Please, Don’t Ask Me What Curriculum We Use…
It seems to me that one of the most common questions asked when I tell people we home school is, “What curriculum do you use?” This seems like a valid question, I suppose, if they are looking for suggestions or thinking about trying out a new curriculum but otherwise I can’t figure out why that matters to others. How many people that don’t home school even know the difference between curriculum companies? Do they even know what curriculum their children are using in public school?
Don’t get me wrong, I have researched and planned out our curriculum just like most of you have. We do have a set up curriculum plan and we work through it usually each weekday, it just isn’t the most important part of home school for us. It doesn’t do the teaching for me and no one should assume that I can’t teach my own children and need a curriculum to do so. It helps but there is so much more. In fact, when I think about all the different aspects of home education that are the most important to me, I realize that what curriculum we use isn’t even close to the top of my list.
You can’t tell how much a child has learned from how many worksheets they have completed in a colorful labeled notebook sitting on a shelf. You can by their level of confidence while preforming a task. You can see the joy of success in their eyes and the motivated way they push through even what they deem the hardest of activities. You can listen to their joy as they chatter about what they have processed from the data collected and retained in their ever expanding brains. Have you ever sat and watched as a child tried again and again to figure something out and the light just comes on in their eyes the moment that last puzzle piece clicks into place. It’s the closest thing to magic I have ever seen.
Success isn’t measured by how many pieces of paper or words they have read but how they can articulate themselves when they speak or write and in the attitude they exhibit towards others. Do they treat everyone with respect and kindness? Do they empathize with those around them and realize the world is such an enormous space full of different ideas, thoughts, and people with a variety of feelings? The books and words are just a means to achieve the goal, mere tools, not the main focus. We measure their use of language simply by how well they use the language not by stacks of library receipts. I’m not raising a book shelf, I am raising a future member of our society who just happens to be well read.
Intelligence shouldn’t be measured with a test where the bubbles have to be filled in perfectly and quite frankly amp up the anxiety in my daughter to a breaking point. We should measure it instead by reactions to unexpected stimuli and how they handle everyday situations. How do they adjust to losing a game or winning it for that matter? How well do they respond when they don’t get their way? Can they figure out a plan of action if their list of directions is incomplete? Are they motivated to act or react quickly? Can they think critically and plan out different ideas? Can they brainstorm and see an idea to a finished end even if they have to make adjustments along the way?
Each child is special and uniquely made full of wonder and imagination. Tests can’t measure that uniqueness because they assume we are all the same. When no one is standard, how can we trust a standardized test?
All the worksheets, all the books, all the shelves full of materials, and the countless supplies are necessary, I understand, but they are just some of the tools we use to enrich their education. The most important aspects of education (either at home or in public school) are found in a different place and often over looked. They are not often talked about and you can’t buy them from a store. Amazon doesn’t carry them although they do carry just about everything else. We all have them to varying degrees already. They are imagination, excitement, joy, interest, wonder, and motivation.
Imagine a world were we can look at a child and see their natural wonder and curiosity as a teaching tool rather than the book or materials we are using to engage that nature. Try teaching a child that has no interest in the subject you are working in, it is nearly impossible. I mean you might as well try teaching the lesson to the table because your going to get the same results although with less tears and frustration. Our biggest and most important tool for teaching them is the child themselves. If they are excited or happy to learn, they will. Put the tools in their hands and they will learn because of the sheer want to learn. They are naturally motivated by a curiosity in the world around them, to find out what makes it work.
Let them play, let them tinker, let them be children because they are natural learners, while we are but their guides, bread crust removers, and occasional body guards against the more obvious dangers of exploration. Worksheets are fine, books are wonderful, curriculum materials are great but without interest, motivation, or excitement they are just paper. Curriculum books are like cook books, they give us the recipe but we have to cook the dish.
So please, don’t ask me what curriculum we use, ask me instead how excited are they to learn.
Unless of course you want curriculum suggestions… then by all means ask away as I am always ready to talk “shop”. 🙂