How to choose a curriculum can be a headachy kind of question. There are so many options. There are so many opinions. How do you know if you are choosing homeschooling material that will have a positive impact on the child you are teaching?
I recently started working through a DVD-based writing course. The professor was highly accredited and highly qualified. She had lots of valuable material to present and lots of experience in presenting it. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to teach writing without examples—and this course’s examples contained a lot of material that did NOT compare favourably with Philipians 4:8.
At the end of the day, I was not happy with this curriculum choice. Yes, there were positive things I learned from it. Even so, I still do not think the overall product was equivalent to a positive change in my life. But this raises an interesting question:
Doesn’t Every Curriculum Change Your Child’s Life?
My official answer is, “Maybe.” Refreshingly honest, isn’t it?
Seriously, I can see validity in answering both “Yes” and “No” to this question. You can make a compelling case that every child is influenced to a certain degree by every form of teaching they come in contact with. On the other hand, every teacher has experienced the discouragement of throwing their heart into the effort to impact a pupil only to feel that they are woefully failing to make an impression.
The first position appeals to me theoretically. But as Albert Einstein once famously observed, “In theory, theory and practice are the same thing. In practice, they are not.” In practice, I lean towards the opinion that there are only two types of curricula that can actually change a child’s life for the better.
The Two Types of Curricula that Change Lives
Good books—or for the purpose of our present discussion, good curricula—embody characteristics of spiritual excellence. They influence students by their moral power—by the substance of what they teach rather than the manner in which they teach it. A good curriculum exerts a directly positive influence on a student’s soul.
Great books, on the other hand, embody characteristics of literary or scholastic excellence. A great curriculum is powerful not so much for what as for how material is taught. A great curriculum changes a student’s life by the weight which its skill lends to its subject matter.
It may be fair to add that in occasional instances a given curriculum may impact a child’s life by the strength with which it fails in these categories. A spiritually-damaging, badly written course undeniably has the potential to change a child’s life. The truth of the matter is, though, very few teachers select such an all-around failure as a part of their curriculum in the first place—which brings us to our next question. Why do some curricula change a child’s life without changing it for the better?
How to Choose A Curriculum that will Change Your Child’s Life for the Better
In the vast majority of cases, the curriculum which changes a child’s life for the worse is the curriculum which fits into one—but not both—of the categories above. It is either a curriculum that is good without being great or it is a curriculum which is great without being good.
A spiritually good curriculum which abounds in literary or scholastic flaws weakens its own cause. On the other hand, a curriculum which is great from a secular perspective but fails spiritually gives the impression that greatness justifies ungodliness.
The curriculum which is good AND great avoids both of these errors. It is a curriculum which teaches the worthiest material in the worthiest manner. It is a curriculum which combines the strength of literary and scholastic ability with the purifying influence of spiritual holiness. That is the kind of curriculum that will change your child’s life for the better.
A Good and Great Curriculum is Worth Choosing
After I quit my great-but-not-good writing course, I was left with a chunk of educational time on my hands. I decided to work through some of Shenandoah Christian Music Camp’s teaching videos. (Not to help me write better but to help me sing better!) The contrast between the two courses offers a vivid illustration of the subject we have been discussing today. While my first course was dedicated to great instruction, SCMC is dedicated to teaching which is both good and great.
And those, in my opinion, are the best criterion for how to choose a curriculum that is capable of changing lives!
Are you interested in a more detailed look at the concept of good and great in the homeschooling world? See our previous post:
- Father, I Know: A FREE Poetry Download from SAW Publishing
- Learning by Doing: Engaging Students in Home Ec