Dear Curriculum, You Don’t Own Me

For those of you who don’t homeschool, I realize that parts of this post won’t apply to you.  Perhaps there’s something else in your life you need to smack down. If so, feel free to insert a different word where I’ve typed “curriculum.”  Bathroom scales, perhaps?  Daily planner, maybe?  You fill in the blank.  :)

Dear Curriculum,

It’s that time again.  I’ve gone over and over your catalog.  I’ve purchased many of the books you recommend.  I’ve read through loads of your teacher’s manuals.

You are, without a doubt, wonderful, and I am so thankful for you.  What would I do without you to guide me along as I teach my four children?  Truly, you have been a God send.

What I need you to know, as I plan our upcoming school year, working to provide the best education possible for my children, is that as wonderful as you are, you aren’t perfect.  Don’t sweat it.  There’s no way you could keep up with knowing what will work best for each family.

Just so you know, what you ask me to do on week three doesn’t at all match what is on our calendar.  (Perhaps you’ve heard that soccer season and fall school schedules don’t always get along?)  It’s okay though.  I’ve decided to slide some of your assignments around so that we can fit them in later, if possible.  It’s really cool how you have never sent the Curriculum Schedule Police to my door to spank my hand for shuffling around assignments.  You are constantly gracious.

I’m not sure who you think we are, and it could be that all the other families actually have 8th graders who are ready to study for their doctorate.  But I felt you should know that while I appreciate all of your suggested literature, if we want our kids to have time to get themselves up out of a chair for any part of their 15 hour awake time each day, we won’t get around to reading every single one of your books or do even half of your writing assignments.

Some of what you assign my kids to do each week, we will only do once per month.  That really is plenty for them at this stage.  Occasionally, I will substitute one of your recommended books with another one that meets my boys’ needs.  And when I look at you each weekend while planning for an upcoming school week, if at any time I feel like throwing you across the room, I’ll refrain, but I reserve the right to stuff your schedules, guidelines, suggestions, and outlines into a bottom drawer far away and pull you out when and if I feel like looking at you again.  No worries.  Learning will still be going on at our house.  It just may not involve keeping up with your recommendations during those particularly hectic days.

Here’s something neat:  After eleven years of homeschooling, I don’t look at your outlines and teachers guides and feel less than, guilty, or overwhelmed anymore.  My kids are learning loads of information and becoming very well rounded because of and in spite of me (and you).  So thank you again for your help, because I truly could not do this without you.  I’ll continue to use you as a guide, because you are so very good at that.

But you don’t own me.  I own you.  Perhaps you remember the exciting day you arrived in a box on my doorstep?

See you in a few weeks.  It’s going to be another great school year with our family!

Unregretfully Yours,
Laura (an ordinary homeschool mom)

P.S.  Have you ever wished Shakespeare had spoken a bit more understandably?  Maybe I’ll write a letter to him next.  In toddler speak.  That’ll teach him.

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Comments

  1. says

    That is funny. Our oldest is only 4, but I’ve spent plenty of time (and I’ll admit it, a little worrying) trying to figure out curriculum. I think I’m at least familiar with some of the different methods and curriculums out there now so I can start making choices that fit our family when the time comes.

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  2. Heather Bazzocco says

    “Sigh”… “Giggle”… Amen!!! Thank you…. And JUST what I needed to read.

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    Amber Schmidt Reply:

    Exactly what I was thinking to write. :)

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  3. says

    Great piece. :) Just out of curiosity, what curriculum do you use?

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    Laura Reply:

    I use Sonlight. But I have definitely learned that if I tried to keep up with all it suggests, I will go crazy, and take my children down with me. :)

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    Melissa Reply:

    Thanks! Have you used it since the boys were little? I’m leaning toward Sonlight for K and 1st grade for my kids, but it’s so expensive. :) I’d love to hear your opinion if you used that grade level.

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    Laura Reply:

    I knew it! We love Sonlight too but every now and then I need to be reminded that I am not a failure if we don’t do it all or take longer to do it! Happy back to school!

