So What About

Prepared Curriculum?
   
By Barb Shelton

   


And now we come to "The Million Dollar Question," meaning, if I had a dollar for every time I've been asked this, I'd be a millionaire.  OK, maybe not quite, but close. Here's the whole question as I generally hear it:

 

So what do you think about

prepared curriculum?

I mean, like going with a whole program

of textbooks and workbooks

for all the subjects?

Can't it be "one option" for people who

aren't as creative as others?

     

The first thing I need to tell you before I give you my opinion is that I am biased.  In fact, very biased!  Having homeschooled for 16 years now [I wrote this in 1998], and having had contact with hundreds of homeschoolers via my writing, speaking around the country, the Home-Based Education Course I offer, and the support groups I've been involved in, I have just seen too much to have anything but a biased view of any workbook-oriented approach to homeschooling.
   
We have somehow gotten this view that "education" is filling our kids' minds with facts and information. While that certainly enters into the picture, it is NOT what true education is. Education is teaching them to think, cooperating with God in preparing them "for the works He prepared for them to walk in," allowing time for the stuff God breathed in them to come to life, and character building. This is why we are hearing so much about employers who are frustrated with what the traditional school system is giving them. The schools are not producing "educated people" but rather "schooled" kids whose minds are only "puffed up with knowledge." Even knowledge from a Christian perspective "puffeth up" when the character has not been trained. And that is NOT best done by a workbook on "Character Training"! It is best done within the context of a lifestyle where learning is a common, everyday occurrence.
   
You wouldn't believe the stack of letters I have received from home school moms who have been homeschooling for ten, even twelve years, and have written to us, some even in tears, frustrated over having tried the work-textbook approach for many years, only to now have nothing but burnt-out kids who hate learning and have retained very little of it anyway. They are overjoyed to have found the lifestyle of learning approach, but say "I can't tell you how much I wish I could go back and do it this way right from the start!" Letter after letter say the very same thing! And almost every one of them also says, "You have put into words what I felt God was saying, but could never figure it out!"
   
There is still a place, I believe, for using a some prepared curriculum when first starting out, and then maybe later on for selected subjects, like math and English, especially at the high school level. But I have seen so many homeschoolers use it for their entire curriculum, and I have never seen one bit of "good fruit" come from it especially not the fruit the parents themselves were striving and hoping for. There's so much to be gained from "real life" experiences" and "real books." (Just reading them to your kids is good; I still read to my high schoolers up through graduation!) But we're too scared that they won't learn! Or that they won't learn "enough." I am now convinced that the very same thing will happen they won't learn "enough" if we are relying on prepared curriculum for our education! We do use a bit of "canned curriculum," but it's not the fabric out of which the majority of our "educational program" is woven.
   
Rather than looking to curriculum to give you a false sense of security that education is taking place, I encourage you to look to the Lord for a renewing of your mind. Everyone in America needs it! Not just you or me! The traditional-school mindset is just woven into and is the pseudo-solid foundation of the society we live in!) Ask God what His idea of education is. There is much joy and freedom in His ways no matter what area of our lives. But "His ways" must first be sought out and understood. Today's idea of education is very far from "God's way" - Wisdom's Way of education.
   
How do we know whether any given form of education is God's way?  By looking at the fruit it produces. Look at the current methods of education.  They are producing the fruit of burn-out, frustration, people who have a pile of knowledge poured into their heads, but little if any character and values. God's ways produce the fruit of peace, delight, and freedom.  And I'm not talking about the flesh-pleasing, selfish, "I-gotta-be-me" kind of "freedom" the world offers; I'm talking about the freedom Jesus died for us to have: in Him! "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty"! 
     
This was probably more than you bargained for, and I sure didn't mean to blow you away! I used to think: "Different strokes for different folks!" But I've just "seen too much" to be quiet about it anymore. As you seek the Lord on this, He will show you the best way for your family! And it will be what is good and best for you!

 

   

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And here are a few related Q's and A's:

 

Q: Do you recommend using the school district for supplemental educating (I looked into what the kindergarten programs had available, such as "library", etc.) 

   

A:  No, I don't. I don't say "Don't do it!", but neither do I recommend it. I think it's best to just not be connected.

Q:  Should I register him with the state?

   

A:  That is totally up to you.   Read my article called "Obeying the Law, Testing, and Qualifying to Homeschool" for my thoughts on this. :-) It's very long, and I don't mean to overwhelm you, but there is MUCH to say and consider on this matter; it is not a simple thing.

   

Q:  But I don't feel like I'm creative enough to do my own curriculum! This question is also worded as "I have several children, I don't have time to make my own curriculum!  I just need something fast and easy!"

  

A:  This isn't about "doing your own curriculum"; it's about SEEING and understanding what education really IS!  I HIGHLY recommend that you put yourself through a "season of re-education and renewing of your mind, even (if not especially) starting now.  The more you get your thinking in line with where God would have it be, the freer you will be to follow His ways, and the less you will depend on any plan of "man's" to guide you or give you ideas, because you'll be watching for and following God's leading. Not that using a curriculum is "not following God"!  But I do not personally feel you really need a set curriculum. You might think you do, but my approach is to train parents and to help them better understand what "true education" is so that they are equipped and free to follow the leading of the Lord for their child. You still use all sorts of resources for various subjects (mostly "real books" but also "workbookish" things for grammar and math), but I believe that God wants to have you lean on Him for what you do on a day-to-day basis rather than on what a curriculum would tell you, no matter how wonderful and real-life it is. If you have already bought one, you can still use lots of ideas from it, but I hope you will get to the place where you will walk in greater understanding and freedom, and thus be able to utilize the "real-life curriculum" that God will bring your way daily. And THAT is what my course is about. Getting you to that place!  If you need something in the "interim," that is exactly why I wrote two of my books:

 

~ The Homeschool Jumpstart Navigator, for moms with children age 12 and under, which you can read about on this page.  

   

~Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+la ~ for junior high age and above.  (mostly high school)  You can read about it on that same page.

   

 

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I got this background at:

   ...and the books at:

     

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