Veteran homeschoolers are frequently asked two questions. Those who tend to object to homeschooling ask, “What about socialization,” while those thinking of homeschooling want to know, “What curriculum do you use?”
I want to focus on the second question. I often hear it expressed in a yearning tone. Parents who are unhappy with their children’s schooling or reluctant to send their little one off to school seem to be saying, “I want to do this so please tell me what to do.” To quote Shakespeare, “Aye, there’s the rub.” Most of the time, homeschooling is a dance that each mother (it is usually, though not always, the mom) and individual child do. When it is done best, it isn’t a matter of memorizing and executing steps, but of being completely in touch with one’s partner and sensitive to the unique personalities, interests and styles of both mother and child.
Since most homeschooling families are teaching more than one child, that dance takes place on a crowded dance floor. Furthermore, much of the time, especially for young ones, one lone mother is everyone’s primary partner. No wonder people contemplating homeschooling wish that there was an off-the-shelf package that will set everyone elegantly twirling.
What happens if we turn the question around? Jewish tradition encourages teachers to see their responsibility to their students as if they were each one’s parent. Outstanding teachers do so even when they have twenty or more pupils in a class. From that perspective, loving and guiding four or six or even ten of your own children seems much simpler.
There are families I know who do base homeschooling around one curriculum and use that program for many children and many years. Invariably, those lessons form a solid base that then leaves hours of the day and week for each child to spend on developing his or her own interests. Many other families combine different options that may change yearly (or more frequently) depending on family and individual dynamics.
What curriculum do we or anyone else use? That question is largely irrelevant for anything other than the early steps of gathering information. You are not me; your children aren’t my children; your goals are not my goals. Homeschooling is the opposite of a finding a shortcut to education. The process of discovering what makes you and your family dance may look clumsy at times, but it can lead to a master performance.