Should You Change Your Curriculum?

By United States Government [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Like most of us who educate our kids at home, I often have a bookmark in several books at one time. I am currently reading My American Journey, the autobiography of four-star General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.   As he shares the story of his life—his family’s West Indian heritage, surviving the South during the 60’s, and his stint in Vietnam—I am reminded of how each of us lives in the midst of history-in-the-making every day. Though most of us will never have General Powell’s professional accomplishments, we raise our kids, we celebrate holidays, we love, laugh, and cry amidst events that the next generations will learn about in textbooks.

This dynamic is so well played out in Lee Daniel’s The Butler, the story of five United States Presidencies told from the perspective of a man whose job it was to serve in the White House.   Near the end of the movie, there is a very moving scene in which the butler (masterfully played by Forrest Whitaker), now retired and living with his son, watches through tears of joy as President Barack Obama is nominated for President in 2008.   As I watch the butler’s son console him, I imagine my own father had he lived to witness that historical moment.  My father would have never cried—I only saw his tears, which he considered a sign of weakness, at my mother’s funeral.   But I could hear him say with a certain awe, “That colored boy made it.”   Growing up in the 1920’s and 1930’s, “colored boy” was a term that was familiar to him when speaking of other black men.   I imagine he’d been described that way a few times, even as a grown man.   I can remember my mother, in the attempt tp bring my father into the 20th century, saying, “J.P., we don’t call ourselves that anymore.”   Her words fell on deaf ears.

In a twisted sort of way, there is a life lesson in my dad’s unintentional reluctance to refer to black people as anything other than “colored.”   He held on to what he felt was his place is history, even if the image was skewed.   In stark contrast, somehow we have now reached a level of education in which Africans who endured the horrors of the American slave trade are now being listed as “immigrants” in some school textbooks.

Somehow we have decided that some black and brown people are not significant enough in their contributions to history to be included as a part of every student’s history education.

Somehow there is an increased attempt at “whitewashing” history such that knowing what [primarily] Western European immigrants did is a requirement; know what happened to everyone else is an elective.

cesar chavez postage stamp

The politically correct, revisionist efforts that deem Chavez as relatively insignificant and Chief Justice Marshall as radical speak volumes about what history studies are losing: a sense of historical empathy.   The impact of this retelling of truth is that history is so bland and uneventful that our future generations grow apathetic.   Our children have nothing to ponder, nor are they compelled to respond intellectually to the “whys” of life.   Many history studies lack that necessary “feast of ideas.”   Try justifying history lessons to a pre-teen or teen by saying, “Well, you just need to know this.”    Yeah, right.

The point of teaching history is not to preserve the past, but instead to shape a better future.   You do know what happens to people who do not know their history, right?

So, as people who have a chance to do better, there are other questions that we are also compelled to ask about our kids’ studies:

  • Are stories told from a different perspectivethan your own?
  • Do all the biographies in your history curriculum look like you?
  • Does your study of history provide you with new information?
  • Do the stories within your curriculum provoke emotions?
  • Does your study of history give you and your family something to think about—now and later?
  • Does your curriculum give you suggestions for further reading on a given topic based upon your children’s interests?
  • How often do your children refer back to the stories told during your history studies?


Books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Farewell to Manzanar, and yes, even the banned Huckleberry Finn are difficult to read.   Yet, they are as much a part of understanding what events have shaped this nation—psychologically, socially, and economically—as any dry-as-toast textbook that would easily gloss over these darker parts of history.   Should you as a home educator just trash what you have start over?   I think not.   But more on that later…

It Might Not Be the Perfect Start, But…(it will still be good)

My mind began to drift on yesterday as I listened to Pastor—not the normal sundry thoughts from what’s for lunch to why is it always so cold in here, but purposeful drifting.   I would almost call it life application thoughts.   You see, our pastor has been speaking for months now from Psalms 1, about the blessing of being planted.   He has been talking to us about how to flourish in life.   So as I pondered the life application of yesterday’s particular message, I could not help but reflect on how quickly we are approaching the beginning of our new school year.  Honestly, I am so far behind where I want to be in many areas of life (including blog updates—can you tell?), but strangely at peace with it all.   I thought about my earliest days of preparing for the next homeschool year, and how my process differs radically from what I do now.   I thought about this photo, sent to me by one of my homeschool friends who, in one of life’s many ironies, no longer homeschools, but she saw it and thought of me:

he is doing something in your life through homeschooling


I have thought for weeks about what has the Lord has done—not in the children, but in me—over our years of homeschooling.   One of the many things he has done for me is to teach me grace.   And perhaps that is why I am not pulling my hair out about what is not in place, and what is different than I want it to be, and that always looming gap between my perfectionist vision for our family and where we truly are.   So, in the midst of all the “your best homeschool year ever” and “how to plan” posts that are and will continue to flood the homeschool community during this time, I thought to write about a few realities.   I pen this not as a flirt with pessimism, but because my heart is that we would all have our best year ever, and we should speak these things—but that only comes, at least in part, by covering all of your plans and promises with a gentle grace.   Here, from my perspective, is the reality of those early days/ months/ years:


