From the column last week, a look into what is NOT going on around here.
“You’re quieter than I thought you’d be,” she said as she set her plate down across from mine. The introductions had been made, and she knew we’d been homeschooling — and I’d been sharing our stories about it — for years.
“I’m battling a headache today,” I said, “and the headache is winning.” Except for the promise of the company of friends, I would have been home in bed instead of at an afternoon party. My head had been pounding all day, and I had begun to question the wisdom of my decision to venture out.
My children were having fun, playing hard and finding no time to eat. The conversation that sprouted up around me was interesting enough. I rubbed my temple and smiled at the person I’d just met.
“So, what curriculum do you use?” she asked. It is the homeschool equivalent of “So what do you do for a living?” that might come up at a cocktail party. We homeschoolers ask it in personal introductions and homeschool gatherings, and I read it in Facebook groups and online discussion boards. Our curriculum defines us, in a way. It separates the dedicated from the casual, or so it seems.
Lately, I’ve been spending too much time with those online venues, gathering some ideas, asking questions and working on a new book. I am overwhelmed with knowing what others do. I find lesson plans written out by drill sergeants and art projects completed by young Martha Stewarts. Maybe those just stand out and reinforce any insecurities, but some days those demonstrations of homeschooling “the right way” just remind me of what we don’t do.
Usually I tell you what we do around here. Today I’m going to talk about what we don’t do.
We don’t do school around the kitchen table. One mother online was debating specs for purchasing a SMART Board to hang in the kitchen to make formal lessons more interactive for her children. I am so not there.
Daily journals have been a bust as well. Occasional writing kicks are fully explored, but they never persist. The discipline of daily writing escapes us all, even this writer mother. Sometimes the muse takes a vacation and makes way for other pursuits.
We don’t do craft projects perfectly. Crayon rubbings of various leaves grace the bulletin board. Crudely cut out hearts and flowers adorn the fridge. Everything is held together with rolls of adhesive tape and gallons of glue.
Reading about history and discussing what we’ve read is great, but we never answer questions at the end of a chapter. If a kid can talk about a topic at the dinner table and explain it to everyone, that demonstrates a fair enough understanding of the subject.
I have never assigned a five-paragraph essay. You know the drill — introductory paragraph that states a main idea, three paragraphs that each explain one main point followed by a paragraph that summarizes the three preceding paragraphs and restates the main idea. Boring, uninspiring and never used outside of a classroom.
Speaking of boring, I don’t set goals according to the state learning standards. I’ve read them when I’ve needed a cure for insomnia, I just don’t take the time to line up anything by grade. Maturation, aptitude and interest vary by child. We set our own goals.
We don’t always finish what we start. Some ideas don’t work out so well. Failure presents its own learning opportunities.
Back to that original question: What curriculum do we use? It depends on the day. Most days, we just don’t.