Friday, August 22, 2008

Cacophony of Curricula

Maybe I’m just getting old. But when I open the many homeschool-related e-newsletters I receive, and when I visit homeschooling sites, I’m often overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of curriculum now available to homeschoolers.

One homeschool magazine in particular sends me oodles of offers, to the point where my eyes start to glaze over. I wonder, does this cacophony of curricula overwhelm other people too? Or is it just me?

I run the risk of being seen as hypocritical here, because I, too publish homeschool materials. But I don’t work fast enough to produce anywhere near the vast amount of homeschooling products being produced elsewhere. (I’m still homeschooling and caring for my family, and those things have to come first.) I also don’t send out mailings every other day, because I don’t want to add to people’s already overstuffed email boxes. A good portion of Cardamom’s sales come from word-of-mouth recommendations anyway, as far as we can tell, and we’re grateful for that.

The bottom line? I’m glad I’m not a new homeschooling mom these days. Too many choices overwhelm me at the grocery store, much less when flipping through my doorstop-sized Rainbow Resource catalog. When I first started homeschooling, there weren’t that many choices of what to use, so I just used what was available. Since then, I’ve learned that what you use isn’t nearly as important as that you spend time working one-on-one with your children when they need it.

As children get older, they can be trusted to take on more responsibility for their learning. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t assign them things that we think will be good for them. But the mass quantities of curriculum available now could make people, and especially newbies, think homeschooling means buying a lot of stuff and pushing it all on their children. I’ll be interested to see how that works for them as time goes on.

12 comments:

Sandy said...

I've responded with a few thoughts on my own blog...

http://sandy-fallinglikerain.blogspot.com/2008/08/c-word.html

Katherine said...

I don't buy much of anything for my homeschooling. Those curriculum books are very pricey, and most everything can be found nowadays on the internet or the library for free. It is also very overwhelming to me to see all those different choices, and hear all those different people give their opinions on what you 'just have to have' if you want to teach your kids correctly. I'm very choosy on what I do buy. I might have to rethink that philosophy when the kids are older and I just don't understand things like trig and physics, but for now, at least, I'm good with buying very little and allowing others to purchase educational books for the kids for birthdays and Christmas.

Pam said...

We're going on to our 5th year of homeschooling, and when I first started I sure was overwhelmed. Not just by all the curriculum options and extras, but also trying to figure out everything that I needed to teach my kids. (I was directed to a very ambitious "What they need to know" book that I dropped fast after my second year.) :) I think it is like kids growing up... everyone makes their own way, learns as they go. :)

Melissa Markham said...

I am also overwhelmed by the huge amounts of curriculum. Fortunately, I have a friend who loves to review curriculum and she is more than happy to share her choices with me (and I share her outlook on things so that helps). Otherwise, we would never get anything done...

Barbara Frank said...

Excellent post, Sandy! Everyone should read what you wrote :)

Katherine, you've got the right idea. Some of us have a hard time being so choosy. Books make us lose our self-control, I guess!

Pam, I think I know what book you mean :)

Melissa, it sounds like you've worked out a good system!

Susan said...

I agree completely with how there's too much available.

BBat50 said...

I've been a homeschool curriculum vendor for five years now. When I started, just five years ago, I was surprised by how little competition there was. In the last two years, the number and intensity of the marketing competition has really picked up. Many of the newbies will, I expect, be gone in year of so.

My advice to new vendors. You need to focus on providing really useful solutions, not just a clever piece of something. Homeschool parents need solutions that cover a range of grade levels and / or subjects. They can't be shopping subject by subject, grade by grade, for useful materials.

Renae said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I actually like that there is so much to choose from, but I can see how it could be overwhelming if you have no idea where to start.

I flip straight to the things I'm interested in, which is usually literature.

I'm not usually persuaded by bright, new stuff. I prefer the basics that have been proven.

Susan said...

Don't you think those huge fat catalogs put pressure on mommies to think they must BUY something, must have a program, must "do something" about all those different subjects -- rather than just teach?

Barbara Frank said...

Susan, with all your years of experience, you know where I'm coming from. As for "just teach," that mentality is, sadly, in short supply these days.

bbat50, I've also been a vendor for five years, and I've noticed the same things. I think many vendors will be winnowed out soon, but they'll probably be replaced by others who know little if anything about homeschooling but do recognize a cash cow when they see one.

Renae, the basic stuff has usually been around for a while, and for good reason. You're wise to stick to what's "been proven."


Thanks, everyone, for stopping by!

Angela Fehr said...

As a new homeschooling parent, I've found that the best thing for me to do is choose a curriculum and stick with it. The one I chose is also one used by a friend with a few more years' homeschooling under her belt and so I have someone to ask when we are unsure. And I try to be flexible with it - I'm always surprised when moms talk about how rigidly they've tried to follow their curriculum.

Barbara Frank said...

Angela, I think that rigidity comes from our childhood public school training. It's hard to shake, but so rewarding once you do. Sounds like you're ahead of the game :)