Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Curriculum development

Dh comes from a family of professional educators. I make this distinction because they make this distinction. In other words, I am not a professional educator. (If you're reading this, chances are good you're not a professional educator either. So sorry.) Professional educators spend many, many years learning about classroom management, learning styles, child development and learning outcomes. As near as I can tell, I fit that description. What I am missing is the piece of sheepskin that grants me standing in a union that can barter my salary. There's the rub, of course.

As I've mentioned before, my mil is a kindergarten teacher at a fairly elite parochial school. Fil was a teacher for 15 years before moving into the business world to bump the family from the lower middle-class to the upper middle-class rung on the social ladder. All of mil's siblings are teachers, and one of them is also married to a teacher. Dh's younger sister is a speech pathologist ... in a public school. Her husband is also professional educator.

And we ((gasp)) homeschool.

If we lived nearby, no doubt the holiday dinner conversation would be rife with long pauses and raised eyebrows. But we don't live nearby and you know, I can't say that I lose sleep over the lost opportunity for showing them the light on home education. The conversations we do engage in on the topic are enough, thanks. It's enough right now that we are begrudgingly accepted, our children are mostly pitied (for their lack of recess experiences and their inability to play BINGO against anyone but their siblings when learning phonics) and their eyes are keenly on the calendar that will tell them when Jo reaches junior high and they will no doubt put on the pressure to pry our over-protective fingers from her coattails.

Things have taken a turn for the worse recently. The climate of "don't ask, don't tell" is being challenged by my brother-in-law. I don't really know my bil all that well; his wife was only 15 when dh and I got married, and they live a life that is not only geographically removed from our own, but also philosophically foreign to us. What I do know about him is pleasant enough. He teaches high school history in a public school. He coaches wrestling. He is a raving liberal, but tends toward fiscal conservatism.

He is also, coincidentally, getting a master's degree in curriculum development.

I'm going to be honest and admit that I had no idea such a thing existed. I knew that there were specialized degrees for folks with aspirations of "education administration," ie, they want to be principals, etc. But "curriculum development"? Surely something as scattershot as public school curriculum isn't actually developed? And if it is, isn't it the textbook publishers who mostly call the shots?

Apparently, not. Learn something new every day, huh?

Bil is knee-deep in this whole curriculum development thing. He's becomes quite vocal about it. I wouldn't normally mind, but the fact is that 90% of what he is spouting flies directly in the face of what I feel education is actually about. For example, the mere fact that bil is working on curriculum for children he has never even met falls short of educational excellence as far as I'm concerned. How can you plan a course of education for someone who you know nothing about? Sure, you can generalize ... but isn't someone (probably a lot of someones) going to fall through the cracks? Bil says no--in teacher-speak, he outlines the "inter-disciplinary methods" and the "interest-driven activities" and the "outcome-based systems." That's what makes a curriculum successful, he says. That, and a degree that says you're qualified to be putting one together.

The family brushes off my stance on these things with a simple comeback: "You're not a professional educator. You don't know what you're talking about." I guess they don't realize that I have absolutely no interest in being a professional educator. I'd rather worry about child-centered methods over inter-disciplinary ones. I'm more of a "what are you interested in?" kind of gal. And I certainly don't have any outcome systems--or not any that I'd label, anyway.

I'm just a mom. A mom who spends hours looking for the books and tools that excite my children. A mom who loves her kids first, their schooling second. A mom who has a a commandment to teach written on her heart instead of hanging on her wall.

And I wouldn't have it any other way. So pass the turkey, please.

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