As I posted recently, I recently read Homeschooling: A Family's Journey. In it, they discuss how homeschoolers usually start off fairly structured and then loosen up as time goes on. I know I am somewhat more flexible than I was last year (my first year homeschooling). But, we are fairly structured. We do certain subjects each day. If some scheduling conflict or crisis arises, we make adjustments, but most of the time, we stick to the schedule. We use textbooks and workbooks.
I read about unschooling, where people totally chuck the curriculum and just follow where life leads. I admire people who can live like that. I know that there is much to be learned outside of the traditional "school" subjects. I like to think that we are unschooling in all those hours we are together and not doing our formal lessons. We unschool when we read books for pleasure and play games together and cook together. I think that there is tremendous value in having a great deal of unstructured free time to dream and experiment and play. Yet, would my children ever have any burning desire to learn how to spell or the parts of speech of a sentence or their multiplication tables if I didn't make them do it? Maybe, but I'm not really willing to let go completely and trust that it will happen. That just isn't in my nature.
Yet, homeschooling does allow a great deal of flexibility and I do try to take advantage of that. My older son really struggles with anything writing related. We do a little writing every day, but most of his lessons are done orally. He is still learning the material, but it sure eliminates a great deal of the stress. Today, we reached a point in math where I had to make the decision to dump the curriculum for a while. His 3rd grade math book has several chapters on multiplication and division located in the middle of the book. To do these, you really need to learn your multiplication tables. For a child who has great difficulty memorizing, this is no small task. So, we skipped those chapters and moved on to fractions and decimals and geometry while we continued to work on multiplication facts. We have completed all those sections and he still doesn't have those math facts down. There was nothing else we could do in the book. So, I have chucked the book for the time being. His new math lesson every day is to play multiplication games on the computer for 20 minutes. I'm hoping beyond hope that this will help him learn them in a way simply practicing the facts has not.
Part of me is freaking out about this decision. I like to stay on the well-trod path. Yet, I know it is the right thing to do. He can't move on without knowing those facts. I'm lucky to be homeschooling where I can make the adjustments necessary to enable both of my children to learn at their own pace in the way that suits them best. The important thing is that they learn, not what curriculum we use to get there.