"I've just had an apostrophe."
"I think you mean epiphany."
I'm probably quoting that wrong, but bonus points if you can tell me what that is from....
In any case, I had a homeschooling epiphany recently. Not a huge one, but a significant one nonetheless. It was something I had thought about before, but it really sunk in and I realized how to use the concept to make a difference in our homeschool - for the better.
Curriculum is a tool. It isn't the goal.
Simple, right? I read something along those lines from Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things (such a wonderful and inspiring homeschooling blog) a while back (and I'm not sure which blog post it was, otherwise I would link to it directly, but seriously, read her stuff). She talked about not letting curriculum rule you, but using curriculum as a tool to achieve a goal. At the time, I nodded along as I read it, thinking I agreed. And I did. But the reality of what that really meant, for ME, here in OUR home, is now becoming apparent. And it is relieving a lot of stress.
I'll explain with an example. This year we are studying US history and geography. I have a very nice US geography curriculum. I looked at how many lessons there are, to give myself an idea of how often we should try to do geography each week. It really stressed me out. After all, there are 50 states, and each state has a number of things to cover. If I thought of the curriculum as the goal, I'd be trying to cram it all in, whether we really have that much time to devote to it or not, because somehow finishing the curriculum in a school year = I did enough geography.
But what if I looked at it differently? What if we have a goal that isn't the curriculum? What if our goal is: learn about the states and capitals. What if I cast off the strictures of the school year and realize we don't have to do this all in one year. We can, and we very well might. But if we don't, is that going to ruin them? Do I have no further chances to teach them about the states and the capitals?
If our goal is "learn about the states and capitals," and the curriculum is our tool for doing so, suddenly my planning (and stressing) is a lot different. I don't have to figure out how to jam learning about 50 states into roughly 36 weeks of school (that would mean more than one state per week - yikes!). I can let it flow as it will. Sometimes we will go through a bunch of states in a week, or even a day, if the kids are into it. Other times we might not cover a new state for a while, if we are busy with other projects. We're flexible like that, and I want to be, but it is hard to maintain flexibility without stress and guilt if the curriculum is the end goal.
So I'm keeping that in mind as we settle into another school year. I'm writing down some goals, and they aren't "finish X curriculum." I'm focusing on what I want the kids to get out of certain subjects, or what I want to emphasize, and the curriculum we use is a means to an end, not the end in and of itself. And that feels pretty good.