I missed the picture, but for me it was sort of an iconic picture of homeschooling — my daughter outside on our front lawn reading, with Loki (our new puppy) playing beside her.

She'd already finished all her "schoolish" work — math, phonics, grammar and all — and what remained was reading.  And on a beautiful, clear day, it seemed like a shame to be inside and not out in the sun, so outside she went.

Not that reading inside is in and of itself a punishment I personally love curling up in an armchair with a cup of tea and whatever I'm reading.  But my child being able to read outside in the middle of the day because she wants to is what I love.  What I'm not always so fond of is the picking and choosing of curricula.

Let me talk about math, for instance.  My children can probably talk about (between them) 10 or 15 different math curricula.  We've tried a lot.  Math U See, Singapore, Abeka, Rod and Staff, Modern Curriculum Press, Saxon ... we've tried programs that I've found at the library, programs that friends have recommended, programs I've seen reviews for (online and/or in print).  And I've discovered a couple of things.

The first thing is that, when it's possible, you need to suit the program to your child's learning style.  That's not as hard as it sounds, and most parents do that as a matter of course anyway.  If your child is a tactile learner, we use different textured materials to help them learn the concepts.  Auditory learners get help with songs or music.  But some curricula focus on one style to the exclusion of others, and to me, that's a problem.  I believe that students, for the most part, need to learn how to learn in styles that are not completely natural to them and it's just the way of the world.  At some point, we all need to learn material the way it's presented, even if it's harder that way.  So I chose programs that allow for flexibility in approach.

Another rule for me is that I have to consider myself in picking a program.  If the program focuses on things that I just hate, let me say that I'm going to have a hard time using it even if it is initially easier on my child.  What's that old saying "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"?  I need to pick a curriculum that I can work with and I've found that this means one with a fairly rigorous amount of drill in it, because I need to make sure that every skill is solid. 

One thing I've learned is that there are some subjects where I feel confident to skip around and make my own decisions about what's important literature or grammar, for me.  There are others (math, in particular) where I'm not sure enough in my grasp of how things fit together to decide that any concept is unimportant enough for me to gloss over.  Oddly enough, that means that my children have still learned how to diagram sentences.  They learn all of the rules of punctuation and then have to learn the changes that technology has wrought.

And I'm still putting the rules together.  I still try new books, almost every year.  And sometimes I go back to old ones that I've used before.  At my house, schoolbooks are often a surprise to us all.

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