As I was preparing to embark on my homeschooling journey, I read books, consulted veteran homeschooling moms, and gathered materials. One of those items was a set of vintage readers that was recommended for practicing oral reading.
I purchased another book to teach phonics, so we focused on that first. My son hated it, though! For a while, we tried practicing small passages in the reading primer instead, which he preferred. Eventually, I resorted to splitting our time equally between the two books. After all, the phonics curriculum had come highly recommended and I’d spent money on it. I should use it; right?
This school year, we finally abandoned that phonics book in favor of the preferred vintage readers, and he is making significant progress. I toyed with the idea of ditching his spelling curriculum, too, and just focusing on the new words introduced at the beginning of each lesson in his reader. Again, though, I thought, “But I spent money on that spelling book,” and he didn’t dislike it. As our year wore on, though, I didn’t think that he was making connections between the words in the spelling lessons when he would encounter them in other reading material, so I decided to revisit the idea of using the readers for that purpose.
As I searched for direction on how to do that, I discovered the original teacher’s manual online. I discovered that the series was designed not only for teaching reading, but also spelling, grammar, vocabulary and composition and it seemed to me that the publisher’s intent in how they were to be utilized made perfect sense. I believed it would be more helpful to him than what we’ve been doing so far, so I began the new year with this method.
I have asked myself why I fought these changes. I know that I was afraid of steering away from curriculum with the teaching steps explicitly provided for me as well as overlooking the recommendations of other moms that I respect. While reading the manual, this comment leapt out at me, “…we wish to warn the young teacher especially of the danger that the method will become a hobby unless he is careful, and that thus the end will be lost sight of in attention to the means.” 1 Consistency is important, but if what you are doing isn’t working, maybe you are putting too much faith in your curriculum, your teaching philosophy, someone’s advice, or valuing the money that you spent on that book a bit too much. Depending on where your heart is, any of those excuses could actually be idolatry in disguise. In the end, as I prayed for direction, God just steered me back to where I needed to be.
Maybe you have less of a tendency to get stuck in one way of thinking than I do. If you’re like me, though, beware of marrying your method (or curriculum)! In the end, consider what works for your individual child, pray on it and trust the leading that you receive. Don’t be afraid to make changes. It may be exactly what you and your child need.
1 The Eclectic Manual of Methods for the Assistance of Teachers. Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co., 1885.