Is education a product that can be purchased?

You've purchased books and supplies; you've paid for a tutor, a co-op, some lessons; you've subscribed to newsletters and magazines; and joined a local support group. But are these things the primary elements of a quality education? Do we look at learning as a product we can purchase instead of a process to be experienced?

As I read the most commonly asked questions homeschoolers ask of each other, a significant percentage of them involve finding the best curriculum at a good price. This is absolutely normal and not a bad thing. But with the number of great choices homeschoolers have today, the pursuit of the 'perfect curriculum' can become our focus instead of the true essentials of education.

Textbooks and manipulatives are important tools, but they are actually not the best ones we have at our disposal. The basic elements of education involve meeting the needs of the individual - personalizing the process instead of standardizing it. Instead of recreating a traditional classroom, make your home an environment where discovery is natural and enjoyable. Grant every opportunity for creativity, inspiration, and inquiry. Encourage curiosity instead of dismissing it in favor of today's scheduled lesson plan. Help your children discern their talents, and explore their interests. Just sit and talk, or better yet, sit and listen.

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It's much easier to put kids at a desk and give them assignments. A calendar, a schedule, a plan - all offer us a sense of order and stability. We want to put check marks in boxes and stickers on charts to prove that we have, indeed, accomplished something. But quite often the best kind of learning isn't the memorization and quoting of facts. It's when we've reached the hearts of our children, and not just their minds.

You do need to search for the best curriculum. Talking to veteran homeschoolers about what has worked for them, reading reviews and recommendations, and finding what fits your budget are always going to be an important part of homeschooling. But use those things as tools to build your school with, and not as the foundation itself.