Julie A. Cunningham

Academic Advisor

Starting from Scratch: Education a la Carte

This year, I am preparing not only to integrate technology into US History curriculum with high school students, but also to teach directed time with 3rd-6th grade students within this personalized, passion-based model. My initial group will contain my three children, and will increase to a maximum of 8 students with additional enrollment.

Quite honestly, the flexible nature of this personalized learning environment will break me if I do not learn to bend. Rather than a set curriculum, we pick and choose to customize for each child.  It’s basically starting from scratch. Terrifying, if I stop to think too long. More initial work, but probably less in the long run as each student is able to learn in the way that suits them best. As much as I detest computerized testing, I wish I could plop them in front of a screen and 1 hour later have a printout of the best curriculum choices for that child.

My biggest concern has been…. what if it’s not the ‘right’ choice? What if it doesn’t work for that child? What if I lead them down this merry path, and they’re ‘missing things’? What then?

Then? Today, I sat down with my 3 children to give a math placement assessment so I can order books. Guess what? MAJOR gaps in knowledge due to the new math instructional materials they have been taught with over the last two years. My 3rd grader drew 75 bubbles to sort into groups prior to even attempting to solve a problem…. *seventy-five* bubbles take up a LOT of space! Half a page. OF BUBBLES!

Ultimately, no curriculum is a silver bullet for all children.  That’s the beauty of personalizing. Of having small student to teacher ratios. Of teaching an individual child rather than test content. Of providing space for inquiry and student-led learning. Of a small administration that is flexible. Of teachers who bend rather than break. (Still working on that one, but I’ll get there.)

Starting from scratch? It’ll be ok. Choosing curriculum with one child in mind, teaching with one child in mind. A la carte.

Worse comes to worse, we can draw bubbles. ((Obviously some parental frustration coming through in this post… I wasn’t really, truly aware of how this particular curriculum choice was impacting my children until today.))

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