Monday, August 4, 2014

Curriculum: Tool or Tyrant?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. The end of another perfect homeschool day. This morning—like all mornings—all of the children jumped joyfully out of bed at the crack of dawn to meet the day. The hour of family worship set the tone for all—and it was so satisfying to hear the children reciting the Pentateuch. All of the chores were cheerfully accomplished, making the house a spotless and inviting center of learning. Each child applied himself to his assignments with alacrity and intensity of purpose. Now, dinner is simmering aromatically, awaiting the arrival of a happy Daddy from work.

What do you mean this doesn’t describe your homeschool?

Oh. I see. Instead, you are thinking: The end of another long homeschooling day has arrived. You are brain-dead. Your children are cranky. The house is a wreck. What in the world will you fix for dinner? Your long-suffering husband is getting tired of coming home to leftovers. In fact, you haven’t spent much time with your husband for weeks—you have been too busy homeschooling the children!

Wasn’t homeschooling supposed to be fun…or at least satisfying?

Didn’t people tell you that your children would enjoy learning? What could be wrong?

You stack up all of the school books. Look at all of those books! Why, you have diligently made sure that your children have read all of the chapters in the book, and have answered all of the questions at the end of those chapters.  They have completed a good stack of worksheets every day. You have given them every quiz in the test booklet. You had them write book reports for all of the books they have been reading. According to your record book, you are right on schedule—your almighty schedule!!

Still, nothing else is going right. Maybe you are giving them too much school work…but…on the other hand, those books were written by education experts. If they didn’t expect you to teach everything in the book, they would not have put those lessons in there. Right?

If you could only get your children to understand that! They keep complaining that they are bored and already know the material, but lots of repetition is a good thing, after all....isn’t it? If the children weren’t so grouchy and uncooperative, you could finish all of those books!

Maybe...maybe you just were not cut out to homeschool. (sniffle)

The Tyrant Attacks!
Guess what has happened to you?! (Sinister music builds in the background.)

You have been ensnared by.......The Curriculum Tyrant! (Dum da dump dum daaaa!)

Yes. The Curriculum Tyrant! The Curriculum Tyrant sneaks into your home under the guise of  “Good Books.” He begins to whisper to you that these books are the answer to all of your children’s needs. He then quietly, but persistently, begins to insist that you must not waste any of these Good Books, but must do all contained therein.

He virtuously points out, just for good measure, that you spent a fortune on these Good Books too. Certainly, you would not want to waste hard-earned money by not getting the most out of these Good Books. Before long you are feeling guilty and anxious for not having your children spend more and more of their time slaving away in the Good Books. It’s for their own good, after all!

You might be in the grip of The Curriculum Tyrant, but, hark! There is hope! To rescue you from the domain of The Curriculum Tyrant, we must step back to the beginning. First you must take the following pop quiz:

1. Who owns your children?
2. Who has God deputized to raise His children?
3. Does anyone on this earth know your children better than you?

1. God does. Of course He does. The magnificent Creator of the universe owns all things, including your precious children. You knew that, remember?
2. You. Yes, God has graciously allowed you, as a parent, to be a steward over the dear blessings He has given you. Imagine the influence God is allowing you to wield—influence with eternal consequences. Wow!
3. No! God has placed you in the unique position of having special knowledge about your children that no one else can ever completely have. No one will ever know them the way you do.

Now, an essay question. What is an “expert”? 

Dictionary definition: “a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field.” So, in the “particular field” of your children, the “expert” is you! Not The Curriculum Tyrant. You! Do the authors of Good Books really know more about your children than you do? Does Scripture exhort authors of Good Books concerning how to raise children, or does it exhort parents? God has given the job of “resident expert” to you, and not to a stack of Good Books.

More Dangers From the Tyrant
Now that we have established who the real experts are, let’s take another look at the ways of The Curriculum Tyrant. The Curriculum Tyrant is unbalanced and relentless. He wants to take over your entire family life. Should your children slog through school work just because it’s in the book? If your daughter readily knows her multiplication tables, why are you wasting time with endless drills? If your son excitedly rushes into give you a blow-by-blow description of the book he is reading, why are you saddling him with a laborious book report? If Mary is bored with a textbook-dictated writing assignment, why not let her write about something she likes? If the chemistry text is covering the same math as the math textbook, does Johnny really need to do the same material again?

Anxiety and chaos are the price you pay for obeying The Curriculum Tyrant. By contrast, God is always balanced, and He is the God of order. Obeying Him brings peace and orderliness as we allow Him to tame The Curriculum Tyrant.

Fighting the Tyrant
So, you have reviewed all of the symptoms and have decided that, indeed, you have been seduced by The Curriculum Tyrant. Now what?

Stop what you are doing. Put the Good Books back on the shelf. Pray for wisdom. James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (NIV)

Take some time and look at the skills each of your children has been demonstrating. Pay attention to what they are truly able to do, not just what the Good Books have been dictating. After you have taken an in-depth look at your children’s abilities, and have prayed for God’s leading, then you can pull the Good Books back off the shelf.

You are now ready for.....(happy music builds in the background) Curriculum Tools! (Tee de TEEEEEEEE!) That’s right. Curriculum Tools. Curriculum Tools are gifts God has given us to help raise our children properly. Good Books are wonderful Tools to be used, at your discretion, in teaching your children, but they need to be used wisely. Tools are used by the expert to create, build, and fix. The expert masters his tools and is not intimidated by them.

You do not necessarily need to throw out your curriculum and begin something new. I like the statement, “Any curriculum will work if the teacher does.” In other words, if you—and remember, you are the real expert!—take charge of what you have on hand, and regularly assess your children’s schoolwork and attitudes, you might not need to spend more money on new material. After evaluating what you have on the bookshelf, decide where your children should “plug in” to a book or a plan of study. What can they skip—yes, skip!—either because it is twaddle, or because they have already mastered it? What areas need more practice? Your answer will vary from subject to subject. New curriculum might be necessary, but be certain you make an informed decision and not a snap decision based on frustration.

You have made the transition! You are now using Curriculum Tools to meet the needs of your children, rather than following the demands of the despotic Curriculum Tyrant. Such freedom! Life returns to normal as you fit curriculum into its proper place along with housekeeping, family time, devotions, and other important responsibilities. The frazzled, brain-dead mother disappears, replaced by a calm, smiling mother. The neglected daddy and perpetually cranky children disappear too. Is life perfect? Well, no, but home should now be a more pleasant place and the daily routine should flow more smoothly. Learning can now be interesting instead of the draining drudgery it once was. Hurrah for homeschooling!

Just a word of caution, though. The Curriculum Tyrant is never defeated. He will try to return, and he is very sneaky. But you will know when he returns if you pay attention. Recall the anxiety? The chaos? You will know. Trust me. I’m an expert!

Written by Holly Sheen

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