You are set with your language arts curriculum, “Homeschool ABC for the Fantastically Ambitious Student” but then you attend your weekly co-op session, and you find that Suzie Q. Homeschooler is raving about this new spelling in a box, which self-teaches , mops floors, and produces flawless spellers in less than 10 minutes per day, and …well, you wonder. Should you get this too?? Your own Homeschool ABC does the 3rd grade spelling you need. Only, your daughter is not as content with her daily spelling drills as Suzie Q. reports her son to be. And the floor-mopping feature is downright irresistible. The kitchen floor has bothered you ever since 2007 when Snowball had her first litter of kittens.
You go home. You try to pray about it, but you are soon distracted enough to zip over to your computer. Spelling in a Box features a gorgeous professional webpage with raving testimonial popup ads, a laid-out road map of spelling from age 5 to age 87, as well as an online placement test. Your favorite online homeschool forums (“fora”…for you Latin Geeks) have unilaterally favorable reviews from those who have bought it and used it for the three days it has been out. It’s irresistible, it’s a no-brainer, it’s all that you ever wanted… excepting perhaps the fact that the book is $80, the student workbook adds another $30, and if you want the whole package, including the DVD and the online access, you are talking $250 plus shipping and handling. …but it is SO worth it. You fiddle with your American Express card. You could just buy it and explain later, but …
At dinner, your spouse shares –not so much–your enthusiasm for Spelling in a Box. His rather curt suggestion that paper and pencil and regular drill ought to do the trick for spelling dumbfounds you. Is he against self-teaching, floor mopping spelling excellence? No, of course not!!! But that near $300 could stay in savings, or better yet, be spent on new tires for the dirt bike. Tires for the dirt bike do not win you over, nor does the prospect of healthy savings. Can’t he see it? What is more important than education? Besides Billy would be able to reuse this once Sabrina is done with it.
Hubby triumphs with a laundry list of last year’s Latin in a Box, Math in a Box, Science in a Box, Art in a Box, and worst of all PE in a Box, all of which are all gathering dust in the basement. Did they TRULY constitute ‘$250’s worth of euphoria? And if they did. How much of that euphoria lasted more than a month, a week, a day…?
You retreat, sobered and sombered. He adores you and he loves the kids, and it’s his money too. It all makes sense, but … his challenge to look through your shelves downstairs and list each item with price of the materials you have accumulated but never use is too too personal and painful to endure. After all, one of the home educating parent’s greatest joys is when the UPS man rings the doorbell and asks you to sign for a heavy box full of books. This ‘high’ is particularly essential during the summer months, when you eagerly prepare for and look forward to the fall.
We homeschool moms are all curriculum junkies and we often suffer from curriculum envy. It’s an occupational hazard. Books are the loveliest objects we can think of. ‘More books’ is more joy. More curricula for ideas and inspiration, even if they only last a week before they are mothballed, seem to energize and equip us.
But …we are also victims of a consumer culture that always wants us to spend more. We as homeschool consumers may even be worse suckers for this sort of thing because we are talking about the EDUCATION OF OUR CHILDREN, not about a new diet, new clothes, or a set of leather couches for the living room. We are dealing in lasting equity, well-educated minds.
But …there are too many choices out there, and it is hard to wade through them. Homeschooling allows us almost unlimited flexibility and choices in what we do with our kids, how we do it, when we do it,. We also have the freedom to scrap a curriculum on the spot, switching gears completely with no accountability to anyone. With such liberty comes great responsibility.
STICK with what you have for the semester. Consistency is just as important as the RIGHT curriculum.
Finally, if you have a complete language arts curriculum, as in the example above, do not supplement. Complete is complete, and adding a second component is just doubling the busy work.
For those who use Classical Writing, I have heard quite often the comment that ‘we use Classical Writing, and then we supplement with this and that additional writing curriculum.
(Yes, Classical Writing in the Homer level asks you to add spelling and grammar curricula for completeness. But not a whole other writing curriculum.)
Kudos for wanting to be thorough, but when you have a curriculum that already is meant to be a full-time writing curriculum, be it CW or something else, the idea of supplementing, just in case, means that instead of doing one thing really well, following its philosophy and being thorough, you are doing two or perhaps even three things in a watered-down fashion.
A classical education is a quest for depth, contemplation, and thoroughness. Do not get distracted. Focus …and do ONE thing well.