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Straight-Cut Ditch or Free, Meandering Brook

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By Beverly S. Krueger

I think the thing that I disliked the most about our daughter's one year return to school during the eighth grade was the school's absolute adherence to a regimented curriculum. We'd been homeschooling for almost two years, so the blinders were off. The idea of teacher or administrator as expert no longer held sway over me. So, when a teacher explained that the science text they would be using was a little over the top in its requirements of the students, and that meant that parents would have to encourage their children to be even more diligent in meeting those requirements, I was floored. I had been expecting to hear her say that those portions of the curriculum would be ignored. I couldn't believe that a teacher would tell me that she thought something was excessive, but it had to be done any way. The curriculum demanded it, and since this curriculum was the gold standard in Christian curriculum, it was adhered to with the firm belief that the school would be producing academic superstars. Nevermind that there were all kinds of kids with all kinds of abilities, some academic, some not, in this class. The students didn't really matter. High standards, excellence, and a difficult curriculum did.

This school had created a "straight-cut ditch" that benefitted only a few. I'm not really sure that schools are capable of creating an environment where education is a free, meandering brook. I know that homeschooling can, but sometimes doesn't. It's often easy to take a set approach to education. Adopting a complete textbook curriculum can turn your homeschooling adventure into a "straight-cut ditch." We often turn to textbooks when we feel a lack of knowledge or competence with a subject. We want something to fall back on, and in the process of making things easier on ourselves, make life much more boring and regimented for our children. Not that regimentation is a bad thing. Twenty years of military life gives you a respect for regimentation, but regimentation must have a purpose and not be an end in itself.

Water in a brook follows the path of least resistance. When an obstacle like a rock is in its way it goes around the rock. The ditch is a man-made path that removes all obstructions by brute force. It takes a lot of work to build a ditch. As we homeschool our children we need to remember to take the path of least resistance. It may seem at times that we are meandering away from our goals, but the effort will be far less and the results far more pleasing than if we push our children through a curriculum that is full of obstacles. Are you educating your children by making a "straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook?"

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