In my home, the last few years have been a journey through a number of alternatives in regards to homeschool curriculum. The spectrum is wide. We have used McGuffey Readers and explored the Waldorf Method; sought to use principles from the Robinson Curriculum and resources from Christian Liberty Press; reviewed Tapestry of Grace and Sonlight. The Ron Paul Curriculum is becoming increasingly practical and Charlotte Mason always has helpful resources.
Thanks to my wife, each of these and more are thoroughly researched. She provides me with the cliff notes and the two of us work together to apply what we have learned. I mentioned last time that once or twice a year, she and I reexamine our homeschool curriculum and routine. We do this for two primary reasons. First, it serves as a checkpoint to determine how we are tracking overall. Second, it enables us to pause and discuss what we have learned over the past year.
Educating your children becomes an education for parents. This of course could refer to learning content through teaching, but I am referring to a broader scope. The whole business of homeschooling is a learning experience for mom and dad. It is much like parenting in general – one big experiment. Let’s face it, we are always messing up. Hence, we must maintain a ruthless commitment to course correction. This means an equally ruthless commitment to humility.
Educating your children is an act of faith just as is parenting in general. You do not see the immediate results of your choices. The only certainty to be had is that you know in all of it, you are wrong about some things and most likely lots of things.
This is why it is all an exercise in faith. You believe that a certain curriculum, methods and environment will produce the desired learning results for your children. This is only evidenced over long periods of time. So, you act in faith.
It is because of this that the guiding, faith-principles of your child’s education are all-important. It is not the end of the world if you child’s intellectual and academic achievements fall short of a desired standard. If he still struggles in mathematics at eighteen, his future will not be wholly derailed.
Yet, if he has not gained wisdom, then all of his education was for naught. Why? Because his applied knowledge is out of line with God’s prescription for a righteous life.
As Christians this certainly means that scripture should be a center-point for our child’s curriculum. But it means more than this. It means we should be completely self-conscious in our Biblical presuppositions and seek to subject each and every discipline in our child’s curriculum to them. These presuppositions are first principles that guide as content and curriculum are fleshed-out and education is facilitated.
Sometimes this will dictate what curriculum you chose. It will also dictate the way you chose to teach it. In regards to the former, the sheer volume of choices today is dizzying. This is a good thing. It is going to get better. Families are unique. Their circumstances are unique. Each individual parent and child is equipped with unique strengths and experiences. Why wouldn’t each family have a unique approach? Why would they not make use of different curriculums, forums and methods?
This is the beauty. One size does not fit all. Access to information and tools today is astounding. Thankfully, we have more opportunity for customization to meet all of these unique needs and contexts.
To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). We have the plethora of options. We also have the task of making choices and applying the available curricula and tools to our unique situation. Planning can be difficult and time consuming. It requires energy and extreme future-orientation.
Anchoring educational content to the “first-things” also requires thought and energy. Yet, intentionally tethering every discipline in our homeschool curriculum to guiding Biblical presuppositions is vital.
You decide on a curriculum. The writers may or may not have been self-conscious. You have to be. Take Charlotte Mason for example. This is a leading option in Christian homeschool circles and for good reason. The resources are plenty and valuable. They are well organized. We plan on using some of the tools this year. But what is at the foundation of the content? For sure, it is a Christian curriculum, but is there a foundation below the bricks and mortar of which we should be aware? Yes.
As stated, Charlotte Shaw Mason was a Christian and her faith undergirded all of her efforts.
the knowledge of God is the principal knowledge, and the chief end of education.[i]
But, taking a look a bit further into her Christian faith reveals a need for caution. When speaking of children, she makes the following statement.
They are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for either good or evil.[ii]
This is not inconsequential. Such a tenant has tremendous implications for teaching and training children. To think that it does not influence both the content and message of the curriculum is naïve.
Let’s move from scruples regarding man’s sin nature and original sin to a statement regarding ethics.
My attempt in the following volume is to suggest to parents and teachers a method of education resting upon a basis of natural law;[iii]
When instructing your child, ask yourself: “Does it matter if their ethical foundation is one of natural law vs. Biblical law?” This debate rages on even today. My intent is not to take up the argument here, but to point out that one’s source of law has implications for instruction.
The subject of law is an issue of authority in general but what about parental authority specifically? To be certain, Mason defended the authority of parents in teaching and raising their children. This was at the heart of her life’s endeavor. But are there presuppositions of which we should be aware; deeper commitments that should give us caution? Judge for yourself. Mason states,
The children are, in truth, to be regarded less as personal property than as public trusts, put into the hands of parents that they may make the very most of them for the good of society.[iv]
the children are the property of the nation, to be brought up for the nation as is best for the nation, and not according to the whim of individual parents.[v]
Again, this is not trivial. Such prior commitments will most certainly color the educational philosophy that will be worked out in the form of materials and methods. It means that the creators of every curriculum, self-consciously or not, are acting out of a worldview that invariably affects content.
What’s the point? It is our job as parents to be self-conscious of our own prior commitments and ensure we harness every aspect of our homeschooling to them. More on those key presuppositions next time.
[i] Mason, Charlotte (2011-05-15). Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series Volume 1 – Home Education . . Kindle Edition.
[ii] Mason, Charlotte (2011-05-15). Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series Volume 1 – Home Education . . Kindle Edition.
[iii] Mason, Charlotte (2011-05-15). Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series Volume 1 – Home Education . . Kindle Edition.
[iv] Mason, Charlotte (2011-05-15). Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series Volume 1 – Home Education (p. 1). . Kindle Edition.
[v] Mason, Charlotte (2011-05-15). Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series Volume 1 – Home Education (pp. 2-3). . Kindle Edition.