What Do You Need a Curriculum For?

The other day, I saw someone ask on a certain homeschooling forum for help finding a curriculum to teach her kids how to do their chores and learn home economics.  If I recall, the kids were in early elementary school.  I bit my tongue (or held my fingers?) and didn’t respond with something snarky like, “Good grief, just print out a chore chart and be done with it!”

I feel perfectly confident that there will be gaps in my kids’ learning.  However, there’s going to be gaps whether I buy a curriculum or not.  There’s going to be gaps whether they’re homeschooled or schooled.  Everyone has things they really ought to have learned but didn’t.  Conversely, everyone has things they learned that they really didn’t need to unless they happen to be on Jeopardy.

The other day, Through the Wardrobe posted about how you just don’t need a creative writing curriculum.  Here, here!  However, that got me thinking.  All my life, I’ve written and read books for pleasure.  The world of words is a comfortable one for me.  In my former life, I taught humanities.  I feel no intimidation about needing a curriculum for humanities.  We have books, like Story of the World, to use as guidelines for history, but I don’t feel married to them.  We don’t even have guidebooks for reading writing, unless you count the handwriting practice books.  Nor can I imagine getting any.

On the other hand, we have two math curricula we’re drawing from and I probably overplanned science in my zeal to make it a bit more organized this year.  I wonder how much of that reflects my level of comfort with those subjects.  I don’t worry about English or history because those are things I know the best.  Math and science are interesting and fun to me, but they’re not the subjects that I excelled at in school.  I haven’t taken a formal math class since high school (I do not count the odd, if inspiring, math seminar I took at Mount Holyoke as “formal”) and I’ve never in my life studied physics formally, which is essentially our science topic for the year.

3 thoughts on “What Do You Need a Curriculum For?

  1. Great post. It has me thinking… I think sometimes having a curriculum helps with organization. I don’t have one for every subject, and like you I never feel married to whatever we have on-hand as a resource, but I can see how a curriculum might be helpful if you’re having a hard time getting your head around something or you feel like you’re leaving it out and you want to include it more often. In my head, this is similar to food/meal preparation – you don’t need a cookbook, but it can be helpful when you have ingredients but don’t have an idea on what do with them, or when you’re new to cooking. And you certainly don’t need to plan out your meals in advance, but if you’re short on time it certainly helps to have a weekly menu going. If you’re a great cook, you’ll never need any of the above – but some people will. I think curriculum is like that – everything depends on comfort level, ability, time, energy, etc. Thanks for such a thought-provoking topic. =)

    1. A cookbook is such a good comparison! I use the recipes for some things, but the more often I’ve cooked a dish, the less likely I am to refer to a cookbook. I don’t cook every recipe from any cookbook. And some things – like baked goods – are harder to wing – they require more precise measurements.

  2. I use other people’s materials for subjects I know little about (like Latin and art skills) and put a lot of time into choosing those materials when the subject is a particular passion/talent of one or more children.
    I wing it for subjects I know and love (history and English).
    For subjects no-one here cares two hoots for – yes, that’s maths – I use the most functional, inexpensive book I can find!

    I wonder how mathematicians would see it ? I’d really love to hear someone from outside the humanities talk about how you can wing it in those subjects too…

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