does? I know, I know, it seems like I just committed some homeschooling atrocity to say that curriculum doesn't really matter. I imagine the homeschooling police are being notified right now, as to my heretical statement. However, let me explain....
Don't Let the Curriculum Own You
We should not be stressing out about curriculum or supplements to our curriculum, or the curriculum owns us and not the other way around. If we spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on curriculum for the coming year, then it owns us. Curriculum should be a tool we use to achieve our pre-determined purposes, it is not the purpose. Would we be comfortable with not finishing a curriculum and still feel like we were successful in teaching that subject for the year? Would we be able to skim the curriculum and pick out various aspects and ignore others all together, and still feel like we did a good job? I think the answer should be yes to both. Curriculum is something that we should be looking to use as a tool to uncover ideas and spark conversations in our home and in the hearts and minds of our children. As the parent, I know what things I want my child to learn or do for the year, and I should feel totally comfortable using curriculum in whatever way serves that purpose, in spite of the authors laid out teaching plan for the year. As home educators we need to see the big picture of what we are trying to achieve for a coming year. We should not focus in on the details until we have first identified our goals. Once we know the direction we are going, we can then be free to use curriculum to achieve those goals. If that means only teaching three chapters from a given book this year because the others don't take my student where I want to go, that's OK. Really. It's OK.
Caught Not Taught
Have you ever watched someone who is selling something, and they really have no passion for it? They stay to the scripted information, they don't put anything into it that brings it to life or makes it desirable beyond the core product's own features. Have you also seen someone who was so passionate and so embodied in their presentation of the information and the product, that you came away buying something you wouldn't have otherwise purchased, just because you caught the sheer passion and love of that product the salesman had and it drew you in? There is wisdom in applying that to our homeschool teaching. If we are passionate and embody what we are teaching, genuinely in love with God's creation and seeking the beauty and truth we can find in the subjects being taught, we will pass that on to our children. Teaching is more caught then taught most times, and those teachers who are truly great, are passionate and "masters of their art". They're in love and embodying their subject area and you can't help but walk away loving what they love and seeing the beauty they see.
Create Educational Memories
When my daughter is done with her homeschool education, I want her to look back and have many fond memories and be drawn to learning as a lifestyle. Wonderful Wednesday's, which was a group of Moms taking a curriculum and making it an embodied learning experience, was about creating memories and a love for learning. Memories of history dress-ups, messy, fun experiments, foods from other countries, geographic locations they might have never known otherwise; all because we embodied our learning together. I want her to remember that her Mother loved to learn and was passionate about it. Recalling our "Tea on Tuesdays" reading great books, nature walks, and prayer time together in Mom's cozy chair. I want her to remember the great hero's of ancient times, missionaries of extraordinary bravery and how her mind traveled to places beyond the four walls she occupied, as we read together. I want her to remember space and time to capture bugs and capture her imagination in God's wonder and beauty. I want her to recall our days serving at the Interfaith Food Shuttle together or spending time talking with a lonely retirement home resident or egging her friends at Easter. I know she won't remember how many chapters we cover in any of her school books when it's all done. She will however, remember all the more valuable lessons that these other things afforded her. These are the very things that will shape her character, her loves, her heart, her view of God. This is the education that I hold high and dear.
Stop worrying about grinding out the workbooks and finishing the curriculum - find ways to teach the concepts that involve their senses, get them outdoors and help them to see God's greatness and beauty all around. Whether that beauty is in the eyes of the aged or sick, frog or bug - it's a beauty you can't teach it's caught and it's never forgotten.
We often pride ourselves as homeschool Moms on how much we are covering via curriculum or how many activities our children are in. Is that really the goal though? If we are just rushing from one thing to the next, pressing through curriculum to check boxes and our schedule is packed so full - how will they ever "experience" their education? There is no room. We have to leave room in our schedule for our kids to get "bored" - great stuff happens at my house when my daughter is bored. "Books" have been written and read, dress-ups have occurred, bugs have been caught, structures have been built, crafts have been made, ideas have been born, instruments have been played and more. I leave room. Room to be "bored" and I don't try to fix the boredom. I let her work it out. It also gives us room to do the spontaneous and to read a lot of books and serve. Leave room in your schedule for great things to occur. A few short years ago, I would have been stressed out if we didn't have enough going on with our curriculum and schedule. Now, I become stressed out when I don't have enough room or "margin" in my daughter's curriculum and our schedule! My values have shifted, and I see more value in the spaces of life then I do in the busyness or the workbooks. I've seen the good fruit (and the test scores I should add) of time for conversation, of going deeper in a subject, pursuing fewer things, and having blessed room for it all to occur.
Schole' is Joyful Learning
Schole' to me is just what I was inclined to, but everything else told me I shouldn't be doing. I had to be busy. I had to fill up my schedule. I had to buy the books, finish the curriculum and make sure I didn't give room for being "bored". I love the idea of diligence verses rigor. We are diligent. We work through our curriculum that's necessary (math, copywork, grammar, spelling, reading, writing, Latin) but we pace ourselves. We have lessons in clarinet and piano, but we may not practice every day, if it doesn't work in our schedule then it's OK to miss. I don't always finish the curriculum book and we may not use all of the book -and that's OK. It's better than OK, it's joyful and freeing. I own the curriculum, it doesn't own me. We loop schedule, we leave room, we have good conversations and dig deeper; we embody what we learn. This is a beautiful education that I hope everyone who homeschool's can shift their paradigm and get ahold of. It's such a blessing to truly teach from rest.