Curriculum Wars!

By Tamara Eaton

Online message boards and support groups are great ways for homeschooling families to share information about curriculum and teaching methods. We all like to go beyond reading the paid advertisements or professional reviews to learn from the experience of "real families". But in doing this, it's important to realize that there are as many different opinions of the BEST curriculum and methods as there are homeschooling families! Think of all the variations: personalities, income, number and ages of children, strengths and weaknesses, backgrounds, goals and philosophies. No wonder we don't always agree!

When we first began to homeschool, there were few choices in curriculum and practically no homeschool curriculum developers at all. Homeschooling families were few and scattered so we rarely had the opportunity to discuss various curriculum or methods with peers. Instead, we were forced to do the best thing possible --DEPEND ON GOD.

The benefits of supporting one another in homeschooling and sharing ideas and experiences are enormous --we've managed online homeschool message boards for years and we're convinced these are valuable resources. God's Word exhorts us over and over to encourage one another in His Ways and this is one way we can support one another as we all seek to glorify God in our homeschooling. But let's make sure we don't allow our peers or even a "Christian" curriculum to replace the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He wants to lead our families in His Will and teach us His Truth --everything we hear or see should be "filtered" through Him and His Word!

Most homeschooling support groups --whether online or off, take on the "flavor" of the most vocal members of the group. We've observed groups take on the following "flavors": "traditional school at home", relaxed homeschooling, unschooling, unit studies, Charlotte Mason methods and eclectic styles. Can you imagine how confusing it can be to a new homeschooler who flits from group to group, trying to decide which one is right?

In our enthusiasm for the method or materials that have worked best for our family, sometimes we make the mistake of thinking these are best for EVERY family. We've learned through the years that this isn't the case, nor do we even use the same methods and materials for each child. Sometimes what worked once, no longer works so we learn to stay flexible and open to new ways of doing things.

Here are some principles that have helped us over the years in choosing homeschooling materials and methods:

* Pray for wisdom and direction from the Lord! He promises to lead you in EVERY decision you make if you trust Him. (James 1:5-6)

* Write down priorities and goals for your children's education. If you don't know where to start, prayerfully read the book of Proverbs, as well as articles and books on homeschooling. Jot down notes when what you are reading seems to confirm God's will for your family.

For example, our family's number one goal is for each of our children to be wholehearted, devoted Christians who glorify the Lord in their lives. Everything we do in our parenting, in our homeschooling, reflects this goal. We're teaching them the Word of God, to love it, to believe it, and to stand upon it. We're teaching them how to apply the Word to their lives and how to discern the will of God and hear His voice. We want each one to develop an intimate relationship with Jesus --really knowing Him and trusting Him! So any materials we choose would support our number one goal and not detract from it.

Not all "Christian" curriculum is in line with what the Bible teaches. It's important to use discernment and not assume it's Biblically sound just because a Christian wrote or recommended it. Check it out! We all must answer to the Lord for what we're teaching our children --whether it lines up with His Word or not. But fear not, the Lord hasn't left us to our own devices --He's promised to lead us and give us understanding of the truth by His Holy Spirit if we look to Him. (John 16:13) This doesn't mean that we never use "secular" books or texts, but we do make sure we explain or skip any areas that don't line up with God's Word and His perspective.

* We want our children to enjoy learning all their lives, not to view it as drudgery or limited to "school time". So as a result of this goal, we look for ways to make learning fun while they're young and stress the basic tools they need to begin to learn on their own as soon as they're able.

* We're blessed with a large family so we prefer to teach concepts as simply as possible and use materials that don't require too much advance preparation. Any curriculum requiring too much fuss generally ended up in our closet, gathering dust!

* As our children mature and become well-grounded in the basic tools of reading, writing, and math, as well as in good study and research skills, we desire that they become more independent learners. So we choose materials that are conducive to this particular goal.

We've shared specifics about choosing curriculum in other articles, as well as discussed developing a homeschool method or style to fit your own family, so our main purpose in this article is to encourage you to not get sidetracked or confused by all you read and hear about the various homeschool materials. Instead, take time to seek the Lord and give Him the opportunity to lead your family to the best curriculum for you!

"I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." (Psalm 32:8)

"Show me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me..." (Psalm 25:4-5)

"Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments." (Psalm 119:66)

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith..." (James 1:5-6)

[Note--If you don't know the Lord in a personal, saving way--find out how you can be set free from all condemnation and receive Eternal life, as well as His daily help and guidance! (Knowing God)

Copyright Tamara Eaton 1994-2000, all rights reserved.

Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the publication to :Deeper Life Family Ministries, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.

We have always homeschooled our six children (elementary through high school and beyond!) and enjoy encouraging other families in their homeschooling, parenting and in the Lord! For more help and information, please join us on the Christian Homeschool Fellowship Message Board.

[ Please don't forget to include your email address within the body of your message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient email addresses! ]


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"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."

Isaiah 54:13