I have had to re-evaluate my curriculum multiple times this year - meaning just in the last month and a half. That can be more than slightly frustrating.
I've found that homeschooling can be compared to learning about photography. The more you do it, the more insight you gain and the better your results, and yet the more questions arise. You suddenly start seeing all of the possibilities with their various outcomes and are constantly questioning if you're making the right choice. If I use this curriculum, they will get a great education, but will it be as fun as this other one? Or will it even be as rich as that one? Will they be introduced to enough classic literature, allowed to be creative, or enabled to self-explore their curiosity adequately? It is known that a child who is allowed freedom to explore will learn to love learning and will be far more successful in their education than those who are told to sit still and listen to rote.
Along with the options of curriculum, I am constantly readjusting to my child's capability at that time. What is their attention span? What are their interests? How can I make required subjects interesting if that doesn't naturally fall into their realm of fascination? I have tried the route of "You will sit down and learn this because that's what you'd have to do in school", only to be met with eyes and an attitude that explicitly tell me they consider that time with me miserable torture. It is an expression that reminds me so well of my own time spent in public school, and not of the reasons I so willingly embraced the decision to homeschool. I can do better than making our every day a power struggle. I can make it fun, and interesting, and something we all want to engage in. And I can do it without going insane.
That last denominator being said, I must also realize how much energy it takes to teach my children in this way. It is a matter of shifts and balances, constantly. You can have a plan, but you better be flexible. And realize what a full-time job it is.
Yesterday morning we awoke, I thought of my curriculum plan for the day, mentally tossed it in the trash can and said "Let's go to the zoo!". Met with excited happy faces, we hopped in the car and drove to Chattanooga Zoo. They played their Leapsters all the way up (which do actually have educational value). Through the zoo we read where every animal came from, discussing the continents and the animals' eating habits. We then went for lunch at a mall, which was a new experience for them since the youngest could only ever recall having been in a mall once. Following that, we went to McKay's Used Book Store where they both sat and read books for over an hour while I searched for books on my list for an upcoming school project on Caldecott Medal winners. After that we travelled home, having found several used Leapster games at McKay's and they continued math and language arts practice using those. It was an amazingly fun day filled with wonderful memories, perfect weather, and good, quality education. And the best part was, they had no idea that we were "doing school" at all. :)
Photograph: My Girls