(Although I originally wrote this for home schoolers, it would be easily implemented by any parent and child in any educational system.)
I have never been able to use a 'packaged' curriculum . There are some great ones available, but I find them all, a little ...stale. Exciting as eating chalk! I have used syllabi of publishers to see if I was on track with my children, but, until High School , it is pointless.
One day I realized that I have taught my way through High School five times, and now for the sixth, and I might know a thing or two about it myself! What freedom! It seems to me that if a student graduates and has a love of learning, can read with discernment, write something that another person is willing to read...he's a success! No packaged books , no boring texts! Real books about real life!!! And there was my son who read his way through the encyclopedias...
I have home schooled six, including my two Ye'kwana children, I have tried to set up my goals in such a way that the child will become a 'student for life'. I don't want to spoon feed information to the child and have the student regurgitate it back to me. In real life we are rarely given the answers to problems but must spend time and thought to figure out for ourselves the answers. So... if you want to see a teacher who stands up and lectures all day, don't come to my house!!! I do not enjoy work books, although they have their place.
Certain subjects require the,' line upon line, precept upon precept' approach, such as Mathematics and the upper level sciences. In most cases, once the basics are down, the student can apply knowledge learned towards understanding new concepts and rarely needs input but rather a sounding board to listen to ideas and give feed back.
All students need to know they are being held accountable and that their work will be seen and judged! I can tell very quickly, usually just at a glance, whether the student has given me something done lazily or if time and thought went into the work. Content is not all that matters. Many bright students learn early on that since things come easily to them, they need not apply them self to get a good grade. Grades are not the point or purpose of learning. The student must apply his self and present to me a knowledgeable presentation of what they have learned. Being a home school mom allows me to push each child according to his ability and not be tied down to the restraints of the class as a whole.
I usually give my child a book to read, or when younger I would read to them, then we discuss it informally. Depending on the age of the child, I will ask for a project or paper. This has worked well. Four of my children have gone on to higher education without any problems. (|Dhangwa, Woodi, Jackie, and Josh. We raised two ye'kwana indians and both went to college in the US.)
Literature can not be left out of the students life. I am amazed at the lack of quality literature in most High School curriculum. Our children are being raised with out the wonderful advantage of all the learning available to us on the written page. Pages written by great minds! What a waste of time for the student to be studying 'fluff' when there is so much more to delve into!
My children are all avid readers. I am as well, so is their father. From a very early age, I began reading aloud to the children and carry on to this day. Their father also read aloud to them. My children each have a book for 'pleasure reading' on their own time and a list of required reading for school. No one has ever complained about the reading. Some of my children have a book for each room of the house! We often share with each other what we are reading.
It is good mental stimulation to have several books going on at the same time. You learn to store information and will find your self comparing ideas from one book, to another that perhaps are not seen as related, but you will begin to see that so much in the world is connected! Cause and effect. History repeating. Think outside of the box! Or as my daughter says, "Box!? What box?"
It is important to realize that when reading aloud to a child, make sure you are choosing books above their own reading ability. Children can comprehend much more than they are able to read for themselves. Choose classics, choose books you can make come alive for them and leave them wanting more! If you are not enjoying the book, the child probably is not either! A true work of literature can be enjoyed by all ages and is timeless.
The child who reads will learn to compare information to related concepts in his memory. This will give him the mental flexibility to come up with new possibilities. By seeing these patterns of information, the child will then be able to ask questions , develop mental schemes, and realize there is often more than one correct answer to many problems. This child will be a THINKER! That is my goal.
Aside from our indian friends, the thing which most bothers me concerning having to have left the jungle so quickly, is the fact that we were forced to leave behind our library. Books are like friends and to think of the many volumes sitting and molding with out use is sad. To this day, I find myself searching my book shelves for a title only to recall it was left behind.
C.S. Lewis says… read old books!
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook - even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united - united with each other and against earlier and later ages - by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century - the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” - lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.