Choosing curriculum has to be one of the most difficult things in the homeschooling journey. First of all, there are just too many choices. A mother can get very overwhelmed searching for just the right materials to use in each subject. Whether browsing online or in person, it’s difficult to know what will work best. As a recovering perfectionist, I went in to homeschooling with an unhealthly view of curriculum. Like many moms, I put too much emphasis on it. It was as if I believed that school could not go on, and I would not be able to teach, without the perfect curriculum.
The truth is that no curriculum can meet all of our children’s needs. No curriculum is going to present information exactly the way that we would every time. No teacher’s guide is going to iron out all the variables that come in a homeschooling day. No matter what we choose, we’re still going to be faced with our inadequacies. We’re still going to have to pray our hearts out. We’re still going to have good days– and really awful ones.
So, I had to lay down my search for “THE” curriculum. I had to start praying hard and keeping my eyes open to see how and where God was leading. One year, we were going through some serious financial struggles, and I knew that there would be no searching for perfect materials. There was absolutely no money for the search, let alone the purchasing of that pie-in-the-sky curriculum. The Lord began providing for us, one piece at a time. That year we enjoyed a patchwork quilt of hand-me-down curriculum and it worked beautifully. I realized that the concepts we were learning were far more important than how it was scripted or laid out. The pieces weren’t designed to go together, but He wove it together. God made it work, and I just hung on to Him.
At the very end of one homeschool year, I went to a homeschooling convention. I had no idea that God was going to get a hold of me in such a powerful way that weekend. Right there in the convention center ballroom, I knew that God was telling me that I was on the wrong path with my intended curriculum choices for the following year. At the time, my goal for the next year was to get my hands-on, out-of-the-box, creatively expressive and writing-challenged daughter to pass tests: primarily the achievement exam variety. My curriculum choices were based on an unrealistic goal driven by my own fears. Going down that path would have crushed my child’s spirit. I thank God for opening my eyes. I realized that choosing curriculum is not about my own goals; it requires insight into God’s plans and goals for my child. Thankfully, it was early enough that I had not ordered anything. He made it very clear that I should use a particular curriculum that included all kinds of hands-on experiences, and only needed to be supplemented with math, grammar, and spelling. Because the Lord chose for us that year, my girl just flourished!
This year, I prayed all summer for the Lord to show me what He had planned and what materials I should order. June and July went by, and I had no clarity. I knew I couldn’t order without the peace that accompanies a good Spirit-led decision. How many times have I ordered curriculum because “time was running out” and lived to regret those hasty purchases? Clearly, I was missing a piece of the puzzle. It turned out that I had a few misconceptions about what the year was going to look like, and once He brought about the unknown changes, then the curriculum choices became clear. I learned that trusting Him and yielding to His plans means that I have to let go of my timetable and my need to know things ahead of time. Better to wait on God and let Him choose, than to live with the fallout from my uninspired choices.
Another thing that I have learned about curriulum is that it is merely a tool. As I seek the Lord and yield to His plans for us each day, He uses the curriculum to teach us, inspire our creativity, and challenge us to grow. However, when I put my focus on the teacher’s guide or the lesson plans instead of Him, things go awry. When I let the curriculum tell me what I should do or not do, what my child should be capable of, what success looks like, or how much we should have accomplished by now, I become discouraged. Under pressure to fill in all the blanks, finish all the pages, and cover all the material, we lose our love for learning. In the midst of my teacher’s guide-induced despair one day, God spoke:
This curriculum is not your master.
I have a Master, and so do you. He is loving! He is patient! He is forgiving! He gives grace when it is needed. He gives insight and wisdom. He guides us through darkness and over obstacles. Curriculum doesn’t do that. It can’t do that. It’s only a tool.
There is only one Book that has the answers we need. The Bible is our inspiration, our standard, our light. It is God’s voice in our lives.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
So, friend, take your eyes off the curriculum and put them back on your Heavenly Father. He knows your heart. He sees your desperate desire to teach well and love well. He’s the One who called you to this. He’s the One who will bring victory and transformation to your everyday mess. He’s the One who loves you, and He will carry you through.
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