Holy Grail Curricula

New homeschoolers seem to be most concerned about what textbooks and/or curricula to use. We spend so much time looking through catalogs, going to curriculum fairs, and talking with other home educators about what they use with their children. We try to find that perfect choice – the one text that will turn our math-hater into a human calculator or the writing-phobic child into the next Mark Twain. Unfortunately, no such perfect choice exists. We spend our time and energy trying first one magic textbook, then another, until we finally begin to realize that we are searching for that elusive Holy Grail textbook.

A New Quest Begins

When this realization began to dawn upon me, I knew I had to figure out just what my goals for my children were and what home education meant to me. I needed to read about how children learn, what “getting an education” really means, and the philosophies of home education, rather than more “how-to homeschool” manuals.

Originally, one goal was to teach more than the public school – more subjects and more in-depth. Another goal was to concentrate on the weak areas of each child and work towards improving those “deficit” areas. Just a few short months into home educating, though, and those goals not only didn’t seem achievable, but they didn’t seem necessary or even desirable. I had quickly seen that re-creating public school at home wasn’t the answer, as evidenced by our burnout from the schedule I had created, so why should I continue to work towards goals set up by an entity that I no longer wished to emulate?

The Christmas That Lingered

So I declared a very extended Christmas vacation and began to research homeschool methods and children’s learning styles. For weeks on end I immersed myself in these books, websites, email lists – reading, listening and pondering.

One thing I quickly learned from my research was that all three of my children had very different learning styles than I, and that almost all the materials I had chosen to use were suited to my learning style, not theirs. I found many of the home education methods to be quite interesting. It was amazing to me the variety of methods that homeschooling families could choose from, and I began to see how several of the methods were quite similar. I also saw how you could incorporate facets of several of these methods to create your own, personalized method for you family.

Where I learned the most about home education, though, was in simply watching and listening to my children. During the time of our “extended vacation”, formal lessons had ceased; but my children continued to learn, to seek out knowledge, to follow their interests and delve in-depth into several subject areas. I began to realize that my children didn’t need me to be their teacher – they were perfectly capable of seeking knowledge on their own.

Time Goes On… So Does Learning

Four years of home educating has also shown me that concentrating on my children’s strengths, rather than their weaknesses, produces much more desirable results. Their confidence and feelings of expertise seem to have a spillover effect into all other facets of their lives.

One son had a very difficult time with spelling – spelling lists and tests were pure torture and spelling words learned one week were forgotten the next. It has been three and a half years since we assigned any spelling words or gave any spelling tests. Instead, he has read hundreds of books of his own choosing, occasionally asking what a particular word means, and, in the meantime, his spelling has steadily improved. More importantly, he no longer considers spelling to be something to dread each day. He can laugh at the vagaries of the English language, recognize when he’s misspelled a word, and seek assistance when necessary. He no longer has a sense of shame because he might have misspelled a word – rather he has the confidence to admit it and remedy it.

The True Grail

Only by listening and watching my children have I discovered that they don’t need teaching to. My teaching seems to hinder their learning process rather than help. I have learned to be more trusting of their own timetable for knowledge – both when and what. They sometimes require my assistance; mostly they do not. Quite frankly, their knowledge in certain areas far exceeds mine – quantum physics, basketball, King Arthur lore/history – none of these would I know where to begin to teach. Yet my children are exceedingly knowledgeable in their particular areas of interest.

So, perhaps instead of spending so much time and energy contemplating which text to use and pursuing that “Holy Grail curricula”, you should do as my children do. Study your subject area – your children – in depth. Become an expert on their strengths, their learning styles, their gifts. And tailor your resources around them, instead of them around your resources.

Photo by darlene on Unsplash

Learning styles and home education method resources:

The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom by Mary Griffith Kindle | Paperback

Learning All The Time, by John Holt – Paperback | Hardcover

In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences, by Thomas Armstrong – Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle

Better Late Than Early, by Raymond S Moore, Dorothy N Moore, & Dennis R Moore – Kindle

Learn in Freedom (website)

Copyright 2000, 2021

Originally published in the July/August 2000 issue of HELM (Home Education Learning Magazine)

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