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  4. Lana says

    You will wish that Shakespeare had spoken a bit more understandably when you are deep in your British Lit curriculum and you have no idea what you just read but must discuss the assignment with you high schooler! Been there and done that and somehow graduated all 5 who are now all college grads!

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  5. Lori says

    I love the post- I am an elementary teacher in the public school system and I can totally relate. After 25 years, I pick and choose what meets the needs of my students.

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  6. Shelby says

    AMEN! This is our 7th year, and I will have FIVE schooling this year! Last year ran over a bit – until the end of June, but it’s homeschool – you can do that! We found that we needed more small breaks than one big summer break.

    And they are still “schooling”(i.e. learning things) this summer. We plan to learn to make soap from scratch in the next week or two!

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  7. Stacy says

    Amen! As we enter into our5th year of homeschooling I am finally giving myself permission to not check every box on the instructor’s guide.

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    AK Reply:

    Why is a fully checked day so very satisfying? :)

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  8. Sarah B says

    I homeschooled my son using MFW for Kinder last year(the whole time thinking it was just for one year). We were going to put him in a little Christian school for 1st grade this year and then all of a sudden have changed course. We just don’t feel like it’s where God wants him.
    I’m a working mom and I keep saying to other stay at home homeschooling moms “Oh you are so lucky! I wish I could homeschool my kids! It was such a bonding experience last year!”
    Well…wait a second!! We just managed one year. True that I thought it was a short term thing, and it was one big juggling act, but if God got us through last year- Surely, God can help me do it again!
    Then yesterday I received the giant MFW 1st grade curriculum box and spent the rest of the day wondering what I had gotten myself into. Seems a lot more complicated than last year. I was feeling so overwhelmed.
    I am type A and feel like I must do every little thing the TM says on the exact day.
    I MUST get over this! :)
    SO NICE to hear a more experienced homeschooling mom’s take on it. Thank you!!

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  9. Dianna B says

    And I found myself trying to read the book titles in the picture, lol. Can we say “addicted”.

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    AK Reply:

    Dianna, You are my long-lost twin. :)

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  10. Sandra W. says

    Are you finding that there are still some Christian curriculum that has not changed to align with Common Core Standards? I understand that Bob Jones will be aligned with CCS.

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    Laura Reply:

    I haven’t kept up with all of the CCS stuff to really know. We’ve always used Sonlight and I haven’t seen any major changes through the years.

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    Valerie Reply:

    “BJU Press has not changed any of its materials in order to be Common Core State Standards compliant nor intentionally done anything to align with them.”
    https://www.bjupresshomeschool.com/content/common-core-standards

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    Sandra W. Reply:

    Thank you for the link to BJU Press.
    Their site was not as clear on their position when I looked at it
    earlier in the year.

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    Susan Parker Reply:

    Sandra W. http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/stopping-common-core-is-only-the-beginning/. This is 1 site to read about Common Core and when you have time read a lot about Common Core at http://www.michellemalkin.com She has so much info.

    Just trying to get to bottom of CCSS myself.

    Susan

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  11. Tabitha says

    I really enjoyed this post! I read your blog on a regular basis, and I especially related to what you said, today. It made me feel better about our schooling efforts. I did A Beka (the workbooks, not online or DVD) with my first grader last year, and I just couldn’t do everything the curriculum asked us to. We spent hours schooling each day, sometimes late into the afternoon. To be honest, while it wasn’t terrible, we really didn’t enjoy school very much last year. Kindergarten wasn’t bad either, just not particularly enjoyable. We love to read, and my kiddo loves to learn. She’s great with math, reads well, and asks questions about history, the sciences, and art on a regular basis. We trimmed tasks and assignments on a regular basis, as long as she was picking up on the concepts and facts of the moment.

    However, after two years, I’ve begun to wonder if perhaps we aren’t using the curriculum that’s best suited to our needs.
    I’ve read online until I’m blue in the face, but I’m still lost. (My Father’s World? KONOS? Sonlight? Ambleside? Lifepacs?) I’m kicking myself for missing the homeschooling conventions in my state, this spring. I’m trying to decide on a different curriculum(s) for this year. I’m worried that if I piece one together from different places, I’ll miss something vital and cause problems down the line. Since you have some experience, would you mind pointing me in the right direction?

