Do you want to know why you might want to focus on connection before curriculum?
This story comes straight from my heart. My name is Jackie, and I’m the founder of HomeSchool ThinkTank. This story is about a time when I failed as a mother. Before I share my failures though, let me share what I did right.
Listen To This Episode..
Before moving on, we want you to know that can listen to episode #83 here, on iTunes, Spotify or nearly anywhere that you listen to podcasts. You’ll discover more in this podcast episode about Connection Before Curriculum than we can include in an article.
Connection Before Curriculum Came Easily When…
When my children were very young, I think I was an outstanding mom. I read to them multiple times a day, did arts and crafts with them, and hung out with other moms who also had young children. I sat on the floor and played with my kiddos. We ran and played in the back yard together. Nearly every week, we went on outings that included fun activities like the children’s museum and swimming. We generally had a great time. From an educational perspective, my kids were learning nearly all of the time, but we were having a fun doing it.
What Do Children Do When They Turn Five?
Then my oldest daughter turned five. What does nearly every child in America do when they turn five? That’s right, they go to school. But if you are like my family, you legally begin homeschooling your kids.
We started our daughter’s school years with a relaxed curriculum that focused on math and reading. However, as a homeschooling mom, I felt pressure to do school at home.
Focusing On Curriculum
Education began to shift from being a natural and everyday part of life to being curriculum based. Since our routine now had this doing school component to it, I thought it made sense to get my three year old in the habit of doing school, too. I bought her workbooks and wanted her to work on them a little each day. Gradually, my focus began to shift from connecting and having fun with my kids, to having them complete the curriculum.
I was even so focused on making sure my kids checked all the boxes and did all the curriculum that we might not take time to go to Grandma’s house or get together with friends. Before my oldest daughter was school age, these were things that we did multiple times a week.
Does Focusing On Curriculum Before Connection Work?
So, how did focusing on curriculum over connection work out? Not very well. It lead to tears as I tried to teach my children how to diagram sentences and learn math concepts that they weren’t ready to learn.
Let me ask you, when was the last time you diagrammed a sentence? I can tell you, I write nearly daily, and I never – ever – diagram sentences. If you are a grammar geek, you can probably tell that I don’t diagram my sentences. But for the rest of you, I believe that I write well enough to make my point.
Taking (some) Teaching Out Of My Hands…
Focusing on curriculum before connection eventually led to me finding math curriculum that took the teaching out of my hands.
That worked for my oldest, but for my youngest daughter, our connection was severely strained. In fact, our relationship was so delicate that I could not imagine homeschooling her one more day. It was August, and the school year had just begun. With this devastating realization, we found a good private school and enrolled her. She remained in private school for a year and half before we cautiously returned to homeschooling her.
Along with enrolling our daughter in private school, I asked a trusted confidant for a recommendation to a therapist. I quickly scheduled our first appointment.
What did our therapist focus on?
You guessed it.
He told me not to help my daughter with her homework. When I asked, what if my husband is out of town? His response was, “She does it on her own or she doesn’t do it.” I couldn’t believe it. Did he really want me to let her just skip the homework??? If necessary, absolutely. He believed that our relationship was more important than her homework.
Do you know what? He was right. How was I going to teach my daughter if she was upset and I was tense? When I stopped to think about this, I realized that when my daughter was agitated, she wasn’t learning what I was teaching.
Each and every week, our entire family went to therapy. Most weeks, I had a private follow-up call with the therapist. Over time, it became abundantly clear that our therapist’s number one goal was to help me re-establish my connection with our youngest daughter.
Why Am I Sharing This With You?
Believe me, it’s not easy to share these types of things. However, I see how my experiences can help you avoid or overcome some of the same pitfalls that I have experienced. I would like to help you learn from my mistakes.
As homeschooling parents, I believe that we have very good intentions. I know that I am not the only parent who has made the mistake of putting curriculum before my connection with my children. When you feel the weight of the public education system on your back, it is easy to fall prey to this pressure.
As a society, we have been very well conditioned to believe that school is the equivalent of education. As parents, we often feel that we should educate our children at home in ways that are similar to the pubic education system. We have been so well trained, that most homeschooling parents actually try to emulate the public school system in their homes.
Problems With Emulating The School System At Home…
There are problems with emulating the school system in your own home. First, home is not school. Second, we have a very different environment and circumstances. It’s simply not necessary. Third, school does not equal education. The word homeschooling is a legal designation, it’s a term. True homeschooling is about your family, community, education, and learning, but it is not about school.
