In honor of the uncomfortable conversation I had last night, in which a fellow soccer parent thoughtfully enlightened me on the concept of "curriculum night" at her son's public school, I offer up my version for fellow homeschoolers:
Picture me in my ratty black SL sweatshirt and jeans, hair in a pony tail and oh-so-trendy black cat's eye glasses perched on my nose. I am probably not wearing shoes. I am standing in the small room that functions as our classroom whenever the dining room table or living room couch isn't being called into action. Seated in one of the two small desks that my children insist on having in order to feel like they're having "real school" is ... me.
Me1: "Thanks for coming to Curriculum Night. I know it takes a lot of time out of your schedule to come here all the way from the kitchen, but when you make a statement like this with your time, well, you’re showing your children that you care about their education.
So let’s get started! First of all, I want to point out that we haven’t had any discipline problems thus far this year, and really, we don’t expect any. But if something does crop up, I want you to know that I am fully equipped to handle it. I don’t send notes home, and I don’t have any catchy ‘name on the board with check marks' set-up, but I know how to keep order in this room and I’m not afraid to use the authority given to me to sentence kids to time-out or to remove privileges, if need be. Any questions so far?
Me2: “None. Go on.”
Me1: “Now you’re probably asking yourself what we do with ourselves all day. Since we don’t have a set in stone start time, that can be a little hard to define. We try to get things underway by 9 a.m., but some parents are quite as committed to that as perhaps they ought to be.”
Me2: (slumping guiltily in desk) “Sorry.”
Me1: “Well, yes. Anyhow. That being said, we get started somewhere in the hour of 9. Mostly, closer to 9:30.
“We cover a variety of topics here. We do the basics of course: reading, writing and ‘rithmethic, history and geography, Bible and spelling. We also read aloud. Actually, we read aloud quite a lot. Most of our day is actually spent reading. There. I've said it.A lot of this is covered in what I like to think of as the root of our program, Sonlight Core 4. This year’s main focus is on American history from 1849 onward. The children have already had some wonderful hands-on lessons related to this topic, including a neat afternoon spent panning for gold.
“I’ve modified the Sonlight Core a bit, of course. Someone insisted on enrolling a kindergartner and a second grader in a program clearly designed for older learners, you know.”
Me2: (slumping again) “Me, again. Sorry.”
Me1: “Uh-huh. Thankfully, I am a capable teacher and have been able to pull together a variety of other resources to pull in for those younger students. Is everyone with me so far? Good!
“Our entire class is studying Koiné Greek again this year. That’s been a fun extra-curricular that has really stretched our thinking powers. We are also continuing our study of classical music as a class. Our current piece is ‘The William Tell Orchestra.’ I wasn’t planning on introducing that this early in the year, but our students seem to have stumbled upon a fascination with black and white episodes of ‘The Lone Ranger’ thanks to someone’s strange parenting habits--.”
Me2: (blushing) “‘Strange' is such a strong word ....”
Me1: “Call it what you will. At any rate, I’m building on their interest, and we’re going with it.
“We’re also studying Spanish. And art. And doing AWANA verses every day. And PE. Boy, you should see these kids run! Soccer twice a week is a great outlet for all that pent-up energy.
In addition to what we here consider the essential basics of a good education, we like to address the specific needs and gifts of individual students. This is where it gets exciting, and a little complicated. For example, one of our students is interested in French, but I can only do so much, so she’s using a private tutor.”
Me2: “It’s her dad, actually.”
Me1: “As long as I’m not cramming it into my day, I don’t care who it is.
We’re studying biology and physics this year. We’ve already started our unit on the human body, and I think that’s going to take us some very interesting places. This is my first year back to writing my own curricula for this area after several years of relying on a pre-written schedule, so I’m excited to be doing it again. The children are rallying to breed our class pets--they're rabbits, you know. Sounds like a biology lesson to me!
We’re also balancing different levels of math and Language Arts for every student in the class. No one told me when I took this job that I’d be teaching one child to skip count by 2’s, another his subtraction facts and reviewing perimeter with a third, but there it is. We have daily writing time, of course, and are keeping journals. Add in grammar instruction, and we’ve got a full day, as you can see.”
Me2: "Wow. I am so impressed. Thank so much for all the work you do with my kids every day. Can I see some work samples and sign up for recess rotation now?”
The light fades as Me1 and Me2 come together to admire a wall full of paintings, drawings and other artwork. And we all feel good about ourselves.