Last time I wrote a post on some practical, yet Biblical, homeschooling methods suggested from the book of Deuteronomy. I’ve been personally mulling over these methods a lot in the last few weeks. I’ve been homeschooling for many years now, and I’ve gotten more and more opinionated about how I teach in my home. (My husband has gobs of input on this, by the way. I just do the majority of the everyday teaching, so I keep forgetting to say “we” instead of “I” in these posts. But it’s definitely a “we” endeavor! Just wanted to give him his due credit. ) I’ve been staring at my bookshelves, pulling teachers’ manuals off the shelves and perusing through them with new eyes, while looking at items on my “wish lists” online. Here’s a practical question: Why even buy curriculum? Do I need it? One of my goals is to teach every single subject using the Bible as my primary textbook. Even though I’ve laid out some practical ways to do that here on my website, it’s still a very difficult proposition. I don’t find much curriculum on the market that has this exact goal. So much of my time this past year has been spent trying to “reinvent the wheel,” making up a lot as I go — and it’s been a lot of work! On many mornings, I’ve woken up with no plan whatsoever — and that’s rather disconcerting. No, I don’t need to buy packaged curriculum. I can just use my Bible as the “spine” for all subjects, then use books and resources I own to supplement and add variety. But practically speaking, when Monday morning comes around, sometimes I am very unsure what to do that day with my children. I honestly wish I had a full curriculum laid out for me, so I could just pick it up and use it. I’m not trying to be lazy! I’m just trying to be practical, as the busy (and sometimes worn out) mother of seven children. So, while some mothers might not need a packaged curriculum, I decided to list some reasons why I like having one.
Because I don’t know everything — and sometimes I don’t even know I don’t know it!
I did pretty good in school, and I love to learn and read. But come on… I slept through my share of history classes, and I stink at geography. I can’t remember all my algebra (not even close). Geometry makes no more sense to me this time through than it did… uh… two decades ago. I still can’t spell. I still goof up time zones. Phonics frustrates me when it gives me no good reason “why.” I often forget how to make capital Qs. And I love the Word of God, but I can’t honestly remember what the book of Zephaniah is about at this exact second because it’s been awhile since I read it. Curriculum authors are very familiar with their particular subjects. And as a curriculum author myself, I know that these real human beings are “very familiar with their particular subjects” only on the exact date that they wrote that exact lesson plan… and even they struggle with all the trivial details later. Because we are humans made in the image of God yet without His perfection, God gives us language and words because we forget things. Writing things down and reading them later helps us remember important truths. Do I have to teach everything to my children? No, that would be impossible. I do have opinions about specific things that must be taught, though, so I’m glad for curriculum. It will help me keep my good intentions, and it will instruct me in my own weak areas as it does.
Because I want to be intentional in my parenting, not emotional.
I find that my emotions can reign supreme in two areas in my homeschooling. First, a crying child can get my emotions going a little too much some days. “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Proverbs 19:18, KJV). When my child is struggling with learning his times tables, some days I’m too easy on him. “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Colossians 3:21, KJV). On other days, I’m grumpy and way too hard on him. Secondly, over the course of a month, a school year, or even several years, I change my mind too many times. I’m very easily influenced, and my moods play more of a part in this than I care to admit. Curriculum, however, is usually written with a strong purpose behind it (or why would the author have gone to so much trouble?). At least for this particular school year (or until my mood convinces me to chuck it and buy something else completely), the daily lesson plans will keep us headed toward the goals that we set with much prayer and thought at an earlier time. I like curriculum because it lays things out for me, keeping me thoughtful and intentional in my teaching methods, rather than driven by my emotions for that day. No, I’m not saying that I need to “X” every box or do every activity suggested. However, I am realizing that most curriculum authors put those activities there for a very good reason, and I would do well to at least pay attention and try to figure out why the activity is there. More often than not, I’ve found that when I actually do what the author suggests, my children learn their stuff thoroughly! My emotions might not feel like “doing school” today, but my curriculum pushes me to have self discipline of my own.
Because I need some accountability.
