The Shelf-Life of Christian Curriculum
By Kerry Jones
We all do it at some point in our lives. Stick that milk back in the refrigerator after smelling it and discovering it has indeed gone past it’s prime. But we hate to waste it. Maybe we could give it to the cat? Or use it for that homemade sour cream recipe we always meant to try? Unfortunately, our attempt at frugality is usually in vain, and we will eventually get up the courage to pour the foul-smelling stuff down the sink.
Whether we realize it or not, that past-dated milk sometimes has a good bit in common with our familiar Christian curriculum. It has served its purpose incredibly well for us in the past, but it just feels lately like it may have gone a bit sour. Even looking at it makes us pucker up and dread opening the lid! So what do we do? We want to give our children a strong Christian education, and we want them to grow into godly men and women, but we feel like we are in a rut. We want our children to continue loving learning, but our current curriculum is boring us to tears.
If we feel like this, are we heretics? Of course not. God has seen to it that homeschool never has to feel stale. Within the Christian homeschool culture, there are any number of ways to successfully homeschool your child. There are unschoolers, Classical schoolers, Waldorf schoolers, Montessori schoolers, Charlotte Mason schoolers, and Unit Studiers. Some homeschoolers use mostly video-based software, while others depend on the internet for their curriculum. Some do all their schooling at home, while others take advantage of homeschool co-ops in their communities. Believe it or not, some Christian homeschoolers even supplement their curriculum with secular materials that meet the specific needs their child.
The most important thing to do when you discover you curriculum isn’t working for you anymore is to go back to the basics. Ask yourself some key questions about your child.
· What type of learning do they most enjoy?
· What style of learner are they?
· Do they have any special learning needs?
· What reasons made you start homeschooling your child, and why do you continue?
The answers to these questions can and should greatly influence your curriculum choices. For instance, if your child is a visual learner, he may do poorly with a workbook-style curriculum. If your daughter learns best by demonstration and hands-on involvement, she will probably not excel with a video-based curriculum. If your child enjoys delving deeply into subjects that interest him, he might find unit study curriculum much more helpful than a simple textbook overview.
Also, ask yourself what it is about your current curriculum that has gone stale for you. And what do you wish it had, that it doesn’t. Chances are, there is another curriculum or perhaps a mix of curricula that will be just what you and your children need at this particular juncture of homeschooling. Sometimes, we go through a phase where we are simply tired of plain old milk. We need variety - - chocolate milk, strawberry milk, soy milk - - something different. I believe we are created to enjoy diversity from time to time. I recently wrote about this in an online article titled “A Different Drum.”
“Because of this, I know that when I hit the roadblocks of life, I can find a way around them. When my children face the challenges of being different, I can remind them that means they are on the right track! When the normal battles of life take over my home, I understand that I will win the war in the end. And when I have laid my head down on my pillow at the end of a difficult day, and wondered why God has called me to this thing called “homeschooling” - - I will remember that it is because I have been called according to His purpose. Called to be different.”
In my experience, one of the greatest ways to jumpstart your homeschool motor again is to completely switch gears. Instead of pulling out the textbooks and worksheets one morning, how about announcing that you are going to do an online curriculum for a while? Time4Learning.com is a company that has an incredible multimedia homeschool program without long-term contracts or high monthly fees. An interactive, engaging, computer-based curriculum may be just what you need to freshen up your homeschool stale spell. But if that sounds too radical for you, you might at least consider using an online program to supplement or enrich your current curriculum.
The key to long-term homeschool success is flexibility, and the willingness to experiment to find what works. The most difficult step is finding the courage to pour the old milk down the drain when it has passed its usefulness. Once you have diagnosed the problem, the solution will be just around the bend. So gather your courage - - and go sniff out the source of that sour smell coming from the direction of your homeschool materials. You will be glad you did!