Separating The Idea Of School From Education And Learning…
Once you begin to separate education and learning from school, then you can begin to open your mind to other educational avenues.
So, how could have I done a better job homeschooling my kids? As my children entered their school years, I could have continued to focus on connections, community, education, and learning . It is possible to educate your children while side-stepping the schooling aspect.
Before my children were school-age, this was very natural for me. Most days, we played as a family and we got together with friends.
My children would ask to learn in very natural ways, and I responded by helping them discover more about the things they were interested in finding out more about.
Here’s An Example…
As I sat at the little table in their playroom, one of my young daughters would ask, “What would you like to order today?”
I might say, ” I would like a cheeseburger and french fries.”
“Mom, how do I write cheeseburger?”
When they were very young, a “C” might suffice, but as their writing skills advanced, I might say, “CH – Ch makes the CH sound.”
We would continue to sound out the word as long as they had interest in learning.
It was a natural and fun way for me to teach them.
I believe curriculum and workbooks can be fun and educational. However, I think that children need to be ready to learn the information presented within.
Your child will hit speed bumps while using nearly any curriculum. Do you know why? Because there is not a curriculum that is created specifically for your child.
I believe that when your child begins to have difficulty with any curriculum, that you need to be ready to adapt. In essence, there are two things you can do. Generally, you’ll first try to find another way to help your child learn the concept at hand. Second, you need to be prepared to skip the concept all together.
If you bypass a lesson that is important, you can always come back to the concept at a later time. Every human has strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to proceed while helping your child maintain a positive self-image.
Let me be clear, I believe that curriculum has it’s place and can be a very effective way to help a person – child, teen, or adult – learn something new. However, I do not believe that curriculum is the only way to learn a concept.
Teaching And Learning Concepts…
Let the word concept be your guide. For example, if you want to teach your child how to add, look at the many ways that you can help your child learn to add. Your child can learn to add while playing with Cheerios at the kitchen counter, through curriculum, and through games like Yahtzee and Dominos.
Here’s another example of letting a concept be your guide to your child’s education. If you want your child to learn about a specific time in history, you could use a textbook as your guide, but it doesn’t need to be the only way to help your child learn. You could also watch movies and documentaries together, listen to educational history podcasts, go to museums, and read both fiction and non-fiction books that focus on that era.
Focusing On Connection…
The best thing you can do to help your child learn is to focus on your connection with your child. Have fun learning with your child. Then let them guide their own education by learning more about the things that interest them.
So yes, I believe that connection must always come before curriculum. I believe that curriculum can be helpful, but that your connection with your child is much more important than any curriculum. If the curriculum you have chosen is not working, then find another way to work on the concept that your child needs or wants to learn, but put your connection first.
In the end, I believe that my children will benefit much more from a strong connection with their mother than they will from mastering any curriculum.
How Did I Fail?
I failed as a mother when I let curriculum come between me and my children.
I failed when I couldn’t see that homeschooling wasn’t about school, but that it was about family, community, education, and learning.
I succeeded when I placed relationships before curriculum, when I saw the differences between school and education, and understood that homeschooling was about life, not about school.
How Can You Succeed?
So, what can you do with this information? If you’ve been struggling with putting your connection with your child before curriculum, then set an alarm a few times a day as a reminder. Label it, “Connection before curriculum.”
If you are doing public school at home and it’s not working, then you might consider truly homeschooling your kids. You’ll have far more options as a true homeschooler than you do through the public education system. Check out our Start Homeschooling section if you’re thinking about homeschooling your children.
Finally, if you want to learn more about why you might want to focus on connection, then check out this podcast interview with Linda Wiebe. It’s one of my favorite interviews.
Listen To This Episode Of the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast…
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Links Mentioned In This Podcast Episode…
I mentioned the Mo Willems books in this episode. When my children were young, we absolutely loved the Piggie & Gerald Series.
Click here to listen to my favorite parenting interview ever.
What Do You Believe About Education? This podcast series will help you understand your own belief system around education, school, learning, and homeschooling.
Teach A Child To Read With Children’s Books. Check out our interview with the co-author, Mary Gallagher. We’ve also shared this interview on the HomeSchool ThinkTank YouTube Channel. Be sure to subscribe while you’re there.
Stuff You Missed In History Class: A podcast for older teens and adults.
Educational Opportunities Are Everywhere. Take a look at the educational opportunities that you’ll find in other places.
If you are considering homeschooling your kids, then check out our Start Homeschooling section and my book, THINK HOMESCHOOL. I wrote this book to help parents decide if homeschooling is the right decision for their family.
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