I love planning! I have, on occasion, planned and schemed so much that I forget to teach. Looking at educational materials and books can sidetrack me more quickly than anything except seed catalogs and cookbooks. Yet, I know having the "perfect material" does not equal learning. Public schools pay huge money for materials -- the perfect new text book, the perfect AV equipment, the latest, greatest fad of schooling. But if you look into the classrooms with truly effective teachers you will find that the "materials" fade into the background and the interaction between students and the teacher and the subject matter are in the limelight.
Teaching high school in a "good" public school in Chicago, I noticed that the teachers in my department and school who I came to respect and, more importantly, the students came to respect were not the teachers who were seeking the latest, greatest cure. I don't believe either of my mentor teachers ever picked up a text book(the school had class sets of many good and great books available). The teachers who struggled with the students were the ones who depended on the text book and complained about lack of funding. Class time was spent reading the text and answering questions. These teachers used the text as a substitute for interacting with the material in the book and with the students.
This is my fourth year(more if you count the unofficial years) as a homeschool teacher and I am amazed at the increasing volume of teaching material generated specifically for homeschoolers. Every year the Rainbow Resource Catalog gets thicker. My mailbox is bursting with offers and catalogs promoting "the best way to teach your children". Amazingly enough, the materials are getting more and more like the prepackaged textbook modules that so many public school teachers use as a crutch.
Even knowing that these "solutions" don't work, I am tempted by the glittery - well educated children- sales pitches. I admit that I have been hooked once or twice - spending a great deal of money for materials that will magically transform my children. Feeling insecure about the subject usually brings out the urge to spend more on a quick cure. I don't have knowledge or experience with Latin. I sought materials that I could understand and that I could teach. Having tried numerous books and plans, I found that there is no perfect, no fail curriculum. Any of the texts I purchased could have worked for these initial stages of learning. The only no fail method is to daily interact with the vocabulary and grammar. The concept of work solving the problem rather than the curriculum solving the problem is something that the public schools need to learn and, increasingly, what homeschoolers need to remember.
I am not saying that homeschoolers don't need educational "stuff". We do. What I am saying is that the glossy new learning systems now available for us are not necessarily better than a few good books and time spent with the children and the books.
As I look over these offers and begin my planning for next year, I will repeat to myself. Just Say No. Say no to the text book companies who are seeking to be a part of the "homeschool success story." Say no to the profit mongers, publishing houses and homeschoolers, touting their undocumented success. Say No to using a text book as a teacher. And I will say YES: Yes to good books, yes to quality time with my children, yes to hard work, and yes to using a text as a guide and a resource.