Not to brag or anything, but the curriculums we use are jealous that I’ve been awarded “Teacher-of-the-Year” in this house every year for three years. (Never mind the slim pickings for nominees, and that I’m the only one that votes, and that there is no plaque or cash prize.) I trusted these back stabbing purchases. Brought them into my house. Exposed my kids to their lessons. And this is how they thank me!? Naturally, these catty curriculums resort to sabotage right off the homeschool book seller’s shelves. They’re trying to make me look bad in front of my boys! So, I have to stay pretty vigilant.
When a teacher’s manual tells you to “Ask your child to pick their three favorite vegetables and then have them ask friends and family which of the three they prefer and make a tally. Then illustrate the information on a bar graph,” it might as well read, “Even though we’re only talking about eating, and not actually eating, lets still make it all about disgusting, healthy, boring lima beans, beets, and squash. You are going to need to write these down on the chart provided and go ahead make up some data and tally it yourself, while your child groans in a puddle of defiance on the floor.”
Doesn’t math already leave a bad taste in their mouths? Might we sweeten the deal with say, choosing three favorite desserts instead? My 7 year old will be easily distracted from the fact he’s plotting pointless information when we’re talking Boston cream donuts, mango milkshakes, and chocolate pie.
But let’s not stop there! I’ve got to up my game here to keep him interested past the brainstorming part of this exercise and onto the surveying and graphing. Why food? Basically we’re just looking for three options to poll and make a graph, right? Let’s try video games, scary movies, grossest bugs, best excuses to get out of emptying the dishwasher, or ugliest 2016 presidential candidate!
Don’t get me wrong, I love our math curriculum. But desperate times, addition, subtraction or division, call for desperate measures. Not in inches or meters. Let’s try….Hotwheels! Yes! How many Hotwheels long is the dog!?
You know those special teacher’s editions written for the homeschool mom who needs a script to follow verbatim including all hand gestures, head nods, acceptable responses from the child, and a gold star for her and her students at the end of each lesson? My youngest nearly developed narcolepsy the one time I thought it’d be a hilarious experiment to actually read every sentence aloud, line-for-line, that Saxon Math 2 said I should say for one of his lessons. I lost coolness points that day that I’ve since worked hard to earn back.
How you ask? Even the best of curriculums need a serious injection of excitement! Learning about stars, asteroids, and comets? The whole family lying in the driveway in pajamas, staring at the sky, and totally going nuts when a shooting star goes over the top of the house is way more memorable than a blurry youtube video. And I may be totally in love with our history curriculum, but learning about the events during the rein on Charles the 2nd really needed some inspiration. So, we burned down London, England! The boys used every cardboard box we could find around the house and built a city row complete with the infamous arsonist baker, a What-a-burger, jailhouse, news station, the safe and remote Castle Ziploc and even “Big Bag” the clock tower (not to be confused with Big Ben).
I’m always looking for ways to spice up the mundane. And, I’ll admit, grammar exhausts my creativity. I’m thinking of writing my own curriculum called “The Art of the Fart: Writing Prompts for Boys 12 and Under.” It really needs no further explanation. If the topic excites them, they’ll have much to write about.
All those best selling workbooks and teacher’s guides that are peddled as education perfection are really just the guideposts to get us headed in the right direction. It’s up to us homeschool moms to decide if we’re headed down a lively red carpet of awesomeness or a neat and boring concrete sidewalk of coloring in the curriculum lines. Grab the spotlight and show that lesson plan who’s boss! Don’t let your curriculum’s big butt eclipse you and your own fabulous ideas. No one could have a better understanding of what excites your kids than your school’s Teacher of the Year!