In Search of the Perfect Curriculum – Help!

Ok, so I’ve decided to bite the bullet, pay the cash and invest in some actual curriculumn for my boys’ homeschooling for the next year. However, the problem is what curriculum. I’m not really interested in “school at home” type curriculum like A Beka. For kids my sons’ age (particularly the older one), I like the approach of The Well Trained Mind. However, as much as I love my kids, I have two little ones who need watching, writing that I want to do and various other things to attend to along with teaching two boys. So, in order to prevent burn-out, I need something with more guidance than you get from using The Well Trained Mind.

I like literature based learning such as Sonlight and Beautiful Feet. However, after reviewing their materials, I cannot in good conscience hand my children over to either of these curricula. Sonlight actual quotes white supremacist literature in their coverage of slavery for their junior high American history guide. (They feel that the condemnation of slavery and the south for practicing it is too unthinking and seek to offer challenges to this narrative.) Both of them include religion in ways that I find very problematic. For example, I think it goes well beyond the teachings of Christianity and scriptures to claim that Leif Erickson was commissioned by God to find North America (Beautiful Feet early American History). While a quick spin around this blog would show that I am a person of deep Christian faith, I have found that most Christian homeschooling materials take approaches which I strongly disapprove of, so I tend to avoid them.

On the other side of things, I have looked into the Great Books materials, which is completely secular. However, I am very suspicious of curriculum which seems to take its cues from some UN Commission and arranges units around discussions of human rights and democracy. I also watched a video of a teacher using one of their books to teach a story in which students were encouraged to “make connections” with their own lives. I think pointing out connections is fine, but putting the student and his/her life at the center of the study of literature is NOT how literature should be taught, IMO.

Soooooo . . . here’s my question for y’all: does anyone know of any good literature based curriculum out there which do not claim to be able to read the mind of God, question whether slavery was all that evil, use the bible as a literal history book, or engage in the worst of the modern liberal approach which has made our education system a laughing stock? Come on people! I’m not asking for much here – just the perfect, classical, non-ideological curricula which isn’t too much work for me. 😉 Any suggestion?


Learning by Osmosis

If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you may have noticed that I go through cycles of worry and paranoia about how we teach our two sons, ages 7 and 11. Much of this is fed by the fact that the homeschool moms I spend the most time with are the type who buy curricula and are pretty darn disciplined about following a particular schedule. Hearing about how their kids get up, eat breakfast, grab their workbooks and are sometimes done with school before all of my kids are out of bed makes me a bit insecure and I end up wondering if we’re really doing enough. We, as I have mentioned before, are not strict unschoolers but we’re definitely closer to being unschoolers than anything else. We approach learning as something which happens naturally, prodded on by life and inborn curiosity and try to save more formal lessons and such for things which the kids are unlikely to learn without a more concerted effort. It is a method which fits our style as a family and matches our family’s philosophy about people and learning. However, I have to admit, it also leaves me a bit insecure about whether we’re “doing enough”.
For this reason, I cherish experiences like the ones we had at brunch this morning. A few months ago I wrote about coming to the realization that my younger son’s math workbook (which I got for him because he asked) not only had no relation to his understanding of math, but was probably holding him back. I’ve been feeling kind of bad that he’s probably behind where he could be with math since we wasted most of last year being dependent on the stupid workbook. However, this morning, Collin demonstrated his ability to do simple multiplication problems and was even able answer his brother’s “Oh yeah, if you’re so smart what’s 10×20?” question correctly. I never taught him that. Hmmmm . . . Perhaps that’s what happens when math is a practical process used in everyday life rather than a series of steps or facts to memorize.
Then my older son surprised me by commenting that my husband (whose birthday was today) is now old enough to be president. I never taught him that either. I have often been concerned over the fact that he shows no interest in history or civics, yet somehow he knew this little tidbit of trivia.
Apparently they’re learning by osmosis. Another homeschool mom I know has commented that she wonders sometimes if our attempts to educate our kids actually cause them to learn or if they just happen to coincide with what the child was going to learn anyway. She may have something there. So I’m feeling pretty good about our approach today. That should last for another hour or so before I start worrying again :p

Homeschool Prom

Here’s a nice little article about a homeschool prom held outside Chicago. I loved this:

“I don’t know how these people learned this,” the Elmhurst teen said, motioning toward a huddle of other students bouncing to the beats of a Ciara CD. Freshman Michael Naskrent, a home-schooler whose dervish-like twirls set his loosened necktie flapping, later whispered his secret to looking so good his first time out: “I asked my mom how to dance.”

LOL 🙂 Now there’s a lesson which probably doesn’t have a place in most teen’s schooling – learning how to dance from mom!
I thought this was telling as well:

Although some schools now require parents to attend pre-prom information sessions or mandate Breathalyzer tests for attending students, all the home-schooled teens interviewed said they had never considered drinking before the event.

I’m guessing none of the girls showed up dressed like this either. I wonder what the state of homeschooling will be when my baby girl is old enough for prom. I hope it is going strong and still fairly isolated from the problems which too many teens face and succumb to.