The first year is an adjustment—for everyone.  One of the best nuggets of advice I received from a veteran homeschooler is to look at the first year as an experiment.   Chances are you have not stepped into the role of parent and home educator before.   Also, your children are learning  to deal with you in this dual role.   There are approaches, books, and a host of tools that you will learn about as you go, as well as understanding your children and yourself.   Even for the veteran, a new baby is an adjustment for everyone.   A debilitating sickness is an adjustment for everyone.   Show your family the grace they-and you–deserve.

It will not go as planned.   I laugh when I occasionally reflect on my vision for homeschooling before we actually put pen to paper.   I romanticized a Charlotte Mason homeschool in which we spent hours outdoors finding rare animals and laying on blankets.   Then, as the actual first day arrived, I had a revelation: Charlotte Mason doesn’t school in the Texas heat.   Charlotte Mason’s students are probably not running from bees, wasps, and dragonflies while their pencils are moving, or trying to avoid ant beds.   After trying for a number of years to fit our square peg into a round hole, I am totally at peace in saying that we have a Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool.   By the way, we also finally bought an outdoor patio table this year.   After days of getting it set up, the youngest might be the only one to actually use it for school!

patio furniture in process may 2016

Here is another thought, while I am on the subject of plans.   I do keep a planner for each child, fully completed with their daily assignments.   But I have backed away from yearly or even quarterly plans.  I work month-to-month.  Am I suggesting that you don’t plan?  Of course not.   I am suggesting, if only for myself, that I don’t want to be so married to a plan until I can’t hop in the car with hubby on a work-turned-field-trip outing.  I want to visit a friend in the hospital if I choose to; I want to help my aging in-laws as my husband needs.  And I want to teach my children something about life and priorities as I make those calls.

You will buy something you cannot use.   I thought about this particular truth because it saddens me to meet moms who will get so excited about homeschooling and then grow even more discouraged because they picked the “wrong” curriculum.    Sometimes curriculum won’t be a good fit for your family, or its changing needs and dynamics of living.   That is why it is critical that you partner the curriculum that interest you with the realities of your life—time needed to teach it, doctor’s appointments, scouting, dance lessons, traveling husband, school-on-the-road, etc.   And consider that “wrong” purchase your homeschooling baptism; welcome to the family.   Tweak that curriculum, sell it, bless someone with it, and keep it moving.  No time for beating yourself up—you have too much to do.

God is doing something in you.  This is where I began.   If we embrace homeschooling as the life-changing journey that it is, school becomes a tangible offshoot of what the Lord is doing intangibly.   Do I sinfully worry about my children, and take on the care that the Lord told me is His?   Yes.   Am I afraid for what they learned—and concerned for what they didn’t get?   Absolutely.    Do I take it personally when their stars don’t shine to everyone around them as I think they should?   No doubt.   But the Lord is doing a work in me, and allowing me to see something: as Pastor stated so directly, what keeps us from showing more grace and mercy is the turmoil within us.   What I’m most worried about, truth be told, are my failures, my shortcomings, and my supernatural ability to get in the way of any plan I lay before Him if it doesn’t go as I think it should.   The more I learn to give Him my cares, the more peace I have that, when I see “me” in my children, He saw it first, and He has it under control.


Your first day/month/year might not be perfect.   Looking back, the days and seasons that I thought were perfect had everything to do with me, and the way I like to run the house and school.   As one example, there was a time when we held school from July to April, so that I could garden and enjoy the coolness of the spring mornings.   I’m not as confident in saying that the kids enjoyed giving up half of what the children around them considered summer vacation.   This year, we’ll begin in late, late August after we drop off two for college.  We will start with a field trip—right after I started listing a few items in my planner.   Oy.   But, we will have a good year—perhaps our best year ever.

The final challenge from Pastor: Infuse.

infused water april 2016

As one whose Facebook timeline is ripe with pictures of my herb and fruit combos in pitchers of water, this mandate immediately resonated with me.   The point of infusion is to allow your subtle presence to slowly change the environment, and then to take over everything.   When I speak of “your presence” here, I am really speaking of Christ in you, which is another thing God used homeschooling to teach me: humility.   It’s okay to say to our children, “We’re learning this together.”   It lets me off the hook, so to speak, from perfection, and allows me to learn alongside the kids.

Hmmm… maybe I paid more attention than I thought I did (lol).   Let us allow God to do His work, and let us infuse the best that we can—whatever that looks like in this moment.  Wishing you your best homeschool year.  Ever.

