After hearing everyone raving about Teaching From Rest, I decided to check it out and ran across the post How to Simplify the Curriculum on Amongst Lovely Things.
I have fallen in love. It describes the lessons I learned the hard way – through trial and error. This is the method of homeschooling I have been trying to attain and fearing I have failed.
You’ll likely hear me speak lot about Teaching from Rest as Sarah MacKenzie speaks to my experience homeschooling. It’s like having all my hard knocks laid out and the solutions made clear. My curriculum will not be changing this next year, but I will be changing my approach slightly.
Right now, I’d like to ponder the concept of simplifying the curriculum as spoken of here.
Teach From Rest: Simplify the Curriculum
Here Sarah lays out three points. Do less. Integrate. Understand the limitations of your curriculum.
She clearly read the Latin Centered Curriculum as I did. It changed me slightly, it changed Sarah more. She lays out a manageable way of doing simplifying the curriculum, one that I’d stumbled my way to over the years.
Sarah speaks of doing fewer subjects to simplify the curriculum. We don’t need to do every subject every day. We don’t need grammar students doing reading, writing, grammar, spelling, phonics, vocabulary, penmanship, and copy work everyday.
You’ll burn out. Your child will burn out. Instead, combine, go deep, and don’t try to cover everything perfectly all the time.
For me doing less has also come from watching so many homeschoolers add and add and add to their homeschool day. They add activity upon activity. After all, if one is good, 20 must be better.
Homeschoolers will add curriculum upon curriculum. It’s not uncommon to see people using 2 or 3 math programs, handfuls of language arts curricula, and tons of history and science activities.
Folks, it’s not possible to do it all.
I don’t. I don’t even try.
Instead I choose what we use carefully and for a reason. We use one math program, yes there are many wonderful programs, but the one I use (Saxon Math) works for my family.
I can adapt to my kids who struggle with math and my mathematically gifted children. We no longer use any other math program.
We’ve chosen to do very few activities in my household. There is church on Sundays, the library on Saturdays, and a weekly park group. My high school children do more, but they are old enough to handle the details themselves. My involvement is minimal, to their delight.
It keeps our life peaceful.
Integrate children and integrate subjects to simplify the curriculum. This is one reason I use Tapestry of Grace. This one program uses history as the linchpin to study literature, fine art, geography, religion, and writing.
There’s no need for me to juggle six different subject for six different children. That’s 36, yes 36, different curricula I would need to keep track of in my homeschool. It boggles the mind.
Instead I have one curricula which gives me a list of books for each child, famous people to know, timeline information, discussion questions, worksheets, and everything I need to teach all six children at their level.
It simplifies the many pieces I need to pull together in order to educate my children. We have time to spend on learning each subject well and have time left in the day for personal projects. The children and I are not putting our noses to the grindstone from 8am to 8pm in an effort to do it all.
Which brings us to the last point of simplifying the curriculum, so you have time to enjoy the coffee.
Understanding the Limitations of Curriculum
No curriculum will do it all. You could have the best curriculum on the shelf, but if it’s not used it will do no good in your household. The curriculum also will not educate your children. That’s your job.
This is one reason I study the curricula I use in an effort to understand what the curricula designers had in mind. Time is spent every summer reviewing Marcia Summerville’s lectures on Tapestry of Grace, listening to Susan Wise Bauer speak on classical education, and reviewing IEW’s Teaching Writing with Structure and Style.
But even after studying my curricula in order to best utilize it, the curricula I use still has limitations. It does not discuss meaning with your children.
Even the best curriculum does not ask leading questions and watch your child squirm under the pressure. It does not correct the writing and give editing advice.
That being said, there is also something to be said for children learning to study and learn from books. There is nothing wrong with children reading and contemplating concepts to be discussed later with you.
It’s merely that reading and contemplating does not replace discussion. Although discussions are best held after the child has the opportunity to read and contemplate.
Teaching from Rest goes on to speak of two more ways of simplifying the curriculum. It’s definitely a book to read, reread, and read some more. It’s caused me rethink about why I’m homeschooling, why I classically homeschool, and what I hope the children take away from my homeschool into their adult lives.
In the end we’re not educating children for today, but adults for tomorrow.