Sunday, January 31, 2010

How Do I Know What To Teach?

One question we all seem to ask (or at least wonder about) when we are thinking about homeschooling or we meet someone who does for the first time: how do you know what to teach?  For me, it was "How will i know what to teach?" I believe this to be a valid question because it stems from genuine curiosity and it is mixed with a touch of doubt, generally self-doubt, so it is a fair concern.

Traditional Answer: buy a reputable curriculum and follow it to the letter.  As you get the "swing" of things, you will be able to supplement or skip pieces.  This is a valid answer, but it didn't fit our style around here, so....

Less Common Response: learn about whatever the kids are interested in!  What could be more fun than learning everything from the world around you rather than textbooks!?!  Also a valid answer, but it was a bit too loose for me - i am still struggling with my self-doubt too much to lean too heavily on unschooling (as this method is often called).

Fence Straddling Answer (and my personal favorite): pick a few things that are done well to keep the basics, like math and reading, and discover the rest as you (or your children!) desire.  This way embraces all that wonderful curricula out there in Homeschool Land written by wise, intelligent, helpful people with far too much time on their hands, but it also allows for the freedom of focusing on things you are interested in, like bugs or clouds or Native Americans or - you get the idea.  For me, it's the perfect way to homeschool!

Not to mention, what works for us this week may not work for us next week - our needs are not finite, and they require us to adjust every so often.  I sometimes panic when i discover someone else's child is doing something more advanced than mine, but i quickly calm down again when i remind myself that i am aiming for a well-rounded education, not just a revolving set of facts or a checklist at the end of each year.

I feel the need to point out that the traditional school teachers are given goals/checklists before they ever meet their students, and whether or not their students reach those goals is the measure of their teaching.  While that is a lot of stress for the teacher, imagine how the kids feel who are being force-fed information that they may not understand or droned at with material they have already mastered.  The beauty of homeschooling is that i can teach only what my kids don't already know, and i can slow things down when someone needs me to do so.

So the shorter answer to the question "How Do I Know What To Teach?" for me would have to be: i don't.  I rely on some basics, like math and reading, to help keep us on track, and we fill in with whatever we feel like learning about (like pink flamingos or farm animals or self-checkout lanes or dog obedience training or building hay bale towers or...).  But, seriously, it isn't about having all the answers - it is about the journey.

1 comment:

  1. I love your fence-straddling answer... that is just perfect. :)