You may be surprised to learn that the best advice I ever received regarding “how to homeschool” was learned at a place far distant from the usually home schooling venue from someone who never contemplated home schooling.
While my family was trout fishing in the mountains, I visited a festival in the park where we were camping. There, a group of fly-fishing enthusiast was demonstrating the art of tying flies. For the uninitiated: trout are fish that live in streams and eat insects and insect larva. A “fly” is a lure, created from feathers, fur and plastic, designed to fool the trout.
The men at this exhibit had brief-cases filled with hundreds of lures and luggage cases holding the supplies needed to make these tiny little flies “just right.”
I was fascinated by the vast array of colors and details. I learned that the successful fisherman must have different flies for different seasons, for different times of the day, for different streams and for different fish within one stream. You might have to try dozens of different flies to find the one fish are hungry for. A fly must match what is hatching in the insect world that week - it needs to look like the real thing – it needs to be gaudy and attention getting. Therefore you consult “hatch” reports and take samples of the insect life in the stream to see what is “hatching” and choose your flies accordingly.
The men patiently educated me about the different flies for different situations. They showed me their personal favorites and related successes with different lures. They argued convincingly for their favorite fly for any given situation. And, of course, everyone had a different “perfect fly”, the one that always catches the trout!
As a novice, still learning to toss the things into the water, I was completely overwhelmed. I only had four flies and, quite frankly, they didn’t look very appealing. I bought mine from Dick’s Discount Sporting Goods and they were made of synthetic feathers – not feathers plucked from a live rooster. I purchased these flies without due consideration for season, species or special effects; I liked the purple ones with yellow spiky things. If I liked it, surely that big brook trout in Garden Creek would like it too! One fly already looked pitifully frayed after being yanked out of a laurel bush.
I stood before that table and calculated how much money I was going to have to spend to get new lures and master this complicated sport. I worried about how to make the right decisions in choosing newer, better lures.
Trying to be sure of my planned actions, I asked the fishermen, “So assuming I am matching what is hatching at any given time, it is the quality of the fly – how it looks, how it’s made, how new it is (how expensive it is) – this is the MOST important thing I need to get right to catch trout.”
“Oh, no! It’s the presentation that counts! Its how you set it in the water.” exclaimed a man. “The best lure presented to the fish in a sloppy manner won’t get any results.”
“That’s right,” another one chimed in, “why I’ve gone through every good fly in my case before and finally caught the biggest fish on the rattiest looking, most worn out thing. Yep! Your delivery is what matters most – how you present the lure to the fish. It is all about how you put it in the water!”
We need to remember this as we ponder the “perfect” curriculum, wandering around the curriculum fairs agog at the variety and complexity of curriculum choices: it’s the presentation that counts! It’s how we “put it in the water” when we are teaching our children.
As long as we are teaching what our children are developmentally ready to learn (match the hatch), our presentation of the information makes the crucial difference in their learning experience. Our patience - our attitude – our ability to adapt and explain - these are far more important than the colorful pages, the bells and whistles and the “completeness” of the package. We should obsess less about the “what” and perfect the “how”.
Practice your cast – study about teaching and learning styles and get to know how your children learn best so you can approach them with confidence and understanding. Pray for wisdom, insight and for a heart attitude that is gracious, loving and long-suffering.
Use what you can afford or what you have. After all: It’s the presentation that counts.