I am in love with the curriculums put together by My Father’s World, Heart of Dakota, and Sonlight as I have purchased several volumes of all three, and although I was at one time a slave to them, I am a slave no longer. I still enjoy these programs and plan to use them through our elementary, middle, and high school years because they are fun, creative, and well written year-long plans, but there is so much more out there for us.
The second year that we used one of these programs I began to notice that not every single book that came in the bundle was a good fit. Some were actually a little boring. But because I loved the company and the author’s heart behind it, I felt like we needed to do everything that was written in the guide.
If I ever had a platform in which I was able to speak to a room full of homeschoolers (Gosh, I hope that never happens because I would probably throw up on myself and pass out before I got a word out of my mouth), this is what I would tell them. If something doesn’t work for you or your kids, you don’t have to do it just because it’s written in the manual. So many times we think that the boxed curriculum cage is our new home for the year. And while we’re doing it, we think we’re free because we are homeschoolers after all. But if the only activities we do are the ones listed in the almighty big book and we turn down books we might have loved because they are not in our curriculum, then we’ve become slaves. If we don’t know what we want, where we are going, or what our philosophy is then we become a slave to a list.
I read a book once that said you need to have your philosophy in place before you embark on this journey. Well, I knew my reasons for homeschooling because that’s important, but I didn’t know what would work for us and what wouldn’t so how was I supposed to write out an educational philosophy? It took a couple of years and a lot of trial and error and some wasted money before I found our philosophy. A child can’t know everything there is to know and so we aim to show them how to find the answers they need. How do they find what they need? Well, they have to know how to read well, not just simple words, but they need to be able to read and decipher words that are not yet in their vocabulary. They need to be able to write, so they can communicate and send thank you notes, they need to know math if they ever plan to get a job and make money and have bills, they need to know science so they are aware of the world around them and can stand on the shoulders of men before them in order to move forward, and they need to know history so they have an idea of where they came from and have a sense of purpose in God’s plan. When you know what you are doing and why, you’ll get practical clarity. When you are standing before an item and deciding whether to purchase or not, instead of looking at your current curriculum list for direction, you can hold it up to your goals and philosophy, then decide.
The great thing about homeschooling is that you are free! You are not a slave to anything that is not working for your family. You have the option to switch and change if what you are doing is not working. And if a program does not work it is not me or you that has failed, the book, workbook, or unit is not a good fit for your family.
When we began homeschooling there was a six month period of time in which we used a highly recommended curriculum. All the women in this online myspace group (remember myspace? yup, it was that long ago) used a specific publishing company’s homeschool books. I bought the whole package, complete with clip art to hang on a bulletin board and I didn’t have a bulletin board. I watched my child’s love for playing school everyday dwindle down to tears and arguments. He hated it. I was so frustrated every night as I spent hours trying to understand all the manuals and what I was supposed to do and say. I tried to memorize the scripted teaching and felt utterly exhausted after only a few months. I thought about putting my kids in public school because I couldn’t do it and I felt like a giant failure. We switched to a completely different style of learning curriculum and our home began to feel peaceful again. It took a little while to recover from the damage I caused by trying to adhere to such a strict program, but finally we found our groove. I let go of the guilt I felt for giving my boy a bad taste in his mouth for learning. My child began to feel better about himself as he learned to read in a relaxed environment. It was a very important, valuable mistake in that we learned more about ourselves that year than ever.
Soon after, I discovered a collection of books by Ruth Beechick, Susan Schaeffer Macauley, and Charlotte Mason. It changed my life. It was like the day I read Pagan Christianity. All of my instincts and feelings about education were verified by these women. I was not alone in how I felt. My philosophy about learning lined right up with what I learned and have been continuing to learn.
As you travel along on your homeschooling path, let go of living in a box. If you don’t know what your philosophy is yet, let your children lead you. If they are learning easily and mastering the material, chances are you found your groove. Look online for groups that support what you believe and you’ll be led to so much more than you ever thought was available. There are a handful of materials that are constantly being advertised, but there are thousands more that are not, and you have to look around for them. Chances are, the big companies have some of what you need, but are not complete for you and your kids. Read homeschool books for parents to see what you identify with, but remember that even when you find what you’re looking for, it still may not be all that you need. Don’t box yourself in.
I hope you read this and agree that guilt is no good for any of us, but all of us deal with it, or dealt with it. Homeschooling moms feel we could be doing more and it’s not often you’ll find us bragging about accomplishments. To often we underestimate and undervalue the amazing work that’s being done in our homes. Just know that you are not alone. No matter what your education philosophy is, there is a community that agrees with you and wants to support you. I hope you have wonderful, freedom filled day with your kids today as you tear the box to shreds and put it in the recycling bin.
Thanks for reading!