I’ve been officially homeschooling for about 15 years. We have used a variety of great programs. We have done experiments from books, kits, and other resources. We have used living books and textbook style books. I have enjoyed it all with my kids. I am a research hound so I do a lot of reviewing, discussing, and searching before I make a purchase. I want to really like the materials I decide to use and most importantly I want my kids to like them too!
I don’t always use items the way they are recommended. Some curriculum want to provide activities so that it is very meaty and covers more than one subject. Some materials provide a lesson plan or method for using it to the fullest. I have found that adapting my purchase to fit our needs for the time and particular child(ren) has been the most beneficial.
I don’t do everything listed in the book…GASP!
I have no qualms about skipping chapters or doing them in a different order. I am not concerned about completing every project, activity, experiment, or other item listed in the book. I like to focus on the learning. I am convinced that the best way to learn is by actually enjoying your subject. Getting excited about the subject and engaging with the material on different levels can be a wonderful experience. Often homeschool parents are reluctant to deviate. When they consider not doing it the way the teacher’s manual suggest it creates fear. It goes something like this:
If I don’t complete the curriculum the way it is stated then my child will not learn correctly. We might skip an important topic and then they will be deficient in that area. My child will then go on to study further and that deficiency from before will rear its ugly head and make learning more challenging and complicated for him. Now my child is struggling, performing lower than his peers, and competing academically with a hindrance that stems from my bad decision. I now feel responsible for inadequately preparing my child educationally and he has to suffer the consequences. All this devastation occurred just because I skipped the chapter on the various types of nests that birds make so that we could spend a longer time studying migration!
The real point of the story
Ok, so it might not be that trivial or drastic but it sums up the line of thinking that goes into following everything step by step and making sure we finish everything in the lesson, chapter, book, and so on. You might not realize this shocker but most brick and mortar schools don’t finish everything in a school year. Take a look at any traditional textbook and know that there is a reason that the first chapters are review. Hint: It isn’t because of the long summer break. And it isn’t review when you are seeing it for the first time!
A few years ago a fellow homeschool mom was struggling into the summer to finish the science curriculum with her daughter. They were both feeling the burnout very heavily and I doubt much learning was actually taking place. It had turned into a “read as much as you can and take the test so we can move on” attitude. This mom then had a chat with a public school teacher and realized that they didn’t come anywhere close to finishing their book and approved syllabus. All of a sudden my friend felt free! She called to share this wonderful news with me because all of a sudden it was “okay” to not do everything!
The bottom line
The materials you select are yours, and you can decide what is important. You can allow your students to enjoy and spend a longer time on a subject that really interests them. You can give yourselves the freedom to linger in an educational moment. You don’t have to be subject to the outline or recommended plan. Who knows? One day your kids might thank you for the love of learning gift!
Leave a comment about your off the beaten path endeavors.