Selecting Curriculum: Our Methods – 4 Moms, 35 Kids

This week the 4 Moms are talking about choosing curriculum.  Visit the Deputy Headmistress, KimC and Connie to see how other moms of many tackle this task.

If you haven’t yet, please read Part 1 in this series, My Heart and Homeschooling.

When God commands us to do something  He also equips and enables us to do it.  So if God has called you to home educate your children,  He will give you the wisdom, strength and time necessary to educate them for His glory.  This does not mean that it will be easy but just like in our Christian walk, our journey should be characterized primarily by joy, good fruit and forward progress.

The difference between a homeschool characterized by joy and one characterized by burnout is usually the focus or the goal toward which the family is pressing.  We must allow our goals and priorities to be governed by God’s Word and by His standard not by man’s definitions of academic success.  The curriculum you choose will either be a valuable tool in reaching your goals or something that you will have to wrestle with as you press forward.  But it’s not just the curriculum, it’s the method.

  1. Method – the manner in which you utilize the resources that you have to educate your children.
  2. Curriculum – the resources that you use to educate your children.

Let me give you a brief example.  One of our family’s goals is to focus on relationships.  If we chose to educate exclusively with textbooks  then our method would constantly battle against this goal. The nature of textbooks is that those working would need peace and quiet and would either choose to work away from the younger children and each other or would be bothered by frequent interruption.  During the school day each child would be isolated from the others and from me.  There would not be a common family conversation about history, science or geography because everyone would be learning and studying different events and topics.

We may get to the end of each day wondering why everyone is so impatient and frustrated with each other and we may not understand the lack of unity within our family, but much of that can be explained by the artificial system that we have set in place in order to accomplish academic goals.

But it’s not really as simple as that.  A family could use textbooks in a way that integrates the family and eliminates most, if not all, of the drawbacks listed above.  Conversely a family can take a relationship friendly curriculum like Sonlight, decide to use a different level for each child in the house end up with just as many relationship hurdles as someone who exclusively uses textbooks.

So your curriculum AND how you use it are equally important.

Here are some aspects of our method that affect our curriculum choices: (These are in no particular order and I would classify our method as ‘lifestyle’ learning.)

  1. We strive to teach within the context of  life.  (see the Scripture quoted below and Deut. 6)
  2. We teach  multiple levels together a LOT.
  3. We think it is important for our children to have time to follow their own interests and curiosities so we do not use busy work to keep our children busy.
  4. We don’t arbitrarily divide subjects into sub-subjects. :)  (We teach geography within the context of history, and spelling, handwriting, grammar and speech within the context of reading and composition.)
  5. We do not feel obligated to do every assignment, question, etc. as written by our chosen curricula, it is our TOOL.
  6. We are not limited by the assignments and topics presented in our curricula, it is our TOOL.
  7. We realize that our kids have different strengths and weaknesses and we adjust our expectations and their assignments accordingly.
  8. We spend the majority of our ‘school’ day directly interacting with our children (we do very little passing out of assignments and grading papers). Deut. 6:4-9
  9. I do not spend copious amounts of time planning for each day’s lessons.  (Who am I kidding?  Mark and I spend time at the beginning of the year planning our direction and then we just do the next thing until we are finished with what we had planned.)
  10. History is a family discussion.
  11. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of Jehovah’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshiped. Ex. 12:26-27

    When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones?  Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. Joshua 4:21

  12. We recognize that our children are constantly learning.  They learn from everyone around them, from the media to which they are exposed, the conversations that they hear and the examples that they see.  These ‘untaught’ lessons can be more powerful than the lessons that we try to teach them.
  13. We educate year round and simply take short breaks to focus on different aspects of life as needed.

Of course your goals for homeschooling will also be an important factor in selecting a curricula.  I will post about our specific curriculum choices next Thursday.  In the meantime, I’m working on several different posts about homeschooling methods, so stay tuned if you have more questions on that topic.

Read about how other moms of many choose a homeschool curriculum:

The Deputy Headmistress @ The Common Room
KimC @ Life in a Shoe
Connie @ Smockity Frocks

Click button to read the other topics that the  4 moms of many have discussed.

Other posts about choosing a curriculum:

My heart and homeschool curriculum
God’s method for education
Our curriculum choices for 2010

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22 Responses to Selecting Curriculum: Our Methods – 4 Moms, 35 Kids
  1. Cyndi L.
    May 6, 2010 | 9:08 am

    Great topic, great info! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    [Reply]

  2. Kara
    May 6, 2010 | 9:51 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been struggling with curriculum and reading all of your blogs is like a prayer being answered! So glad you all are sharing this:)

    [Reply]

  3. Renee
    May 6, 2010 | 10:44 am

    Very interesting! I’ve been looking around to get info about homeschooling, our oldest is only 3 but I think that it’s important to look at the different options now just to give me a idea, of the possibility for the future!

