We homeschool moms tend to get pretty wrapped up in Curriculum. And by "curriculum", I mean "magical box of books that's going to radically change our homeschool." So, when we look at "curriculum", what we really want to do is flip through books on the curriculum list and see if it's a good fit for our family.
This isn't a terrible approach, until that "magical, radical" thing that was supposed to happen, didn't. It's not terrible, until we see it sitting discarded, unused. It's not terrible, until we realized the time and money spent agonizing over the decision to buy it, fretting over the implementation, and mourning over the disappointment of failure.
"Curriculum" defined means "course of study", which can mean just about anything.
Once I figured out that curriculum isn't a magic bullet, I was sort of depressed. I mean, "what now?" Over the course our homeschool years, I've redefined curriculum, gone off on my own limb of trial and error, and eventually put my trust in another product provider. But this time, it's different. It's no longer a magic bullet. And although I look at the booklist, I know that's maybe 1/3rd of what I'm actually getting when I buy that curriculum. What's the difference? I have a group of people doing this with me.
If you are looking at any type of "group curriculum", whether it's online classes, co-op classes, or classes with an independent instructor, it's a different ball game. It's no longer about the curriculum (i.e., magical books); it's now about the course of study with a dynamic teacher, and very real students interacting with each other. In other words: it's not about the books.
I've held several information meetings in an effort to drudge up interest in a Challenge program for my eldest daughter. The single most obstacle in these info meetings is the books. It's not that the Challenge level books are bad; it's that the books themselves speak very little of the program. And the books might not be where your student is at right now. Or, maybe you don't like that specific book. Or maybe you did that book last year. Again, I'll say: it's not about the books.
Yes, look at the booklist. But also consider that the booklist is 1/3rd of the program, maybe less. If you were doing Sonlight or Abeka or any curriculum provider that uses books, and you plan to use those books independently, then the books are 75% of the program (25% is you and your student's implementation). However, in a group setting like I described, the dynamics are far greater than the sum of the books. Your child may get so much more out of the class, than you see in the book.
What might you see in a class dynamic, that you wouldn't see in the books?
Tutor/teacher mentoring and relationship
Interaction with fellow students
Positive peer pressure to get work done and contribute to the class
Learning how to argue/persuade (this takes practice, so give a little leeway)
Due dates and work completion
Time management (there will be failures, so give a little more leeway)
Study for tests or other performance type situations
Basic study skills and notetaking
Finishing a program within a frame of time (am I the only one that struggles with this at home?)
In my next post, I'll talk about some of the books/products we've used in a group setting (Challenge) and how the books themselves do not add up to the sum total of the program. Read Part 2 here.