19 February 2013

Catapulting the Tar Pit: A Lesson in Making Curriculum Work for You

I've been planning history lessons over the past week.  It is the last subject to get put back into the mix of our schooldays since the funerals, though I still haven't decided what we're going to do with Five in a Row for the rest of the year. Ava says she misses it if I ask her, but if I don't ask her, it seems to not come up. At the same time, I don't know that I'm ready to give up those sweet story times yet. 

While planning history using Homeschool in the Woods Time Travelers series in the fall when we studied their Civil War unit, I found there to be so much to do that I couldn't possibly do it all unless I didn't do some of our other subjects. It is a unit study, which has its pros and cons. Ideally, I could use this study for history, language arts, science, art, penmanship, and more, but I like our language arts and science, and I don't see any point in not sticking with those subjects. While I always want to give my children the best I can give them, I find that I live by the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" motto.

This time we are studying New World Explorers, and it is honestly a fantastic unit study. I am, however, reminded that curriculum is a guide and not a rule, so we're doing the parts that work for us, which I am certain is how Amy Pak would want us to use her outstanding curriculum. 

When we last studied this era of American history, Lukas was in second grade, and we used My Father's World, Adventures. I loved it, so I pulled it out last night and began to incorporate the history portion into our New World Explorers history and combining the two into what I believe is going to be ideal for my kids. The read-aloud narratives and stories with MFW are phenomenal, and the projects in NWE are equally phenomenal, so we have a perfect system.  NWE has components which will challenge Lukas since, obviously, MFW is a curriculum designed for much younger students, and both students will benefit from the rich story-telling that comes along with MFW.

My point in telling you all this is that I am surprised by my own growth in the ability to determine our curriculum rather than allowing a publisher to define our path for us. One of the reasons we stopped using MFW is because the lesson plan was stressing me out. Every homeschooling mom needs to learn how she ticks, and I have learned that I don't like being told which days I'm supposed to do what, especially when medical appointments and the necessities of life prevented us from keeping up with their schedule, which honestly isn't that intense. It was what life handed us that was intense. 

I seem to always re-visit this pitfall. Last fall, I was stuck there again, sinking, sinking, sinking in the "you must do it all" curriculum tar pit. It took us months to do what we could have studied in a matter of weeks, partially because our schedule was insane and partially because I didn't want to skip anything. The history portion of our day was taking an hour, sometimes more, and what homeschooling family has time for that?

I've catapulted over the tar pit. I'm more surprised than you are. After almost 7 years of homeschooling, you would think I would have made it across years ago, and I actually did make it a few times for a season. I hope it isn't a season this time. I hope I stick with it because this feels perfect. School has been fun, interesting, ideal, exciting, and challenging the past few days. That is as it should be.

Do what works for your family. Don't do something just because you paid for it. I know, sometimes you have to do that, but find a way to make it work without drudging through the mess to the point that you hate it, or, even worse, your kids hate it and miss the excitement of learning. What works for your best homeschooling pal may not ever work for you. Don't sweat it. Move on, and do what's right for your family. You will only be relieved.  I promise.

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