The Resource Library—it was the last page I created for this website. A simple list. How hard could it be?
Well, the difficulty was not in creating the list but in knowing how people would respond to such a short one. I’ve heard the concerns before: How are kids going to be competitive in the world if we don’t match what the schools are doing? How’s a teacher supposed to know what to teach, when to teach it, and how to plan? This is the education of our children we’re talking about; we hold their future in our hands…don’t we?
When God started to readjust my perspectives on education, my thoughts immediately went to curriculum. Of course, that’s the first place a homeschooler’s mind often goes. But, as soon as I entertained this thought, I sensed the need to stop and go no further. “Don’t go there,” came a whisper. “Not yet.”
And the reason was obvious.
What predetermined program could possibly work in support of the unpredictable plans of God?
Homeschoolers love curriculum. I mean, we really love the stuff. If you’ve ever witnessed the feeding frenzy that is a used curriculum sale, you’ll know what I mean. For non-credentialed parents, the school-like approach we grew up with is familiar and comforting, and the more detailed the plans, the more peace of mind we seem to have. Programs like these also settle the nerves of friends and family members who peer over our shoulders with a critical eye.
The problem is this: If an idol is anything that replaces God or comes between us, based on everything I’ve seen and experienced curriculum certainly qualifies. In fact, the materials we use can be one of the biggest obstacles to letting God lead us in learning!
It’s the programs we use that largely determine the course for each day, the time schedules we adhere to, and the materials we use. We might tweak things a bit to better suit our needs, but that’s really the equivalent of rearranging furniture. Just consider what happens when progress is too slow—enrichment and extracurricular activities are removed, lessons are doubled, and the school day or year is lengthened. The fact is, we do more to submit to the needs of curriculum than it does to us.
When so much of our attention is dedicated to schooling, where does our walk with God fit in?
This dilemma goes back to an upside-down Mentor’s Triangle and the world’s relentless effort to separate God from education. We cannot faithfully follow two masters, as my own experience shows.
For fourteen years, we opened with prayer, diligently worked through AWANA books, and added in Bible readings. The curriculum we used came mainly from Christian publishers, so biblical graphics, stories, and verses were incorporated throughout the material. However, I’ve come to recognize that such things are a godly garnish, and the majority of our time was dominated by traditional school subjects. My kids may have increased in knowledge, but it was an unpleasant chore and their relationship with God did not grow from it.
The reality is, children will learn without the structured programs we bury them under. The order and extent of their learning may vary depending God’s plan for each child, but the desire to learn is definitely there. What they really need to begin with is time, space, and a relationship with God in order for that desire to blossom and bear fruit. How God chooses to go about that will vary.
It seems to me that in our nation’s pursuit of efficiency and progress, even Christians seem to have forgotten an important detail. That is, we were created in the image of God with the ability to think and to reason! We come equipped with a desire to search for understanding because we are expected to do just that. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:8). This curiosity is clearly visible in young children long before they’ve had any formal schooling at all. Sadly, it’s a lot harder to find in them after schooling has begun.
Today, I know why my thoughts had to be directed away from curriculum—I needed to unplug from the thinking I was raised with, to let go of my worldly attachments, and to transfer my trust to God. If the Lord was really going to lead us in homeschooling like I wanted Him to, then I needed to let Him, even if it meant never touching another workbook or study guide again. Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24).
Well, as I began this journey with my last child, I did come to that place of complete trust in God. Words cannot describe how peaceful and free that place is! But, that should come as no surprise since God is the one who comes in and fills the void. What will be tough for some to swallow is the idea that comprehensive curriculum can actually be a barrier between us and the true source of wisdom and knowledge. That’s because we’ve been taught otherwise since we first set foot in classrooms where textbooks have replaced Bibles.
So, what’s the alternative?
Door after door swings wide open when we approach learning through supportive resources rather than a predetermined program. But, this also requires us to smash the former foundation we’ve built so much upon. Only then can we rebuild it based on the heart, soul, mind, body, and service to others so change can begin.
I think that’s where I’ll head next…