Curriculum should be your servant. You are not its slave.

You might have heard it from Ruth Beechick; or from Debbie Strayer. And undoubtedly many others have given voice to this very basic counsel. And yet, when we first pull out that teacher’s manual, it’s the first thing we forget. We look at all the interesting pieces of sidebar information, the exciting ideas for projects or activities, the thought-provoking questions, the detailed explanations, and we are busy making our plans.

Well, some of us, maybe. Others, open the book, take one peak – and slam it shut! Whether you fall into the “We’ll get this done if it kills us” camp or the “This curriculum will never work” camp, it’s at precisely this moment that you need to step back, take a deep breath, and remember that YOU are in charge – not the other way around. Your curriculum is not running this show! Here are some easy steps to take in order to regain the command post.

  1. 1. Start by taking a survey of the course. Look at the text’s or teacher’s table of contents. Get an idea of how the course is laid out – lessons, units, modules, etc. Think about the number of those in relation to the number of weeks in an average school year (32- 36) or the number of months (9) or the number of school days (160-180).
  2. 2. Realize that if you’re using many of the home-school friendly curricula available much of the scariness is eliminated. Teacher’s instruction is often minimal or nonexistent. Answer keys or solutions manuals provide easily identifiable answers. “Helps” are not too many or too overwhelming. Enjoy the simplicity.
  3. 3. Notice the interaction between the TE (teacher’s edition) and the text. How many pages of instruction/helps are given for each chapter? How is the teacher expected to interact with the student? Where are the answers?
  4. 4. Recognize that much of the material in a classroom-designed TE will not be relevant to you. You may need to know how to engage a struggling student – or a gifted student but probably not both of them at the same time. Objectives for each lesson might be interesting to read the first lesson – but quickly lose their appeal. Introducing the topic might be interesting to try once in a while but don’t underestimate the efficiency of a simple “take out your text and turn to page _.”
  5. 5. Recognize that suggested activities are just that – suggestions. Most classroom-designed curricula assume that the teacher will be picking and choosing. By all means, do exactly that – pick and choose. And you may find that you pick and choose only a very few of the many suggestions. DO NOT TRY TO DO EVERYTHING!
  6. 6. RELAX! And let yourself enjoy the exhilaration of discovering new lands, the wonder of enticing your child’s curiosity, and the satisfaction of covering a topic thoroughly (but not exhaustively).

Have a great year!

— Janice Price