Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Should Christians Ever Use A Secular Homeschool Curriculum?


When Christian families first begin the homeschooling journey, they often rely on the advice of other Christian friends about which homeschool curriculum they should use.  The majority of Christian homeschoolers rely on a few select Christian publishers for their curriculum needs.  Companies such as Bob Jones, A Beka, and Alpha Omega are familiar names among the homeschooling community because they have a reputation for reliable, structured, and Biblically sound materials. 

The downside of these companies is that they are somewhat geared to a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching.  The average student will probably do just fine with one of these programs, but just how many of us have “average” children?  I myself have struggled to fit into an average person’s skin, with somewhat disastrous results.  Unfortunately being “average” just doesn’t work for me, or my kids.

The purpose of Christian homeschool curriculum is to educate a child within the framework of a Christian worldview.  This is an incredibly noble goal for a publishing company, and Christians respond with gratitude and support for their efforts.  But if all our focus is on the curriculum or the theology behind it, our children’s educational needs can often get lost in the process.  The truth is that each of our children were created with incredibly unique bodies, minds, and spirits, and one of our jobs as parents is to guide our children into the one-of-a-kind people they are meant to be.

So, in making curriculum choices, we must take many things, beside just our child’s spiritual growth, into account.  Things such as . . .
·    What type of learning do they most enjoy?
·    What is their learning style?
·    Do they have any special learning needs?
·    What reasons made you start homeschooling your child, and why do you continue?

The answers to these questions can and should greatly influence your curriculum choices.  For instance, if your child is a visual learner, he may do poorly with a workbook-style curriculum.  If your daughter learns best by demonstration and hands-on involvement, she will probably not excel with a video-based curriculum.  If your child enjoys delving deeply into subjects that interest him, he might find unit study curriculum much more helpful than a simple textbook overview. 

And what if your child struggles or excels in a given subject?  Most standard Christian curriculums don’t make allowances for varying achievement levels within subjects.  Does your child work a couple grades ahead in math?  Has he or she been diagnosed with dyslexia or another learning disorder? In those instances, an eclectic choice of curriculum can make the difference between homeschool frustration and homeschool success.  Fortunately, there are an incredible array of well-designed, educationally sound, and interesting secular curricula for both the gifted student and the struggling learner. 

If your main objective when choosing to homeschool your children was to instill a Christian worldview into their lives, there are so many opportunities beyond math and science to do that.  Opening up your homeschool day with prayer, discussing how the stories you are reading together demonstrate or contradict Biblical principles, and leaving time in your homeschool schedule for ministry to others are all wonderful ways of educating your children in a Christian manner.  Whether or not you are using a specifically Christian curriculum for every subject, each homeschool day will present new opportunities for interweaving your faith into your studies.

One thing for sure about your child’s homeschool curriculum - - it can either enhance or dampen their love of learning.  Therefore, it is a choice of great importance in the long run.  By opening up to the idea of using secular curricula when necessary, you are opening up new possibilities of exploration and individuality for your child.  You are allowing them to become the unique person they were created to be!!

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