Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Keeping It Simple

This is a rerun from '06, but it nicely sums up where I am with much of our school planning this year -- aside from a few major items (Teaching Textbooks for the older girls, a lecture series from the Teaching Company, biology materials), I'm doing a lot of shopping on my own bookshelves, just as I mentioned here.


In School-proof, Mary Pride reminds me of the things I love about homeschooling, and of what is possible: the simplicity, the directness of the teaching, the wonderful eschewing of all-things-clutter.

One of the reasons I love homeschooling is that the kids and I get to make decisions about what we do, what we study, what we read and when we read it. My standing joke in our first year at home (after having my eldest attend Kindergarten) was that I would never again be caught off-guard by a last-minute note requesting three large soda bottles for a "fun and educational craft project." Such notes inevitably left me whining, "But we don't even buy those big bottles!"

In a chapter entitled, "Educational Clutter's Last Stand," Mary reminds us that an awful lot of what passes for curriculum is just busy work. As homeschoolers, we can easily identify busy work when a child is in school. But sometimes we lose sight of it when we become the teachers. All those delicious curriculum catalogs, those exciting ideas, the fun-and-educational projects ... they're so tempting, aren't they? And before we know it, we're the bad-guy, sending ourselves a last-minute mental note to scrounge up three large soda bottles. Yikes.

I like rereading Mary's book because she keeps me grounded in a simple truth. She says,

The secret is out -- the better teacher you get to be, the less you will need expensive curriculum and supplies. A beginning teacher can teach all her children to read with a prepackaged curriculum and have them reading years ahead in six months or less. A good teacher can teach phonics with a few simple readers, flash cards and a chalkboard. A great teacher can do it with library books and a pencil and ten sheets of paper! The difference is simply that the great teacher knows exactly where she is going and how to handle each roadblock or opportunity along the way.


Margaret in Minnesota said...

You are exactly the kind of great teacher that Mary Pride speaks about, Karen. I have no doubt about it.

momto5minnies said...

Wise words! I bet you are a great teacher.

Love that last quote.

Karen E. said...

Well, you are both very kind, but I think I'm probably a better quoter than teacher. :)

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Karen, thanks for the insight into the world of home-schooling. I can definitely see the perks of it. I just dropped off my oldest four to school for their first day back of the school year, had coffee with other moms and am now hanging with my 4-year-old. I guess there are perks attached to whatever way one chooses. On this day, I'm pretty happy with our setup, but I still think the world of you home-schoolers. Have a great year!

Leonie said...

I definitely agree with both you and mary - the longer we teach/homeschool, the less we seem to need a zillion types of curricula.

Karen E. said...

Thanks, Roxane! And I have to say that there are days when that cup of coffee with the other moms sounds pretty great. :)

It IS nice to simplify, isn't it, Leonie?