When we set out to teach our children something we must differentiate between the lesson and the result. In formal lesson plans you see this written as the ‘objectives’. This is a key for anyone wanting to use lifestyle opportunities to teach their children. We must know what it is we want our children to learn – we may use any number of lessons, objects, or experiences to help them learn that particular lesson. The what we teach isn’t so important as the what they learn.
I remember a time I was feeling a little under the pump to follow the government Curriculum Framework. I spent hours browsing through its pages as it gave ideas of what to teach. I read that our children needed to know (according to them) how a production line worked. Fair enough. Their suggestion was that they made masks from different cultures and used the production line idea in the different stages of making the mask. Good idea I thought so I bought all the bits and pieces to make a mask, and procrastinated and procrastinated and just never got it done. It became a pressure to me because I didn’t really want my children to make these masks but they must learn about a production line (I told myself). Then one day after a particularly big grocery shop the kids were bringing the groceries in from the car and it was raining. They set themselves up in a production line so that muddy feet didn’t come into the house. I sat there and watched this amazed! They already knew about production lines!! We never did get those masks done. There is more than one way to get a job done – there is more than one way to teach a concept.
So the first thing we have to know when we set out to teach anything is – why are we teaching this, what do we want them to learn? Is it knowledge based? Is it skills based? Both have their place – we just have to be clear on our objectives.
Another story I remember is when I was planning some history lessons for Josh. I was trying to fast track him through our chosen resources so was tweaking things. I ended up a little lost and confused in different eras, heroes and happenings so I called Josh in to give me a bit of a timeline. He rattled off this and that, sorted it all out and it struck me that he already knew this stuff. He was teaching me what I was prepping for him!! I asked him, “Why am I preparing you history lessons?” He grinned – he knew what was going on and offered an impish reply, ‘Because I love it?!?” Needless to say, I changed track that day and found a different aspect of history he had yet to cover. I needed to get my objectives clear, and purposeful.
Our kids often ask – why do I need to learn this. Do we have a good answer for them? If not we need to seriously consider putting it on hold until we can give them a good answer. Time is too precious, there is too much to learn, to be waffling around learning just because… we need to have a purpose and a plan.
This makes planning both easy and tricky. Easy because we can match our purpose with the experiences we plan for our children, tricky because we can be challenged by what others are doing and we are left wondering if we are doing the right thing. Easy because it gives us the freedom to write up plans that are unique for each individual child, tricky because we may be doing something no one else has ever done. Easy because we can keep things fresh for our children, tricky because we have to put in work and not just follow someone else’s check list. But the results will be worth it. The results will be that our children will be excited about learning, they will find relevance in their learning, and they will pick up where you left off and continue to learn by themselves. This is, afterall, our big picture expected objective.
Postscript: I no longer use the Curriculum Framework for planning and assessing my children’s learning progress. Instead I use the Discipleship Scope and Sequence – this gives me a structured overview of all aspects of life and yet laid out in a way that is family friendly.