Curriculum planning: What’s it all for?

S term fast approaches I have been getting the curriculum planned and ordering whatever books we will need to see us through another year of home education. I’ve also spent some time wondering around homeschooling sites and reading articles so that I keep my focus on just what it is I am trying to do with these children of mine.

I love this quote from Laura Berquist

there is a formation which is even more fundamental than, and indeed is essential to, intellectual formation. That is moral, or character, formation.

I think it is too easy to get bogged down, especially during the curriculum planning phase, with all the ‘edumacashional’ (as my dear Aunt Rose would have called it God rest her) side of things. Charlotte Mason was well balanced in her approach to children, they are “PERSONS” and must be formed as such. Mrs Berquist tells us how Aristotle and Plato recognised that men who do whatever they want whenever they want are simply slaves to their own feelings and passing fancies. No parent wants their children stuck in the slavery of bad behaviour, bad choices and all the misery that thus ensues. Children need to be taught to be free and given the tools that will allow them to be happy in directing their own lives and making good decisions.

One of the things that plays on my mind now and then is how we as parents actually view our children and how this helps to form them. It’s those round-robin Christmas letters, or even just general ‘parent talk’ that makes me a bit uncomfortable. Parents (and grandparents can be just as bad) talk about their children almost exclusively in terms of what they have achieved academically. A child who gets ‘A’s is ‘good’ and a child who doesn’t is either ‘bad’ depending on how bad the grades are, or just too embarrassing to mention. Of course it’s difficult to blame parents who fall into this trap, for most children academic achievement is all there is to talk about-it’s what they do. Sadly, for some of the children we know it is almost all they do.

Reading good ol’ Peter Kreeft I find this:

Education, as classically conceived, is not primarily for citizenship, or for making money, or for success in life, or for a veneer of “culture,” or for escaping your lower-class origins and joining the middle class, or for professional or vocational training, whether the profession is honorable, like auto repair, or questionable, like law; and whether the profession is telling the truth, like an x-ray technician, or telling lies, like advertising or communications or politics. The first and foundational purpose of education is not external but internal: it is to make the little human a little more human, bigger on the inside.

The primary end of classical education, then, is in the student. But the student is a human being, and according to all the religions of the world (and therefore according to the vast majority of all people who have ever lived, in all times, places, and cultures), the ultimate end or final cause of a human being is something more than simply the mature flourishing of human powers, especially the powers of mind, in this life. If this is true—if in fact this life is a gymnasium to train for another, sterner combat—then the ultimate purpose of classical education is there.

I am not training the children, therefore, to be successful (though that would be good too) but to be faithful. I need to keep an eye on that goal as I get all the books, curriculum planners and ideas sorted for September.


8 responses to “Curriculum planning: What’s it all for?

  1. Nice post. Love the Kreeft quote, especially since I was unaware that he has written on education. I guess I behind in my reading. 🙂

  2. Well said. I lean CM, but feel complete freedom to tweak to make it suit my little PERSON (daughter). 🙂

    This post would be great for the Charlotte Mason blog carnival! You can submit it here.

  3. A great goal to keep site of all year long.

    Like your blog name 🙂

  4. Wonderful reminder. I tend to look at all the things I’m not doing and have to remember to return to the real reason we are educating at home and why I do like CM so much.

  5. Thanks everyone.
    And Sarah-oh the regular mum-guilt over what I am not doing! Thank God for the eminently sensible Miss Mason!

  6. Wonderful post. And yes, thank God for Ms. Mason! 🙂

  7. A tremendously well written post! I’d love to see the powers that be in education put things into perspective with such eloquence and economy of words!

    I very much agree that there is much more to an education than to get through a required curriculum, pass a test, gain admission to a university, build a career, etc. Even in homeschooling it is not uncommon to get caught up in the thinking that “this project fulfills that requirement,” while simultaneously forgetting what it really does for the child.


  8. Good stuff!
    And I think that goes right along with C.M.’s ideas about habit traing and formation of character.

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