Let’s get a little practical. Most of us take on way too much in our homeschools. Education becomes a series of checkboxes and canned activities in an effort to prove that learning is happening, even when it isn’t.
We feel turbulent when we try to facilitate this kind of frenzied, quantifiable learning.
Oftentimes, we either become disconnected slave drivers or we give up altogether, accepting the illusion that happy, healthy relationships and rigorous home education simply cannot coexist.
There is another way.
It boils down to stepping off the crazy train, rethinking the model we are operating under, and intentionally setting out to participate in slow, sane education.
Today let’s start by taking on just three principles that can help us think about how we can simplify the curriculum we’ve either purchased or created for our children.
- Do less.
- Understand the limitations of published resources.
1. Do less
(Brilliant, eh? That’s why you come here: for my groundbreaking genius.) ;)
I’m serious, though: track fewer subjects. Who says you need to do math, writing, literature, science, history, foreign language, religion, vocabulary, handwriting, art, music, and poetry all year long?
Here’s a little secret: you don’t. And chances are, if you are trying to do all of those subjects, you very likely aren’t doing a very good job at any of them.
Yes, we want a wide and generous education for our children. We want them to have a broad understanding of the big beautiful world, of the tragic failures and glorious breakthroughs in history, the lyrical beauty of prose and poetry, the order and art of mathematics…
But as Dr. Perrin explains in his webinar, Multum non Multa, true breadth is achieved through depth. Our children get a broad education when they go deep into a few carefully selected subjects, not when they dabble in ten.
What most curricular models provide today is a survey of everything and mastery in nothing, so our children get an education that is a mile wide and an inch deep.
That’s not true education. We need to lead our children out of the shallows in order to dive in deep.
We’ll get into the “how” of choosing subjects a bit more when we talk about simplifying the schedule, but for now, realize that almost all of us are tracking too many subjects and would do well to pare this down and go deeper, rather than wider.
It’s important that we select carefully when we take on this principle. If we are only going to focus on a few things, we’ll want to make sure they are very very good things, right? (Notice I didn’t say “best.”
That’s because the homeschooling mother’s quest for the “best” is crazy-making all on its own. That’s not the way to teaching from rest!).
Select carefully, yes. But don’t be obsessive about it.
Realize that when you are reading aloud from The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, you are not just doing literature.
If you read it slowly, enjoying it, taking time to contemplate the ideas and discuss them with your kids, you are taking on history, geography, writing, vocabulary, theology and philosophy as well.
We’re not dabbling. We’re wrestling.
I think of integration as a kind of curricular power punch. I want to choose published resources and subjects that are going to give me a lot of bang for my buck, so I try to think carefully before I add anything to our docket.
How much value will this book/curriculum/assignment add? Is it going to add enough value to be worth the time it will take to engage with?
This is why in our family we choose to study Latin, prioritize reading aloud over almost everything else, and why I’m not a fan of time-consuming “hands-on” projects that eat up entire afternoons without allowing for mastery of material or engagement with big ideas.
This is going to look a little different for everybody, but the principle remains: our lives are, by nature, integrated. Our school day should reflect that.
3. Understand the limitations of curriculum
The key here is to remember that curriculum is not something you buy. Those printed resources you use (that you used to call curriculum, like the math text or the handwriting workbook) are there to help you teach your students.
Remember that the published resources are to be wielded by you, not to rule over you.
Whether or not you purchase an open-and-go curriculum doesn’t really matter.
You can pretty much forget all the heated discussions about whether you are caving in to school-at-home if you use traditional workbooks or a straight-from-the-box curriculum.
I know successful homeschooling families that use textbooks, and successful homeschooling families that eschew them. I don’t think that’s a relevant debate to be having if we want to teach from rest and become happy, content, peaceful and effective homeschooling moms.
You are teaching your living, breathing, made-in-the-Image-of-God students.
The resources are there to help you do that. It’s that simple, we just forget when we get all wrapped up in “getting through” all the math lessons before the end of May, or finishing every science experiment in the book before we call it good and move on.
It doesn’t really matter how far in the book we get. What matters is what happens in the mind and heart of our student. And for that matter, in ourselves.
You know this. I know this. But we’ve got to start living it. We are all spinning our wheels because we are frantically trying to “get through” published curriculum as if turning the last page in the book by the beginning of summer vacation will somehow mean that our children learned something.
Truth is, they do learn something from that. But it’s not at all the message we want them to internalize.
We are teaching people, not books. We need to understand the limitations of curriculum. We need to stop trying to make it something that it’s not, expecting it to do what it was never intended to deliver.
Understand the limitations of curriculum.
I discuss a few more principles in the book, but this is a good start.
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Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace
by Sarah Mackenzie