Why You DON’T Need a Curriculum for Learning
By Linda Dobson
A curriculum is a course of study. It might help if you think of it as a highly planned tour through learning. If, in your exploration of do-it-yourself education reform, you feel more comfortable using such a tour guide, then by all means use a tour guide! There are many sources of lists and general outlines of what someone somewhere has deemed that children should know and in what order they should learn these things. You can use the information to see where your child is and where your child will go.
Traveling the Learning Path Independently
But what if, in your learning journey, you begin with no particular place to go? What if, instead of being a professionally planned excursion complete with an itinerary some travel agency thought would be worthwhile, your family’s trip becomes more like a jaunt on a beautiful spring afternoon, taken not to get anywhere in particular but only to enjoy being free to enjoy? Instead of getting on a bus with forty strangers, you might decide to walk, or ride a bike, horse, or four-wheeler, or drive around in circles stopping at inviting places along the way.
You may not see every classic site that those on the guided tour witness, but if they are among the places that interest you, you will visit some. You will also have under your belt experiences of value to you personally. For example, let’s say you’ve tried fly fishing a time or two and enjoyed it, so for you, a visit to that funky little fly fishing museum is in order. While there you pick up ideas for new flies to make, talk with the proprietor about a few streams to try, and take home a couple of specialty books you’ve never seen elsewhere in order to learn even more at home. Had you traveled with that professional tour, you might not even know the museum exists because it wasn’t on the itinerary.
Learning Happens Within
You see, learning happens whether or not it is directed from without. I would say that more learning (and remembering) occurs when you follow your interest to a meaningful destination than happens among those strangers who take the much more traveled route. This is why curriculum is not the necessity that the educational bureaucracy makes it out to be. John Gatto said, “You can be trained from outside, but only educated from within; one is a habit of memory and reaction, the other a matter of seizing the initiative.” (emphasis added).
You don’t necessarily require a curriculum at home, because you’re addressing education instead of training. I can’t prove it at this point, because it hasn’t yet been done, but I would bet that children who are guided by education mind, whose “learning time” was filled with activities like those in The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas: 500+ Fun and Creative Learning Activities, as well as the subsequent explorations these activities would engender because their time is their own, would wind up as educated people.