Is there a Perfect Curriculum?
Did you know that the word curriculum comes from the Latin word currere, which means “to run?” The word curriculum was first used during the Roman Empire to refer to the course used for chariot races. The curriculum was the racetrack—the course. The curricle was the wheeled chaise or chariot usually drawn by horses.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us “to run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Each of us, adult and child, has a different course—a different curriculum—that has been set before us. Every child possesses a unique personality, unique gifts, unique interests, and unique weaknesses. In home schooling, parents can capitalize on each child’s individuality and learning style, thereby helping him to successfully navigate and complete the race that God has given solely to him.
In the home schooling environment, we have the freedom to constantly evaluate our children academically, socially, spiritually, and morally. If we don’t like what we see, we can intervene and make adjustments. Homeschooling is a process, and that process consists of constantly fine-tuning the program, academic and otherwise, that we are offering our children. Our job as parents is to help our children stay the course—run the race—that the Lord has set before them. Each of our children will have different aspirations and goals. What a blessing for them to be in an educational setting where individuality can flourish because uniformity and standardization are not the goals.
The ability to tailor-make a curriculum—a program of instruction—for our children is one of the most compelling reasons to homeschool, and yet this process of choosing curriculum is one of the most intimidating tasks parents face. We think there is a perfect curriculum somewhere, and if we fail to find it, our children will suffer academically for it the rest of their lives—so we engage in that relentless pursuit of the perfect curriculum.
My house is a shrine to the home schooler’s equivalent of the search for the Holy Grail—the quest for the perfect curriculum. This is my sixteenth year of home schooling and I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on every type of education material you can imagine. I have been duped by ads that promise their curriculum “makes home schooling easy.” I have purchased every phonics program known to man. I own every homeschooling magazine that has ever been published, and I am sure I have read every book on home schooling that has ever been written.
After fifteen years of home schooling completed, thousands of dollars spent, and hundreds of mistakes made, what is my advice to you? Remember these things during your home schooling journey.
1. There is no such thing as the perfect curriculum.
2. Choosing curriculum is a fluid process and not an exact science. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes when choosing curriculum—everybody makes mistakes. At some point, you will probably buy some materials that you just won’t like or won’t use.
3. Some things will be perfect for one child and not-so-perfect for another.
4. You will make some great choices that will work well for you and your family.
5. Don’t be a slave to your curriculum. You can adapt and enhance any curriculum by employing your own ingenuity and creativity, coupled with your knowledge of how your child learns and responds.
Above all, remember this: Curriculum is not an end in itself—it is a means to an end. Curricular resources are tools of our trade, just like paintbrushes are the tools of the trade for artists and painters. A skilled artist can take an old, imperfect brush and still paint a beautiful picture. Like the artist, we need to be focused on the quality of the final picture and not constantly examining the brush!
With two sons in college on scholarship (one academic, the other athletic), I have more time to reflect on the nature of home schooling and why it works. Home schooling works, first and foremost, because of God’s grace and blessing. Secondly, home schooling works because of the parent’s strong commitment to his/her children, and the depth of relationship which that commitment inculcates. Whatever curriculum you choose, make constant interaction and dialog with your children a top priority. Your children will learn beautifully in your home school because of your relationship with them and because of the nature of tutorial instruction
During the course of this school year, talk to other homeschooling mothers about what curricular materials have worked for them and why. Make notes about the good points and bad points of your current curriculum. Don’t dread the process of choosing curriculum. And remember that academics are only a portion of the home schooling equation. Equally as important as the academic development of your children is their spiritual, moral, and social development.
These verses from the psalmist are great words of encouragement for every homeschooling mother to contemplate:
Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. Psalm 37:3-6Zan Tyler is the editor of the HomeSchool Channel for Crosswalk.com and author of the book Anyone Can Homeschool. She and her husband have three children and have been home schooling for 18 years.