Marrying Traditional Education with Modern-Day Relevance

This will almost sound like an apologetic regarding a few of our curriculum choices, though that is far from my intent.   To be truthful, these are simply my latest ramblings about education as I pull together lesson plans for our middle schooler.

As a home educator, I think alot about my own educational process first–how I was taught, what I was taught, and the marked difference between what I told to learn and that knowledge that I sought out for myself.   I think about what I want to continue when it comes to our children, and even moreso, about what I want to do differently.

I have been thinking more and more about the conceptual aspect of learning when it comes to our last student.    Where is all of this “knowledge” going?   What do I want her to do after we leave this table?

traditional marriage to modern day relevance

Somewhere in thinking about what I want, I began to define a couple of problem areas that I want to avoid:

Studying with the Bible as our foundation has always been the cornerstone to everything else that we learn.   Walking out our faith in shoe leather has always been a priority for us, and nurturing hearts and heads that can articulate God’s will on this earth shapes everything that we do.   There is a problem, however, when we send our kids elsewhere (i.e., youth ministry) thinking that we are somehow furthering their Christian education.   It goes a little something like this.

‘Every day we see a world suffocated by poverty, and racism, and violence, and bigotry, and hunger; and in the face of that stuff, you [the Body of Christ] get awfully, frighteningly quiet.’  

This is a quote from blogger/ pastor(?)  John Pavlovitz. Though I don’t agree with every criticism he has regarding modern-day believers and the church, I thought he was spot-on here.

In short, we follow a savior who addressed many tough issues, but we as Believers are somewhere hiding.  That is not what we teach our children.

There is also a problem with traditional education.  I have to face a hard, cold fact that sometimes when our daughter says, “I don’t get it,” what she is really saying to me in spirit and in body language is, “I don’t see why I have to own it.”   I saw this just recently when she was working through percents and determining what it meant cost-wise to see a sale sign that says “___% off.”    As I reminded her how to work through the problems, she made some remark about how that stuff is automatically calculated when you reach the register, she just shops for what she likes, blah, blah, blah.   I responded by explaining that when you own the store, you need to understand how to establish your pricing so that you don’t lose money or don’t get ripped off.  (Mind you, I am speaking to my budding kidpreneur here).   Silence.   I could tell by her body language that my words resonated, and she continued to work through the problems more quickly with renewed determination and a desire to truly understand.

I see our daughter as I see many of her generation.   In her words, ‘I like education; I just don’t like school.’   Like others of young thinking America, she studies the headlines.   She wants to help, but doesn’t necessarily know how to connect passion, purpose, and our present condition.  In a world where information is as close as her fingertips, but Truth can seem far, far away, she is just as likely to draw conclusions from a cute rapper if she is not encouraged to dig deep in the scriptures.   After all, most of those songs are written at a third grade level.

So, there it is.  I want her to know Whose she is, who she is, and what that self-awareness means in terms of the world around her.    We will use our time together with some traditional tools, but we will continually strive toward relevance.   Our goal is to be Christlike and conscious.

It’s one of the reasons I deviated from the standard AO-recommended Ourselves by Charlotte Mason as a character study.    I enjoyed this book in reading it both times with our older two, but I think our youngest would benefit more from a shorter, straight-forward mandate for this generation like Do Hard Things by the Harris twins.   I shared this book first with our Sunday School class years ago, stating a harsh reality: no one expects much of them, or of this generation.  If we teach our children to stand up and be heard, they will still meet adversity in a world that has no loftier expectation of them than to sit down and be quiet.   And if this is true, who will reach the world for the Gospel of Christ?

do hard things cover

We will marry this book with other resources (though I’m not sure of which ones yet), including their blog.   We will also use our ongoing staple, notebooking, to continue to build upon our skills in written expression.   Speaking of writing skills, why on earth would we use Rod and Staff’s series, you ask?   Well, whatever else this series is, it is one of the best I have seen regarding grammar and sentence structure.   I am, however, planning to tie in  Cheryl Carter’s Writing Success: Essential Writing Skills for the College-Bound Student at this level and introduce various types of writing in addition to understanding mechanics.

How about you?  What are you doing to bring relevance to your time around the kitchen table/ desk/ outdoor blanket?   Here are some resources that might help you with thinking about education and all of its possibilities for a young, thinking generation:

With Rigor for All (1st edition) by Carol Jago

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn

Whatever is your plan, make the days count.   Memorization is one thing; affecting this world with a positive change is another.

2016 Dance Recital–A Year of Firsts (and Lasts)

In the wake of all that has happened in this last week, I’d be lying if I said that I am posting without mixed emotions.   Like any proud parent, I rejoice at the accomplishments of  our children, and dance recitals for me are almost magical–the lights and staging, the performances, and the chance for the kids to do something that I never got to do.   I (almost) forget how exhausting all the hair and costume manipulations, plus the extra practices, can be.