    I’m trying to meet these requirements:

    –Same level of academia as A Beka. I was bored most of the way through my 13 years of public school, because it was just too easy. The literature was especially lacking, so I’m adamant that we don’t have the same problem now.

    –Affordable. To us, that means $400 or below. I’ve bought used text books previously.

    –Some structure. This is a good portion of why we went with A Beka in the first place: I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m not creative. I still need a little guidance, but I want my kiddo to have fun as well.

    –Not too time consuming! I’m stretched to the breaking point. I can’t manage a nine hour school day. Plus, I have a toddler that’s starting to learn as well. I’ve got to get school into a manageable time box.

    I know each child is different, but even a suggestion about where to go to narrow it down would help. Any input would, actually. Thank so much for what you do! Your blog is so encouraging to me.

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    Laura Reply:

    Well, I can only speak to Sonlight because that’s what we’ve always used. We love it because it is not workbooky at all, but very literature based. It’s affordable if you buy used or even get books from the library for free! :)

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    Tabitha Reply:

    Thank you! The Sonlight curruiculum sounds promising. I’ve read some about it, and will be checking into further. I’ve also ordered Cathy Duffy’s 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, so that should help.

    Also, I’m from Oklahoma, but I talked to an older (than me, anyways) woman in my church from Oregon this morning. After 3 pages of notes and two hours on the phone, I felt much better. It’s always nice to reference those with more experience than myself. Thanks again!

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  12. AK says

    You just rock. I have another form of psychosis for you: I get the catalogs and think all of them seem to have “the answer.” Charlotte-Classical-Traditional-Principle-Unit Study-Workbook-Eclectiscism. With lapbooking. Ahem. Then I order this hodge-podge of way-too-much and feel paralyzed by getting through day one. And my poor children. :( I am only in year three, so I look forward hopefully to the day when my curriculum doesn’t own me, and I can tell it (gently, kindly, of course) to please sit down and be quiet.:)
    Blessings!

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  13. Kelly Cox says

    Thanks for this, I can completely relate :) We use Sonlight materials, and while they are wonderful…we just have to forgo a few things or we would be overloaded! It is nice to be reminded that I am not failing if I skip some activities and writing assignments for our own sanity

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  14. Ashley says

    Just had a similar conversation yesterday with my messy house. It’s so good to talk to inanimate objects…. :) This post lightened my day. Blessings!

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  15. Chris says

    15 years of home schooling down, and I just gave myself this same pep-talk! I love how you said, *You don’t own me, I own you, remember?…* I think this will be my school moto =) Blessings to you!

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  16. Melody says

    Fun Shakespeare/creative writing assignment. Have your “student” make a list of all the insults that the bard uses in a play. Then have him create his own creative insults. This is not meant to be a lesson in insulting others, but in using creative ways to express yourself instead of relying on common expressions.

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  17. alicia says

    Yes!!! Thank you! It stuck in my head once that we should USE our curriculum, not let it use us! How many things in life could we apply this too! (:

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  18. Maria says

    This is exactly what I had to learn! I am homeschooling my three young boys and I felt like a failure not doing everything they had laid out for me! I have learned to breathe and live a little. We do school “year-round” because some weeks we just can’t get around to it. Nice to know I am not alone!

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  19. Maria says

    What are “Common Core Standards”? And should I be worried that I have never heard of that term?

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  20. says

    sigh… thanks. we are taking on Kindergarden this year. pre-k i got a bit overwhelmed and ended up throwing it all out the window. hopefully, this year will be more chill and consistent at the same time. :)

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  21. Ann Woodruff says

    My favorite bit from your piece….”I’m not sure who you think we are, and it could be that all the other families actually have 8th graders who are ready to study for their doctorate.” Thank you for being honest, for encouraging so many to use curriculum as a guide not let it be your taskmaster. We all need that balance. This was timely and rich. Thank you for posting this great letter.

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