August 8, 2012
Yes, yes, I made the post title more incendiary than necessary. Not because I necessarily feel strongly about this issue, but because I find it problematic--a fine line, so to speak.
I'm being as clear as mud. Here is the problem as I see it: at what point does tailoring a curriculum to match a child swerve into the entitlement trap? Don't rush to judge me! I don't think all French parents are wonderful and I'm so imperfect that I'm endlessly surprised that God gave me children at all, but I do think there is a risk in homeschooling to go overboard in the "please the student" area.
A scenario: two years after I started homeschooling I recognized that the math program I was using was not a good fit for my daughter. Miriam had started saying that she hated math and she'd cry and fuss when I made her do it. I cancelled math and spent an entire summer thinking about my daughter--what she liked about school, what she didn't like as much, what I could do as a teacher (I'm a professional teacher and sometimes the training really comes in handy) to help her like math again. I researched numerous math programs and I prayed. At the end of the summer I bought the Critical Thinking Co.'s math book and started her in that. The change in her attitude was immediate. Math is now (still) her favorite subject.
What I realized is that Miriam loves words. She is so intensely verbal that it even translates to math. Imagine, a little girl who loves word problems because she can read them. What a weirdo, eh? She also prefers to speak with a British accent and plans out elaborate games set in London starring herself as Sherlock Holmes, but that is beside the point.
The point is that I put the student first in a very real way and it created huge dividends in her enjoyment of learning math.
But here's my question: at what point can we go too far in putting the student first?
Some of you are already saying in your heads (or out loud to your husbands) that you can't go too far--that the beauty of homeschooling is that you can personalize your child's education.
But I disagree with that. I think you can go too far and in the process completely wear yourself out and/or bankrupt yourself trying to find a magic curriculum or do six different curriculums for six different students.
Maybe, sometimes, you just have to admit that grammar is grammar and there isn't much you can do about it. (I say that, as an English teacher, because I'm endlessly surprised that my incredibly verbal daughter prefers math to grammar. Heresy in my own home!)
Here's another example from my own household. My son, Cowen, is a boy. It is endlessly irritating and absolutely charming. He can't sit still, he won't look at the words in his reading book because he's too busy sliding off the couch, he likes math but only for the first three minutes and then he has places to go already. He drives me nuts. He is a kinesthetic learner.
I'm a good teacher. I came up with all sorts of kinesthetic learner appropriate activities to teach him to read. He whacked things with a fly swatter, he raced around the room smacking words with his hands, he danced and jumped and wheeled through the air and wrote words long before he would read them.
But when push comes to shove, he still has to sit beside me, look at a book, focus for more than .0002 seconds, and read. He hates it. But there is no magic program to solve the problem. There is no other way to do it really. Some might say--oh, he's not ready, give him some time. But I'm his mom and I know that when he wants to read he can. It isn't a readiness issue--it is a laziness/human nature issue. Most of us just plain don't like to do hard/unpleasant things. Sometimes kids need pushed and it isn't the curriculum's fault--it is the natural abilities or lack of them in the child. I was good at grammar so I loved it. Getting me to do math was . . . harder. Nobody likes to work hard (except my mother, but she's abnormal) if they can avoid it.
If we keep changing the curriculum trying to find the magic bullet, might we not give our child the impression that he doesn't have to work hard--he can just blame the program? That's where the entitlement might come in. Do our scholars think every single part of school should be enjoyable? Do they think that if something is hard they aren't ready? Have we taught them that their interests trump all? And very importantly, have we taught them that they are more important than the teacher and/or her sanity?
Again--I think it is a very fine line.
In view of my experience as a student growing up and watching my students in the classroom, and my general view of human nature--I've decided there are some programs that will be used for all my children regardless of how much they enjoy them (unless I get some strong impressions from above). I'm not going to spend any more time looking at grammar programs or handwriting programs or spelling programs. Instead, I will focus my energies on those subjects that I think can be tailored more easily and appropriately, like history and science.
Where do you draw the line in curriculum/child matching?
Andrea is a homeschooling mother of five; ages 9, 7, 5, 3, and 18 months. She is a "retired" school teacher who does, indeed, love grammar. Especially sentence diagramming. Fun! Andrea loves books, books, and more books! She also loves writing, cooking, hiking, dancing, singing, and hanging out with her family. You can read more about her homeschooling efforts on the blog Frolic and Farce.
Labels: curriculum choices