Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Plan

Lissa's posts on curriculum at The Lilting House seem to be striking a chord with many. It's almost like a virus that's making the rounds: homeschooling moms are assessing their curriculum overload and deciding that they've had enough. And they're not going to take it anymore.

But, the posts strike a chord here, too -- I laughed out loud at Lissa's description of herself because it's me, through and through.

I'm an eclectic, unschoolish, flexible homeschooler, but I love to browse curriculum catalogs, buy new things, invest in new books and try out new ideas. And, I often end up abandoning the stuff I've bought in favor of fashioning our own curriculum or delving into treasures we've found at the library (or buried in our home library.)

That's really not such a bad thing. I think we homeschooling moms fall into this trap because we're so intrigued by learning. It's one of the reasons we homeschool in the first place: we love to learn, love to talk about learning, love to try out and tweak various methods of learning. A new curriculum is sometimes just part of the love affair.

Back in May, a friend of mine was talking about getting her book order placed (she is amazingly organized and so beautifully steers her seven children through homeschooling that it humbles me to no end.) I joked that I had enough curriculum in this house to plan out the next two or three years, but right after I said that, my summertime planning swam into focus.

So I started the plan. I haven't gotten very far, but let's not talk about that. The plan is to sort through all the books we have, decide what we can actually use in the coming year, sell or give away others, and to buy as little as possible this year.

This plan has a name: Be Realistic. The execution of the plan goes something like this: acknowledge that I love to investigate possibilities and ideas, but realize that I don't have to follow up the catalog-browsing with an actual purchase. It's okay (if completely nerdy) to think of browsing curriculum catalogs as a hobby.

"Hi, I'm Karen ... and I'm a Curricula-holic."

But I can beat this thing.

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  1. Great post, Karen! I'm enjoying Lissa's (and now your) analysis. Although I'm starting on my journey, I can see that I lean towards being a curricula-holic. I love going through hs conferences to see what's out there, but then I glean the ideas and put them together at home.

    What I want to know is how do the husbands deal with this? And ?? about the expense -- spending money on materials that aren't used? Don't ask and don't tell?

  2. That's a good question, Jenn. (And, I don't mean to sound as if I'm spending hundreds on stuff we've never touched.) First of all, though I love to get some new stuff, I'm pretty frugal overall. There are plenty of programs I've drooled over but have even considered because of the cost. It's just not in our one-income budget. So, the dollars limit me from the start.

    But, when there is a new book/ set of books, or a science kit, or how-to tome, or what have you, I usually approach Atticus and say, "What do you think of this?" He always says he trusts me to make those decisions, and that he never feels a book purchase is a waste of money.

    And, thankfully, there are plenty of used curriculum buy-and-sell boards out there. :-)

    It also helps if you consider books to be part of your decorating scheme. ;-)

  3. I obsess about prices too, but dh usually says in the end, "As long as it costs me less than Catholic school tuition, I figure we're ahead." LOL I try to buy used so that when I sell it back I don't lose too much money. I think I would sell much less back if my oldest were easier to teach -- I wind up buying most stuff just to find *something* that works for her. :P

    I'm in the process of selling stuff off now, so I can make room for Catholic mosaic books! :)

  4. Karen,
    Excellent post, and funny that I had been conjuring up in my mind that I was going to buy very little this year, USE what I have on my shelf, and stop feeling so overwhelmed by all those great "intentions" disguised as "books we should read" that stare at me from my bookshelves.

    I'll be following your journey and hopefully making my own in this area as well!

  5. This is a wonderful post, Karen! I am also a curricula-holic, LOL! Especially when I have all these beautiful catalogs sitting here ... But I am learning at 4real and all these great blogs how much we can do with far less. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

  6. Karen,
    You would think that since my kids are all grown up I would no longer be a curriculaholic. Alas, I still have this lit class that I teach. Every year I bite off far more than I can ever chew. We did manage this year to make it sort of through more Shakespeare plays than I would have thought possible (after the end of October they were reading nearly one a week), and we certainly looked at Shakespeare from a lot of angles. However, they did far less writing than I'd planned, they read none of the sonnets (although I read a couple aloud to them), and we only truly read through one play as a class. Then in the midst of the whole thing I got fascinated by Flannery O'Connor and got hung up on planning next year. Now I no longer look at catalogs, instead I end up going off on tangents based on articles I read, or lit crit books I just happen to find, or in the case of Flannery O'Connor books that get recommended to me by someone I respect. Still it's the same old phenomenon. The only thing is it now seems to cost me a little less than it used to and it's only one subject area.

    And, by the way before you ever read Shakespeare with your kids be sure to read Shadowplay and read up on the Reformation in England. If you don't have time for that, hold off on Shakespeare for another year or two because when you finally do read it or maybe Joseph Pearce's soon to be published book on Shakespeare, you'll have to go back and reassess everything you've already done.

    Curriculaholicism is not an easy thing to kick. I can't wait until someone produces a grandchild and I can really indulge myself in children's book purchases again.