The first and biggest mistake many of us make is teaching a curriculum, not a child.
Let’s take math. Our child needs to learn mathematical concepts, so we choose a math program. Then, almost universally, we become focused on the curriculum instead of the student.
Have you ever become hyper focused on your child finishing that day’s math page. We hound them by saying, “Pay attention, we have to finish this!” We threaten and bribe to keep them on task.
The shift is subtle, but the math lesson is no longer about the child learning the material, it’s about getting the lesson done. After all, our accompanying teacher’s manual says we need to do 4 lessons a week, with one day for testing! The curriculum has become our focus.
Completing the lesson, or the entire book, is of no value if your child didn’t master the concepts in the lesson. This shift in focus is sneaky, we don’t recognize it happening until 3 months down the line when we realize our child is hopelessly lost.
As parents, we are not the only ones who get caught up in this trap. Our students are even more likely to commit this mistake. Unless you have worked hard to convince your child that the purpose of the lesson is to learn the material, and they have bought into the idea, they will likely rush just to finish. Most kids work as quickly as they can so they can be done.
Your job, as a parent and a teacher, is to help your students see that finishing is not the goal, learning is.
I understand the anxiety that comes when we know we won’t ‘finish’ in a timely manner. However, the world will not end, your child will not be a failure if they don’t finish their 4th grade math program while in the 4th grade. What will create problems is your child being pushed through a curriculum ‘on schedule’ but with little comprehension of the concepts they needed to learn.
Our focus needs to constantly be evaluated…are we developing our child’s understanding or working to finish a program. We need to stay focused on the purpose of education. Our child is the focus of our educational efforts. Their development and understanding is what matters.
Curriculum is a tool, nothing more.
Don’t allow the curriculum to become the mini dictator in your school day. Use the curriculum as you would any tool, to aid you in accomplishing your task, but don’t become so focused on the curriculum that you inadvertently switch from teaching your child, to teaching your curriculum.
When we really grasp this concept and apply it to our homeschool, it can change everything.
The pace that is pre-set in a curriculum is, to a certain degree, arbitrary. It will work for a percentage of children, but there will always be those who are bored because they are not challenged, and those who are frustrated, because they can’t keep up. As homeschoolers we can relax a bit. We can slow down when our child is struggling with a concept, and speed up when they are ‘getting it’.
So, as you begin this homeschool year, re-orient (or re-center if you use google maps) your teaching, so that your child is the focus and your curriculum is your tool.
Here are four more posts about mistakes we too easily make, but with a slight shift we can stay on track.