The Spice of Life: Choosing Variety in Curriculum

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.


Comments

  1. says

    I think that’s a fine idea! The only thing I would struggle with is having to revamp something that I have gotten into a good grove with. Sometimes that can throw an entire homeschool off. I think it all depends on the mom and how well SHE adjusts.

    Right now I’m trying to get comfortable [so to speak] with what I’m already doing. LOL

    But you certainly make some excellent points about learning things from different angles and it would certainly be beneficial. :) Thank you for sharing your perspective!

  2. says

    I totally agree with you, Christin! Sometimes it’s much better to stick with something you know and run with it, especially if it’s a program you feel really good about. It takes away a lot of the guesswork, and by the time you get to the third or fourth kid, you’ve got it down pat! Thanks for sharing your thoughts :).

  3. says

    Excellent point. I hadn’t thought of it in this perspective at all. While we are fair newbies (this will be our third year) and haven’t settled into that comfortable groove yet, this thought gives me pause. Maybe I shouldn’t fall into a deep groove? Maybe a shallow groove would be best. I do my best with routine; comfortable, predictable routines. Still, maybe it is not best for my son. We’ll see. Thanks for the thought.

  4. says

    I am new to your blog and wanted to say I have really enjoyed it. I love bob jones, I have taken lots of co-op classes but always get nervous about new curiculm. i know it seems weird but I like knowing what i get.

  5. Linda says

    When we first started homeschooling, I needed the reassurance that a set curriculum provided. Now that we have done it for a while, I do recognize the need for my daughter to be introduced to different teachers, and different ways of doing things. We are in the groove of homeschooling now, but thanks for the reminder not to let the groove become a rut!
    Linda
    I started out an accidental homeschooler and now I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  6. says

    I so needed to read this right now! I am in the throngs of trying to decide which curriculum to use this year ( STILL! Ugh!) I can not make up my mind to save my life, and I keep worrying that if I used one thing this year, and don’t like it, and switch next year, and don’t like it, that I am going to “harm” my children by continuously changing! I really like the point you make about different teachers, and angles! It’s something great to remember!

  7. says

    This is how we do it! I’ve never thought about it from the perspective that you gave, but I’ve used different curricula for my kids at several points along the way – the only thing that definitely stays the same is History and that’s because we do it together chronologically and we’re going to finish Diana Waring’s History Revealed – BUT, instead of using it through a second time, we’re going to switch to Tapestry of Grace for the next time through.

    Good luck as you find the curricula that fits each of your children best!

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