No, I don’t need an official curriculum in order to be accountable to others, but it helps. First of all, I really need to be accountable (a.k.a. “submissive”) to my own husband. These are his children, and he is primarily accountable to God for their upbringing and education. I am his “suitable helper” (Genesis 2:18, NIV). It would be wrong of me to tell him that I’m planning to teach our children specific things — then just never get around to it. Curriculum really helps me with this! I am also accountable to my country. I might not like it, but Romans 13:1-7 makes it extremely clear that I must submit to my local “governing authorities” in matters of homeschooling law. I don’t have to do more than they require, but I must at least do the minimum. I am welcome to take part in our democratic process (here in the United States) to make changes to bad laws, but in the meantime, I must “give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:7), and if a quarterly report card (here in Minnesota), then a quarterly report card. Curriculum really helps me with this.
Because the Bible makes it clear that I need to review, to test, and to give rewards and consequences.
Yup, as I was learning from Deuteronomy 8 and 28, part of my responsibility as a parent is to review with my children often, to actually test them to see if they’re learning, and then to give rewards and consequences afterward. Without a curriculum, I personally am quite weak in this area. Review? Ug. It’s fun to discuss or read aloud or do projects. But doing flashcards? Drilling spelling words? Chanting time lines? Reciting helping verbs? (Yawn…) Having a curriculum to nag me helps. Tests? Who likes making up tests? I don’t! What a pain! And it’s tough to do in some of the harder subjects that my older children are in. (How do I test in Spanish or Latin when I can’t remember any of it myself?) And rewards or consequences? Sorry, Ladies, but I’m not that creative… day after day after day after day….
Because I want to use the “Read, Listen, Learn, Follow” method of homeschooling.
Deuteronomy 5 and 31:10-13 tell us about this method, and you can read more about it in another post of mine.
Basically, I start by reading to my children (or otherwise giving them information).
They are to “listen,” which means to hear intelligently. This part includes the discussion that we are to have together, so I can check for understanding of the topic.
Next, they are to “learn,” which comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to goad” or “instruct.” This is the review… the gentle poking and goading I must do over many days, being sure that head knowledge becomes deeply ingrained in their brains.
Finally, they are to “follow,” which comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to hedge, to guard, and to protect.” This is checking for long-term retention, and it must occur over the course of an entire year, and even over several years and a lifetime of growing up in our home.
Honestly, this is a lot for me as a mom to remember to do. A curriculum author can lay out an entire school year, placing each of these components at their proper places. (Of course, this implies that I’m using a curriculum that actually agrees with these biblical goals I have.)
Because I need to use a variety of teaching methods, even those that don’t fit my own personality and learning styles.
Again, a curriculum author has gone to great care to reach a variety of audiences, learning styles, personalities, and methods. If I had my way, I’d choose the path of least personal resistance, but with seven children, I’m quite sure my own “path of least resistance” is probably nothing like the way some of them learn best. God is so creative, but even with the best of intentions, I am often lazy (or tired or very busy). A curriculum can really help me with this!
Because I need to be realistic and practical. I still have a lot of other things to accomplish, besides homeschooling, in my days.
I am a curriculum author myself. I have lots of plans and big ideas about all the amazing books I’m going to write and publish… someday! (Oh, if only you could see them all, as they exist in amazing high-gloss beauty, at least in my head… LOL!) But realistically, I still have to sleep sometime. I still have to change diapers (for a few more years, at least). I still have to go grocery shopping, make supper, hang up clean laundry, take meals to sick friends from church, do my income taxes, and answer the phone occasionally. I have to let the dog out, feed the baby, remind my son to vacuum the living room, send thank-you notes, and practice the flute with my daughter. I have doctors’ appointments, dry cleaning to pick up, friends to have coffee with, and meat to take out of the freezer for supper. There are occasional days when I don’t have time to write amazing curriculum… or even make lesson plans for my own kids. (Or even review spelling words… sshh, don’t tell…) So, the top reason I love having curriculum is because… I’m just a normal mom like you are. Sometimes I just need help. Ever feel that way, too? So hip, hip, hooray for all those who have made homeschooling possible for me! It’s the best life possible, but it probably wouldn’t be possible for me without curriculum authors. 🙂 ~Anne