The other side of me looks at them and asks the same questions that many African-American parents are pondering right now, if only to themselves.    I stare at the pictures, and I cannot imagine  that anyone would not hold them in as high esteem as I do; I wonder how they could possibly be killed in such a senseless and appalling way as I’ve seen on the news.  But…they could.   Young Mr. Sterling, Mr. Castile, Eric Garner,  Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd,… (the list goes on)?   They were.

I saw a CNN reporter speak my heart very succinctly on Friday morning: I simply want a chance to raise my children.


As far as the recital, this was a special year for both the children.

It was our daughter’s first year on pointe…


…and she was, indeed, on point.  (You see what I did there)?

IMG_6491 IMG_6572


This was our son’s last year, and as the only male dancer in our studio for most of his years, it almost seemed fitting that this year’s recital was a performance of Disney’s “Aladdin.”  He and fellow senior “Jasmine” were a gorgeous pair to watch.


And he was something on his own, as well.





They’ve each had spectacular individual achievements, but what I most enjoyed was seeing them together.



Believe it or not, in sixteen years, all three of our children  have only danced on stage together once–five years ago!



So, with another year, another dance season is in the books.


As for the pondering?   I relish these moments all the more, and I don’t take for granted the chance to speak with them on the phone, or to hug them or say frequently, “I love you,” or “I’m proud of you.”   I pray, and I worry, which are in direct opposition to one another, but real for me.   Join the fight and pray with me, won’t you?

 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’  

Ephesians 6:12, KJV


Successful Homeschooling: Your Husband Has a Vision, Too

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Matthew 8:5-9


This scriptural passage in its entirety goes on to tell us of how the Lord healed the servant because of the centurion’s faith.   What an amazing God.  What is also striking about this passage is the centurion’s understanding of authority and alignment.   Jesus humbly asked the centurion what he wanted Him to do.   The centurion could have given Jesus specific instruction; after all, as he states, he was accustomed to ordering people around.   BUT, he also understood his place when it came to THE head.

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post for another website entitled,  “A Husband’s Role in Homeschooling.”   The post talked about being submissive—a word that even the most mature saint sometimes dreads hearing.   The sad truth is that when homeschool is the subject, it is even easier to take the reigns and push Dad to the side.  After all, for most of us as women, we commit to the research, we are the primary teachers, and we are the managers of the home.  Alignment–in homeschool?  Why, for goodness’s sake??!!  Here are a few reasons that you might want to consider.

 family in waco november 2014


Your husband—outside of the Lord God Almighty—is the principal partner in your plans for your family.   You did not marry the other co-op parents, nor did you marry anyone in your moms’ group (although they might give you great advice to discuss with your husband at a later time).   You two know the vision that you have for those children; why would you divide on one of the most important aspects of your family’s future—your children’s education?  Moreover, you are both accountable to one another—and to God—for what He has given you to steward.  Your fears, your anxieties, your uncertainties are all worth confiding to each other, and to the Father.  Will your testimony be that you ran toward your accountability partner, or will you have to repent for running toward someone else?

Your husband has a homeschooling vision, too.   Given the chance (lol), they will articulate it.  But here’s the proverbial kicker: his vision probably will not be in “homeschooling jargon.”   That does not mean that it has no merit; it just means that you must be a translator.   As a personal example, one of my husband’s biggest concerns is that our children are able to keep up should we ever have to place them into a traditional school.   Translation?   There are some homeschooling approaches that he would not be okay with, and that’s okay with me.   If I felt strongly enough, I could go against his will, but the risks are not worth it to me.   I imagine that limb to be lonely if it does not go as I planned, with poor results from my children and an angry husband—a husband who sacrifices along with me so that we can homeschool.

 hubby reading to youngest may 2016


Your husband will represent your homeschool to the outside world.  You and your husband can be totally on board and together with homeschooling, but someone has to talk to your in-laws.   It would be ideal if everyone surrounding your family was totally on board with your decision, but if you live on Earth, chances are that someone will question, you, your abilities, and/or your sanity in beginning this journey.   Not only do you and your husband need to agree, you need each other’s prayers and support.   Can he articulate the vision?  Does he understand (in layman’s terms) what is the plan so that he’s not “thrown off” by Mama?   Can He and you represent Christ in your tone with the nay-sayers, or do you need to pray over each others’ tongues?


So, inevitably, someone might ask, “What if my husband doesn’t want us to homeschool?”   I honestly don’t have an answer for that one.   Homeschooling for many is a calling, a deep-seated passion that will sometimes keep you awake at night, and I can imagine that it must be difficult if you don’t share a conviction to take on this journey.   My walk with the Lord tells me that if this is what the Lord has in store for your family, in His timing and in His way it will become clear to both of you how to proceed.

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