For those of you who are fellow homeschoolers, you know that this is the time of year when we start thinking about new curriculum. It's a time to think back over what we have done throughout the year, and what worked for us and our kids..and what didn't! If you are like me, you find yourself being sorely disappointed if there isn't at least something new that you need for the next school year. Few things are as fun and exciting to me as perusing catalogs and websites to find that "perfect sounding" curriculum that will revolutionize your homeschooling experience and have your children begging for more school work!
Of course, we often get those wonderful boxes of curriculum and tear them open with glee (us and the kids). At my house, the first 5 lessons will be done, or the first two chapters will be read before we even go to bed that night...despite my pleas to save the work for next school year! Then once the curriculum is started, and we get a couple months into it, we realize with dismay that what we thought was going to revolutionary is actually wrought with problems for our family. Either there is too much planning time for mom, or the material is too difficult, or any number of reasons why we have come to realize that this material that we were sure was "the one"...actually wasn't!
I have been homeschooling for almost 8 years now, and already, on several occassions have ridden this curriculum roller coaster with my kids. Just when I think I've found what is going to make everyone happy, and make my kids the smartest ones on the planet..reality sets in! Then, we start getting down on ourselves. We have wasted money, wasted time for our kids, and gotten emotionally attached to an idea that wasn't all it was cracked up to be. So...what causes us to do these things? I have some theories, based on my own experience. None of these theories may apply to you, or maybe all of them will...I don't know.
When I first started looking into homeschooling, I, like probably everyone else, was overwhelmed with all the choices out there. One of the first curriculums that I looked at was one that I thought had a wonderful Godly philosophy. The main focus of this curriculum was Unit Study. I was in love with the idea of doing Unit Studies (I really still am!). Although I never did purchase this actual curriculum....I felt that Unit Study was what I HAD to do. I also read a book called "The Things We Wish We'd Known", a compilation of seasoned homeschoolers who talked about what they wish they would have done differently. It seemed that almost every person in the book talked about not doing school at home, but doing things in more of a unit study type fashion, or having your children direct their own education based on their interests. This sounded like a wonderful idea, and I took it on as my very own philosophy of homeschooling education.
So, where was the problem? The problems came after about 6 years of doing mostly unit study type curriculum, when I realized that no matter what I tried...I couldn't make it work for our family. Things started out pretty well when my first couple of boys were young, and we read a lot of books together, and had the time to study together. However, as I added two more students and continued to add a new baby to the family every couple of years...I couldn't keep up with the planning required with Unit Study materials. But, instead of considering a change, I just tried to figure out solutions to fix the problem and still maintain MY philosophy.
I went on this way for a couple more years, living in total stress and chaos, because some days I would have some material ready for all the kids to study, and other days I wouldn't. I couldn't figure out how to make it work so that we were being consistent, and not doing "school at home" (which in my mind was a downright sinful thing to do based on what I had read!).
This all changed one day when I read an article written by Terri Maxwell of Titus 2 Ministries. You can read it here The article was about schooling with textbooks, and why it is sometimes the best option for a family despite how negatively it is looked upon in homeschooling circles. Reading this article was God hitting me over the head with a two by four! At first, I acted by resistance, but after swallowing my pride a little bit...I approached the hubby about what I felt God was showing me. A few months later, we ordered textbooks for all four of our schooling kids...and I haven't looked back since!!
Why did it take me so long to do what was right for my family? Here is where my theories come in. First of all, for all those years that I was trying to do things my way, I knew my husband was concerned about there not being enough consistency or academic rigor in our homeschooling. But, I pretty much blew him off by telling him that it wasn't right to do school at home, and we needed to continue doing what we were doing. He took my word for it, and let me continue doing what I was doing. This was my biggest mistake...not honoring the desires of my husband, simply because he didn't push me to. Ladies..we need to listen to what our husbands want in our homeschool. Often our husbands let us make the curriculum decisions because they know we are the ones teaching, and they trust us to make the right decisions. But, if your husband has expressed a desire about what he wants to see in our home and "school", we need to learn to swallow our pride as the "teacher" and consider a change.
My other big mistake in all of this was to listen to what others had to say, and put the opinions of the homeschool masses over what God truly wanted for my children and my family. I felt that I had prayed enough about our curriculum (and in the early years, I think we were right on track). But, in looking back, as more children were born, and my older children were growing, I was "praying", but really saying to God, this is what I think is good God, I hope you agree!! Then I proceeded to spend lots of money on a new curriculum that sounded great, but was never going to work for us. I was convinced that what I was hearing about other homeschool families, and their opinions about how a Christian family should homeschool had to be what God would want for our family too...surely! I was wrong to think this way. Each one of our families is different. What works for one family, and what sounds great, may not be what works for us. It's not wrong to ask advice, read books, and go to conventions to find out what others are doing, and what seems good for others. However, where we go wrong is when we take someone elses philosophy and put our name on it, whether it fits or not. God knows our children better than we do, He knows the needs of our families at different times in our lives, and He can guide us to what is really best for us. There is no right way to educate our children at home, as long as we are putting God first, and we are dedicated to teaching our children to put Him at the center of everything in their lives as well. For several years, I just couldn't see this. I didn't allow my husbands ideas to sway me, even though he is the head of my family. I was very wrong!
I can't tell you how much going to textbooks has set me free as a homeschool mom! I am still active in teaching and guiding my children, but for my large family, and the many things that we have going on in our lives, it has given me the freedom to allow them to be independant in their education, and have consistency in their education on a daily basis. There is still lots of time for one on one reading, discussing, and just being together. We are still working on tweaking a little, and this next year we will by trying something different in using Switched on Schoolhouse for several subjects (which is also something I was totally against before). And I still hope to be able to incorporate some unit study into our year, if life calms down a tad, because I still love doing that.
Don't get me wrong, I think it's great for us to dialogue about what our philosophies are and what curriculum works for us, because God can use others to show us the way. The key is to not make someone elses philosophy entirely our own based simply on our desires. We need to listen to our husbands, and most importantly, swallow our pride and do what really works for our family. God wants our children to be well educated in His ways, and be fully prepared for the adult life that He will lead them to.
If you realize that you have been on the wrong path in your homeschool, and things just aren't working for you, talk to your husband, and talk to the one who lead you to live this crazy lifestyle to begin with. As a warning though....this may result in you needing to repent, ask forgiveness, and swallow your pride. But, once you find what really is best for your family...you will be sooo glad you did!
What is the best homeschool philosophy?
Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean NOT on your own understanding. In ALL your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.