Thursday, February 10, 2011


I grew up thinking that the term "junkie" was a bad thing. To be labelled a junkie implied a life spent aimlessly courting danger and illegal substances. It meant disconnect from reality. It meant an addiction that overshadowed relationships and productivity.

Today, in homeschool culture, it's a good thing to be called a junkie. Or at least, a perfectly acceptable thing. You know what I'm talking about: the curriculum junkie.

I admit that I've used the term in reference to myself on occasion. What I meant by it was that I enjoy perusing new stuff. I like to glean new ideas. And I get excited when I see the market's needs being met in such original and creative ways.

What I didn't mean is that I have shelves groaning under the weight of programs I had tried on for size for a month or two, then pushed aside in favor of the hot new thing. I didn't mean that something new caught my eye each and every year and distracted me from the success I was already enjoying with what I was already using. I didn't mean that I plan and buy and plan and buy, but tire of those plans and purchases by the time I actually getting around to the implementation phase.

I didn't mean that I wanted a sample of every single flavor on display at the buffet table of homeschooling.

But this is what I see, increasingly, around me: people who are unable or unwilling to self-discipline themselves enough to give their children stability and consistency in their homeschooling experience.

I'm not talking about people who change things in the name of meeting a learning style, igniting a love of learning in their children, or adapting to a new season of life. Personally, we've switched programs when the needs of our kids changed. That's the beauty of homeschooling, and that's not what I mean here. I'm talking about the real junkie among us: the folks who have stuck their finger in every homeschooling pie in a search for the one perfect thing that's going to make or break their year.

As if such a thing exists.

Luke from Sonlight started a discussion on this topic on his blog yesterday, cueing me into the fact that I'm not the only one noticing this trend. So what gives? Why are we being swayed and tossed like the wind? Are there simply too many options? Are we becoming gluttons? Are we buying into the lie that there's a "right" or "best" way?

What do you think?


Kate said...

The longer I've homeschooled the more I know what I want to teach and how I want to do it. I tried quite a few different things in the early years and wasted a lot of time and money. I think inexperience is probably the thing that causes the tossing and swaying you mentioned - which is a good reason for us veteran schoolers to help those starting out.
And by the way - having once tried Sonlight, I can't imagine teaching any other way!

Sara said...

When I feel the "junkies" coming on, it's usually

A. An unfounded feeling that buying something new will make everything easier, when in reality it won't.

B. It's just so darn fun buying school stuff! I've always loved it; always will.

I try to resist at these times.
But it's true that the more experience I get, the less "junkies" I get.

Luke said...

Thanks for the link-love, MG [smile].

I wonder if it's the opposite of buying into the "right" or "best" way. Because there are so many options, and--as we like to say--there is no perfect program, we are less comfortable with our choice. 'Perhaps,' we think, 'perhaps there's something even better than this!'

That's my guess as to what is going on. It's not that people are looking for the ultimate option, but rather wonder how much they're missing and so leaving something that's great in search of the perfect.


The Hayes Zoo said...

For me it's the 'comparison monster'. You know that one that rears it's head when you're having a year of the trenches (or 5...)and you look around and 'Gee wiz...everyone else's homeschoolers seem to love what they're doing. I better see what's going on."

The bottom line is that I'm pretty sure I have at least one that will have issues with any and ALL choices out there. If I think I've found the best option already (for us it's SL for 90%) I need to remember to trust my choices and just go with it. :)

Maybe then I'll stop having these years in which "Faith Learns What Not To Do...Again." Sigh. :)

Mama Squirrel said...

Good post!--I've linked. (Not much of a junkie here.)

Beth said...

I have bought and sold things, borrowed curriculum and never used a bit of it... I believe it takes SO much time to find what works. If I am bored with the curriculum, I simply feel it's not worthy. If I think it is too structured, I buck in rebellion. Thankfully, I have found a groove that works for us. Sonlight was too structured for me... the artsy free spirit in me was too strong. But I took their premise of lots of reading out loud GOOD books (some from their lists). Then I picked and chose the rest and molded it to what felt right and works for my kids.

Flexibility is key, and having a focus helps. Ours is to foster a true LOVE of learning! No busy work here. There is a purpose to everything we do.

I'm not usually so passionate about this, but we had a great homeschool week which is always an encouragement to stay the course!

mideastmom said...

I think I've actually been helped by the fact that it is so difficult to get curriculum to where we live (the Middle East). Many years, I've sweated just getting our main once-a-year purchase there. Last-minute switches? Not glamorous enough to warrant the blood, sweat and tears.

Now, we haven't had tears over any of my choices (so far), so that may make a difference. I'm pretty much an if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it kind, though. Plus, I came across SL when my oldest was a newborn and knew it was for us. So that helps. And, with some tweaking, it has continued to be what works for us.