Monday, August 17, 2009

Up to My Ears in Curriculum

I've often referred to myself as a curriculum junkie! When I first decided to homeschool my children, thirteen years ago, I came home from town with two sacks full of department store workbooks. Then, I discovered curriculum catalogs, and I was hooked!

It all looks good. Some of it looks GREAT! With so much to choose from, it's hard to decide which math or phonics program will be a perfect fit for a certain son or daughter. Trial and error at our house has resulted in the sale of a lot of "gently used" curriculum on eBay.

Accompanying each student text is a hefty teacher's manual. These are approximately three times the price of the student book and take up proportionately more room on your dining room table. I got by without the teacher's manuals in the early years but I eventually became unwilling to work each math problem in order to correct my children's papers.

That's what a curriculum junkie does after her children are in bed, you know. She no longer plays Scrabble with her husband. She doesn't curl up in a favorite chair with a good book. She never goes to bed early herself.

She corrects papers. Lots of them.

I've spent many evenings at my dining room table, bent over a stack of workbooks and teacher's manuals. This was in stark contrast with my earlier visions of the perfect homeschooling family. I thought home education would bring our family together. Instead, we were all engaged in separate activities . . . and I was stuck with the task of grading papers. Need a little more guilt in your life? Try neglecting the grading of your children's work! I got behind once, and I wasn't going to let that happen again.

Fortunately, my obsessive search for the perfect curriculum led me to Time4Learning. Of course, nothing is really perfect, but much has been said about this program's ability to eliminate a student's boredom and improve retention of concepts studied. Not so much has been written about how it benefits the parent! We can now eat at our dining room table, because it isn't forever covered with school books. The program grades the work for me, so I again have time to beat my husband during our nightly Scrabble games. The printable reports are concise and customizable, to contain only the information I really need, so I have far less filing to do.

I used to imagine having time to take nature walks or get involved in creative art projects. I wanted to add some good, old-fashioned fun to my kids' school years, but my good intentions were lost in the rush to get one more workbook page completed, and under an avalanche of paper. I put aside my desire to provide an old-fashioned educational experience to try a modern, online homeschooling method. Ironically, this "modern" method resulted in more time for old-fashioned pursuits!

These days, online curriculum figures prominently in our homeschool program. My younger children can't remember a time when their core subjects weren't done on the computer. Unlike my older kids, they'll also have memories of the field trips, nature walks and craft projects that I was too busy to juggle along with piles of books.

1 comment:

  1. I am right there w/ ya, but my problem is that I am looking for that happy medium. I love curriculum, but curriculum does not love me or should I say my son. He wants to work on his own but reading just has not clicked well enough for this to happen, he is in 5th but at a 2nd or 3rd level in reading. We school year round and right now we are using workbook style curriculum. I have been known to be up till wee hours of the night grading school, too.


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