Updated: Sep 1, 2019
When we first start homeschooling we are all faced with choosing a curriculum. Understandably most parents don't know where to begin. In brick-and-mortar schools it is typical for a committee of teachers to convene and go through a long bureaucratic textbook adoption process. This consists of analyzing all of the school data in an attempt to find the best resources for the whole school community. Each school district will have variations of this system or may even hire someone whose sole job is to select curricula for them. Those of us who homeschool, however, get to skip all of this bureaucracy and choose curriculum based on our own evaluation of the presented ideas and concepts we value. Easy peasy, right?
But the truth is that parents are often overwhelmed by the choices available and often end up settling with recommendations from friends. And even with so many successful veteran homeschooling parents to help us, many parents and teachers alike- are sending out requests looking for primary and secondary sources that tell the complete history of events as our larger text companies are publishing limited versions of history. As homeschool parents, it is our responsibility to then choose texts with the least amount of bias and the most historical depth. I believe that this changes the way we look at text.
In the past, (and still in schools today) we looked to the text for answers because that was usually the depth of our teacher's knowledge on a topic as well as where all the information from a field could be accessed by the public. But what we often still forget is that: textbooks are not finite in law and truth. Any curriculum you find today is the product of accepted Information in that field when the book was published. With fast-paced changes of our world due to technological advancements these books don’t always offer the most current information available to us. For example, during my seven years teaching ancient civilizations- we used the same text but I learned of new developments in archeological findings that altered information in the book annually. Furthermore, many of us are looking for untold views of history because we are realizing that the text is limited to one author’s interpretation of data and historical documents. Other problems with the curricula that I hear about often is the use of its padded language available during their time of research. For example, when a text about difficult historical atrocities and is written for elementary students, publishers use padded euphemisms to introduce the topics and ideas diplomatically to children because they have a wide range of people to please. This often leads to educators presenting biased or limited views and assumptions about history that are not representative of what truly happened during that time period. In order to combat these issues parents are sent scrambling for alternative sources and information.
Today, however, we no longer need to depend on the text as the basis of knowledge in a field or as the only source from which we pull information. Instead, children need to be taught the basic steps of source analysis. They need to be able to identify all the various sources that provide field information and determine its value. When you develop this skill base with your children, you are empowering them to determine so much more than historical facts and timelines. Instead they can develop an understanding that not all of us were taught about the core subjects: that learning is not finite and new information in all fields is always being uncovered and developed. This is a sure fire way to help your children take control of their learning. It is also a practice that many unschoolers preach as the mainstay of their pedagogy. So instead of worrying about whether or not a text is suitable for the age level you are homeschooling, you can begin to present any and all sources to our children and feel confident that they will be able to analyze it. This is a situation where homeschoolers have the upper-hand simply because we are not limited to a classroom of resources. As homeschoolers, we attend more museums and subject specific classes than our brick-and-mortar friends. By design we have more access to internet sources, libraries, and personal assistance from community experts in fields we are studying. So the next time you are worried about the limited information in a text, remember that you have access to way more than one text, one set of curriculum and one version of events. Challenge yourself and your children to analyze a new source of information to determine its credibility whether its Wikipedia, a forum from an online site, or field journals from the library.
Have places to find great resources? Share your finds below in the comments section.
Laurie Gracia-Alikhan - editor The Homeschool Post