It starts with a look.
Somehow this curriculum grabs your attention from across the sea of curriculum and you just know it. This is love. So you bring it into your home and you start getting to know each other.
You build that relationship. Things can get ugly, you have a fight and you are sure you will never make up. Sometimes your love lasts and you end up with a long term relationship built on learning and respect.
Sometimes curriculum is like an ex that keeps drawing you back no matter how many times you try to walk away.
Curriculum is a complicated relationship.
There are multiple factors that pull at us every single time we teach.
- The teacher’s relationship/comfort level with the curriculum
- The relationship between the curriculum and the student.
(And one of you can be in love while the other one isn’t.)
- Then there is also this nebulous factor of “what my kid needs to know” to become a contributing member of society
- Time. Time is a huge factor.
- And the energy and stamina that you need to pull this curriculum off every single day.
One of my favorite quotes from Julie Bogart from Brave Writer is that homeschooling subjects are like Tinder and some of us need to work on our profile because let’s be honest no one wants to trudge through their days in drudgery and obligation.
How do we move beyond simply checking items off our lists? How do we ignite a spark and fan the flames into a love of learning that lasts for a lifetime?
We need to think of curricula as a tool as a means to an end, not the end. Curricula can become a gateway to joy and delight! But, if we are going to be honest it is a tool that tries to become a master and succeeds far too often if we let it.
So what is the key to keeping curricula in its place? I have come to view it in a couple of different capacities within my day.
What Curriculum is!
- A way to outsource. Wait what? I find that this works best when you a working within a child’s island of competency. One way I’ve used Teaching Textbooks is for this very reason. My oldest loves math and it gives him time working with his favorite subject without me having to funnel a lot of energy into it. Now I do make sure to check in, rave about his awesome skills and let him show off for me. But it saves me so much energy. When I’m planning my lessons one thing I ask myself is how can I use curriculum to outsource!
- The sage on the hill. I am not the world’s leading expert on phonics instruction. But the world’s leading experts have written some amazing curriculums and rather than reinventing the wheel I have the privilege of using their expertise. And this is an amazing privilege. To be able to seek out resources we need. It is an important part of the puzzle.
- A fantastic general outline that I get to add to and sprinkle educational pixie dust all over. It gives us an idea about how concepts can build upon each other. It gives inspiration that I might not have thought about. And it can be comforting to have something that can hold our hand a little bit!
- A security blanket. I’m going there. Stephanie Elms recently pointed out to me in The Homeschool Alliance that curriculum is a security blanket. It makes us feel like we have control and sometimes we need that. We need to feel like our children our learning or that we are at least making an effort in that direction. Sometimes I need to pull my security blanket out after we have taken a big educational risk. But I’m finding that the more risks I take the less I am needing it. And maybe someday I will have weaned myself off of my security blanket forever!
What curriculum is not!
- An end all be all. One single textbook can not give us all the information we ever need to know on a topic of study. Think of all the learning contained in a library on a single subject (and often research is being done) on the subjects we are teaching our children every day. This curriculum we are using is one peek. One perspective. One resource. One opportunity to spark curiosity.
- A strict outline for every day. Ignoring our own energy and our children’s energy is dangerous. Just because a curriculum says you must complete xyz today so you can get through it all by a specific end date, it doesn’t mean that you have to. Maybe you are ready to do more and maybe less and that is ok. You are the one who is ultimately guiding the education not a curriculum. Take ownership. Start to develop and acknowledge your own intuition. Allow yourself to create a margin of curiosity, creativity and rest. We all need it. And allowing space for creativity curiosity and rest is one of the pleasures of homeschooling.
- A guarantee. Just because you follow a curriculum to a T it doesn’t mean that your child will be fully educated. It doesn’t mean there won’t be holes. It doesn’t mean that they will find their love and passion and their educational curiosity. It doesn’t mean your child will get into a great college, get a great job and live a happy fulfilled adult life. Because there are no guarantees in life. And pinning that to a curriculum to dangerous and unrealistic.
Right now the new year homeschool year is opening up before us. We are in the newly wed part of the relationship with our curricula. Now is the time to set up a healthy new relationship. A relationship that puts curriculum in its rightful place in our homeschool lives. One that serves us and our needs and not the other way around. May we walk hand in hand with our curriculum into a brave new year!
How do you keep curriculum as a tool and not a master? Share your thoughts below!