I find comfort in routine. The unexpected tends to really throw me off, so I avoid it at all cost. This means that I usually order the same burger at Red Robin (hello, guacamole and bacon deliciousness), the same Blizzard at Dairy Queen (Oreo with vanilla, thank you very much) and the same drink at Starbucks (tall mocha, half a shot, please don’t laugh).
This means that I always know what I’m getting, and I know I won’t be disappointed.
I tend to seek the same predictability when it comes to choosing curriculum, as well. I want a “one size fits all” math program that all four of my children will be able to use from K through 12. I want a neat row of spelling workbooks that will carry them through each and every diphthong and homonym with remarkable ease. I want a grammar text that will sail us smoothly toward the horizon of blissful diagramming and precise editing. Is this too much to ask?
As I discussed my very comfortable, very predictable, very vanilla approach with a friend recently, she made a comment that stopped me in my tracks. She gently hinted that perhaps variety and change wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Of course it’s often wise to adhere to the ol’ motto, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but what about viewing change as a good thing? Even a beneficial thing?
Her main point rested on the fact that my children, ages 13, 10, 8 and 5, have only one teacher. That’s me. This one teacher, teaching from one text to one child at a time will essentially produce, you got it, one style of education. When I look at it this way, my approach appears to be rather stagnant.
But when I allow myself to branch out and try a new grammar curriculum for my eighth grader, this is akin to introducing him to a new teacher, a new way of thinking. He’ll learn that there is more than one way to gain an understanding of the English language. While one grammar program might focus on diagramming and memorization, another might emphasize prepositional phrases. Still another angle might involve the use of literature and dictation as a primary means of strengthening grammar and writing skills.
Any way we approach it, my son will have gained a unique perspective.
This variety in curriculum will prepare my children to enter arenas (e.g. college) where they must quickly learn from different teachers, materials and approaches. Their minds will be sharpened as they learn to view problems from different angles and arrive at conclusions using multiple methods.
Such an approach also awakens me to the reality that my children might not necessarily thrive with the cookie-cutter method. They are unique individuals with unique needs. My hands-on learner will blossom in a math program that provides lots of manipulatives, while my workbook-loving child will be eager to just tackle the page and move on.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I plan to toss out my books and use different curricula every year. I have found a number of approaches to be very successful for our family, and because of that I don’t feel the need to move on. Or at least not yet. But I’m on the lookout, and I’m learning to be flexible. Because maybe change isn’t such a bad thing, after all. Banzai burger, anyone?
Julianna can be found writing at Petunia June.