    [Reply]

  4. Holly
    May 6, 2010 | 12:01 pm

    I really appreciate you sharing this. For me, I know that when someone shared some of these very ideas, it was like a “free get out of jail pass” :) Something about having someone else put them into words, gave me the liberty to do the things I felt in my heart were right, but didn’t know I was “allowed” to do ;)

    I thank you, too, for the scripture you shared. My oldest is 10 and for some reason the Lord has really been leading me in the direction of making Bible study more of a central focus this next school year. I was reading your post and realized that if my kids never know all there is to know about World History but they do know all about the Bible, we’ll be doing alright!! Thanks again for this post, it was like a visit from a good friend and a breath of fresh air to my heart and soul!

    Holly

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thank you Holly.

    I’m hoping and praying that this series of posts that I am working on will be that “Get Out of Jail Free Pass” for those who need it. I had the same experience and I know if I felt the pressure to conform to man’s standard that others feel it as well.

    Thank you again for your encouragement.

    [Reply]

  5. PerryC
    May 6, 2010 | 1:06 pm

    This was an amazingly well written post. Thanks for putting it to “paper”.

    [Reply]

  6. 4 Moms Discuss Homeschool Curriculum
    May 6, 2010 | 3:11 pm

    [...] Raising Olives [...]

  7. Stephanie
    May 6, 2010 | 3:37 pm

    I feel like I have a kindred soul in this :)

    [Reply]

  8. Jenn
    May 6, 2010 | 3:45 pm

    I am reading this post with a sense of desperation. I don’t know how in the world to go from where we are to where I want to be, but so much of what you talked about here resonates with my heart’s cry for my family. I am due with our 7th at the beginning of July… and I know that I absolutely *must* make some profound changes. Thank you a thousand times for writing these things out. I am listening!

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    “If any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask God who gives to all men generously without reproaching and it will be given to him.” ~James 1:5

    Praying for you and your family!

    I would ask for your prayers as well, as I work through this series of posts about method and curriculum.

    [Reply]

  9. Michelle
    May 6, 2010 | 4:00 pm

    Kimberly, this is slightly off-topic, but I have a question. At the beginning of the year, you mentioned how things became significantly harder this year, with your oldest being in a new stage. Have you found that to continue, or have things balanced out and become a bit easier? Our oldest will turn 12 next month, and will be in 7th grade. I’m kind of wondering what to expect in the year or two to come. :-)

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Things have certainly balanced out and become easier. I think a few things contributed to that.

    One is that Amber (our oldest) has grown into her deeper responsibilities as the year has progressed. She really is capable of self-teaching to a large extent.

    Two, we re-evaluated our plans and realized that we had substituted another person’s expectations for our own.

    Three, I think that we, as parents, have grown into our role as educators of a teenager. It is a wonderful and beautiful privilege! True they aren’t as cute as toddlers, but they sure are a lot easier. :) Of course she’s just 13, so I’m not saying we’re experts yet.

    [Reply]

  10. Heather P
    May 7, 2010 | 8:32 am

    Kimberly,

    I am a new reader to you as a result of this series on Thursdays. I am a recently-former homeschooler, and I need to respond to one thing. You contend that most homeschool burnout is due to trying to do school at home. While it might be true in SOME cases, it was not in mine. I have 4 girls ages 9 down to 2. We did NOT do school totally like the schools. Much of our science, history, music, art, etc. was learned through literature and reading aloud together. However, I still burned out. Why? Because I am an extreme introvert who needs time to myself, have a husband with a demanding job, and 4 little girls who are not independent enough students to give me the space I need in order to stay mentally healthy, AND keep up on what is required to run a household. I had a near nervous breakdown this winter that forced my hand. The lesson for me? Personality DOES matter; seasons of life DO matter. Will we homeschool again? I would say it’s a high probability, but not until I have all school-aged children and enough real help to ease the burden on my workload so I can maintain a healthy emotional balance. My kids need me as a mom more than they need me as their teacher. And Yes, I know you don’t believe the two roles are separate, but when I gave up on the rest of the day at 2 because I was burnt, they became separate. I probably sound defensive, and I truly don’t mean to. I just want to caution people against saying “if you just get your mindset right, it will all work out.” Because it doesn’t always work out.

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Heather,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    If you and your husband decided to homeschool because you thought it would be fun, your friends were doing it or you hoped to provide better academic training for your children, then the rest of this comment is not for you. I’m glad that you tried it out and am sorry it didn’t work for you. I wish your family the best.

    However, if you decided to homeschool because you read scripture and believed that it was the best way for you and your husband to obey God’s command to raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, then I have two things to say.

    First, your decision to homeschool was based on Biblical principles and your excuses for stopping have no basis in scripture.

    Nowhere in scripture is there a command, encouragement or warning to make sure that we have ‘time for ourselves’. As a matter of fact, scripture exhorts us to the opposite. Time and again we are encouraged and commanded to give up of ourselves and to serve others.

    Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;(do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3-4)

    Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

    I understand where you are coming from. I also prefer to be by myself and struggle with being overwhelmed by the children and my responsibilities. It does not come naturally for me to pour myself into my children. There are some things that we implement in our house to help me achieve some sort of balance. I get up early before the children. I do not eat lunch with the children, when everything is ready and they sit down to eat, I take my food and eat alone. We also have a rest time each afternoon (we’ve done this since we had children) when everyone is to be independent and I have some time to be quiet and rest. I’m not arguing that this is necessary, but it helps my sinful nature cope with what God has called me to do.

    Second, your comment speaks directly to the main point of this post. “We must allow our goals and priorities to be governed by God’s Word and by His standard not by man’s definitions of academic success.

    You state in your comment that you were on the verge of a ‘nervous breakdown’ even though you were not mimicking a school in how you teach “science, history, music and art”.

    You saw only two choices, 1). You could have a nervous breakdown or 2). You could stop doing what you were convicted by scripture to do. The fact that you didn’t consider the third option is the POINT of this post.

    Your third option would have been to use scripture as your standard and re-evaluate all that you were trying to accomplish. The Bible does not command you to teach “science, history, music and art” to your children each year. Not saying it’s bad, just saying that it is MAN’S standard that you have adopted. You had to choose between a mental breakdown, giving up on your conviction to homeschool or giving up man’s academic standard. The point of this post is that we CAN give up man’s academic standard.

    So while it is true that not all burnout is caused by choosing man’s standard over God’s, it’s possible that in your case, based on what you conveyed in your comment, it was.

    I pray that you hear my heart in this. I am very burdened for you and many others like you who struggle to live up to expectations that are simply NOT Biblical, who feel discouraged and defeated because they do not measure up to a standard that is not God’s.

    Blessings to you and your family.

    [Reply]

  11. Heather P
    May 7, 2010 | 8:49 am

    Ok, so I think that sounded much more defensive than I intended. I want to say that I LOVE the idea of homeschooling, and I loved homeschooling while it worked. And I applaud families who do it all the way through. I just got to a point where I had to ask what was best for my family at this particular point in our lives. And giving me some mental room was definitely best. Hats off to all of you, and many thanks for this series. I continue to enjoy it greatly!

    [Reply]

  12. MomStarr
    May 7, 2010 | 3:31 pm

    Thanks Kimberly for reminding us all that we must always check what we do by what God requires. Being a government school graduate myself I still have to stop myself from looking to that system when decision times come. I need posts like this one to keep my mind on what really matters for our homeschool and what is best for us in terms of what God requires. His yoke is easy and His burden is light!!! I was wondering if you would share what Amber will be doing this year as specifically as you can. My oldest is 12 (a boy) and I am trying to make some decisions now for him for next year.

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Yes, I’m planning on being very specific about curriculum and our plans for each child when I post on Thursday.

    Let me know if you have any additional questions after that.

    [Reply]

  13. Shannon
    May 8, 2010 | 10:29 pm

    I love reading posts by homeschoolers about homeschooling. Homeschooling is my back up plan, should the Lord change our circumstances. Right now our girls are in a private school where every teacher shares my faith, bible lesson’s and prayer, and singing are a part of every single day.
    While I feel very blessed that we have a school that I love and that we can afford, I know this is not an option for everyone.
    There are other ways to get that time alone that some people need, co teach with other homeschoolers in your area. In fact some states require that you participate in group homeschooling.
    I have had an observation about mom’s who try being SAHM, but give it up and go back to working saying the kids drive then nuts or they are better parents when they can work all day, that I believe applies to some burn out from homeschooling. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. and SOCIALIZE outside of your home. It seems like a no brainer but some mom’s over book what they think they need to accomplish at home every day and so never find time to go out, or think the kids are to much to handle without their spouse, or any number of other reason’s for staying home and driving each other nuts.
    Taking the kids out the the library, the park, the grocery store, just a walk around the block, teaches the kids so many lessons. and allows mom to communicate with other adults, or to hang back and just observe without the kids needing you.
    Seriously you want to mentally check out for a bit, take the kids outside, enforcing quite time for everyone at once is helpful.
    Okay, my mom is not working I am way to tired, just wanted to try to convey that thought.

    [Reply]

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    November 9, 2010 | 7:31 am

    [...] and literature books and resources that we want to use with our children. (Our distinctives and methods and other curriculum choices have remained the [...]

  17. Katie
    August 4, 2012 | 10:11 pm

    Hi Kimberly,
    I know this is an old post, but hopefully you still see comments? I don’t know how blogging works, ha! I stumbled upon your site after googling family worship and just loved your entries. We are a young family, 2 1/2 and 9 month old boys, and God has been changing our hearts on so many things lately it’s overwhelming! We have no support from our families to home educate, so I am like in the dark here. I am happy to read that it seems like we are on the right track as far as keeping God’s word and principles the main priority. Although I received an early childhood degree from a Christian college, it only prepared me to teach in public schools. Thanks again on the info on how to get started with littles!

    [Reply]

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