When we started homeschooling, I had a fairly decent idea of how I wanted to do things. I’d been doing research for a couple of years and I was drawn to a particular style of homeschooling that was created by a woman named Charlotte Mason. I appreciated her no-nonsense attitude and belief in short lessons and mastery over vast amounts of limited knowledge. I wanted my children to be challenged because I believe that kids can do a lot more than our modern day thinking allows. I wanted them to love learning and to spend time outdoors and not be tortured by with busywork. I felt like the Charlotte Mason approach supported these goals. But was I ever unprepared for the vast amount of curriculum that is currently available to modern day homeschool families! So many choices! What to choose from? For one booklet, there are fifteen different reviews on thirty different blogs. Which one will work for my children? This one worked great for mine! We should all do these things! Homeschool goals be damned! Obviously the way this person is doing it is much better than anything I had planned!
One program in particular had a strong marketing base–Brave Writer. It was very expensive, nearly $500 for both of my elders. It had so many good reviews and so many moms swore by it that I felt positive that it would be epic for our children. Fortunately, someone gave it to me for free. I was thankful that I didn’t have to drop that kind of fortune on writing curriculum. Thankful didn’t begin to cover it when I realized that the program really didn’t work for me as a teacher or for my children because it ultimately didn’t support my homeschooling goals.
I love my eldest but he is a flighty soul and needs anchoring with strong, common sense material. Like his mother, he needs a level of predictability and I found Brave Writer to be a bit too free spirited for both of us. My daughter tends to fold when things get too hard and she needs to be challenged more often so she can gain confidence. There were some excellent ideas from Brave Writer but overall, the “conflict free” approach struck me as a bit…saccharine. There was no grammar, no structure, no attention to the details that help people learn to write. Instead, the focus was on getting children to love writing.
While I have no issue with an approach that encourages love of writing, like in marriage…love does not conquer all. In marriage, we are often required to tough it out through things that are not so fun and easy. We sometimes have to do things we don’t like. Love for each other does not mean that marriage will be easy. Love of writing does not mean writing will be easy. When I was in middle school, my mom gave me a composition book that was written in the 1800s. It was the most difficult writing book I’d ever had to work through and I hated every single second of it. But it made me a better writer and it taught me a very important lesson–persistence.
I also don’t think that children need to love every subject *gasp*. Not everyone likes writing. What I want my kids to learn even more than the love of writing is that sometimes we have to do things that we don’t like to do and we still have to do our best…even though we hate it. Charlotte Mason talks about the importance of establishing good habits. My kids might not want to brush their teeth but it’s good for them in the long run. They might not want to do their copy work every day but it’s good for them. Eventually, it will just become part of their routine and they won’t even think about it. I don’t expect my kids to write the next great American novel but I do expect them to understand basics like how to express themselves clearly through writing and speaking.
That’s not to say I want to torture my kids. We originally started with a classical homeschooling writing program “Writing with Ease” which was also highly recommended. I found it to be incredibly boring for myself AND my kids, which is why we are currently on the hunt for something better. My mom suggested the books she used for me when I was young and we will probably give them a try. I’m willing to be flexible and I will gladly incorporate some of the things I’m learning from Brave Writer, but it can’t be our main source of writing/language arts curriculum. It made me a little sad because I was excited over how much people loved it…but I am just not a free spirit kind of a homeschooler. I need routine, I need predictability, and right now…I need it laid out…step by step.
In some ways, I envy my mom in her early homeschooling years. She still had a lot to choose from but at least she didn’t have a thousand people on the Internet all claiming to know which way was the right way. Having fewer choices seems like it would have made things easier (although she says going to book fairs was kind of like the Internet). I just have to stick to what my goals are for my kids and stop getting distracted by other people’s goals for theirs.