Ann Zeise of A2ZHome’sCool equates choosing curriculum with choosing a shoe in a shoe store.
She asks, “You wouldn’t step up and ask a bunch of strangers what shoes to get for your daughter.”
Well, you know, some people might. So, I’m going to change this analogy and say this:
Asking which curriculum people use is like asking them which religion they practice. It’s like asking them where they live. It’s like asking them what food they eat.
If you ask these questions, people will answer you, but their answers have little bearing on how you make decisions for yourselves.
The difference is that people eat, live and practice religion (or choose not) from the minute they are born. We learn from the minute we are born as well. But we are not generally conscious of the process of deciding these life paths. On the other hand, we are trained in school to think that learning is something that didn’t really start until we first step foot in the classroom, and can only called ‘real learning’ when we are doing something academic.
This is why the time we call “deschooling” is so important when starting out as a homeschooler. This deschooling time is much like the time when you move to a new city – before you go jumping into a new house, or start telling tourists how to get around, you have to get your bearings yourself. You have to find out where the food sources are, where the entertainment is, how to get around, where the good neighborhoods are, where the bad neighborhoods are, and where to get help when you need it. If you talked to your neighbor, and found out that he only ate at one restaurant in town, and that’s it, how useful is that to you? What if that restaurant cost $100 to eat at? What if you asked another neighbor – him too, only one restaurant, $100 a plate. And another.. how many people would you ask before you stopped and just said, “dammit, I’m going to go out and drive around and look at menus and go to restaurants that look like they’d be good for ME”?
Those few months between “school” and homeschooling is your chance to get your bearings in the homeschooling world. Find out what your options are. Get to know the terrain. And most importantly, get to know what your personal philosophy of learning is. Reading books, going to conferences, joining e-lists, attending workshops, and “tasting” all there is out there until something “clicks”.
Looking around at curriculum is only a very small fraction of this search. I’d even say that looking around at curriculum before doing other kinds of educational research is putting the cart before the horse. You can move forward by having the horse push the cart, but it’s going to be frustrating and take a lot longer to get to where you want to go (if ever).
On the other hand, buying books at the book store, or the educational resource center, because they look like your kids would be interested in them, because there is some thing that originates from your family that makes that book look like a good fit – that’s letting the horse lead. If you have no idea which books your family would enjoy – don’t buy any, unless it’s cheap, and you’re completely willing to resell it if it turns out to be the wrong thing.
But, if you can get away from it, during those first few months, don’t buy any “text” books or “curriculum”. Just buy books that look fun. Intersting. Intruiging. Make your eyes go big and put a smile on your kids’ face.
So, what curriculum do I use? I use the Takahashi curriculum. And, my guess is that the Takahashi family is very different from yours. So, the ‘what’ of what we use is kind of irrelevent. Unless, well, you are just the curious type who likes to hear other people’s stories, in which case, ask away!