Tag Archives: english

Curriculum: WTF?

Does anyone actually just buy a curriculum or download one and actually stick to it all year?

My friend’s college-aged older brother (who is somehow better at lesson planning than her parents) was the one who introduced my family to the idea of homeschooling. He went to all this painstaking effort to pick and choose random stuff from across the internet. Part of that was because of income – they couldn’t afford to just buy the BYU package or whatever. A bigger part of it was just because he thought that he could give her a better “genuine high school experience” than most of those publishers.

My family didn’t think too hard about that. Back when I stopped going to regular school, my family’s expectation was “oh, okay, we’ll find some complete all-in-one set of curriculum-ish things and then we’ll just work through them.”

Here’s about how that went.

Day 1: Oh, here’s something. Wait, it’s $500 for one class? Screw that.

Day 2: Oh, here’s something. Wait, it’s $50 a month and I don’t even get to preview it to make sure it’s good? Screw that!

Day 3: Okay, let’s just mix and match. That’ll work.

Day 4: EVERYTHING I PICKED IS TERRIBLE.

All the syllabuses we tried writing have been scrapped. Nothing has stuck for more than a few weeks. If I had to clump English so far into “units,” here’s what I’d have:

Unit 1: A “Lore” class from Grey School of Wizardry. I know GSW doesn’t really want to be seen as a “curriculum provider” and it isn’t, but the “lore” assignments actually took me through some common core requirements. The first assignment had me studying general themes and literary archetypes. The second one had me comparing myths and legends to each other while learning to apply themes and archetypes to literary analysis. The third assignment involved reading and writing about a myth local to my geographic region. The fourth assignment (which I’m still working on periodically) involved choosing a book that relates somehow to an ancient myth and explaining how they’re similar. I read a young-adult book called Janie: Face to Face for that. I go back to this curriculum every now and then – namely for the short story I’m working on.

Unit 2: Some John Milton from Saylor.org. Mostly all I read about was his life. I didn’t get to read much of his writing before that site started bugging out on me.

Unit 3: A TON of grammar study using a grammar book from Barnes and Noble, plus some review on Purdue Owl about proper citation style. I ended up helping other people revise their essays to familiarize myself with structure. When I was done with that, I took a giant test over grammar and usage.

Unit 4: I read The Giver for free online. Then, I watched the movie. My big “assignment” on the subject was basically a blog response.

Unit 5: A Separate Peace. I’m using a free curriculum from Curriki for that, which contains study guides and such.

Does anyone else actually just make a plan and stick to it 100%?

English curriculum.

Me: *Looks up curriculum for English.*

Curriculum: ANTIGONE!!!!

Me: Read it in 8th grade.

Curriculum: JULIUS CAESAR!!!!

Me: Read it at some point.

Curriculum: ROMEO AND JULIET!!!!

Me; Read it, saw it performed, saw the movie, wrote a paper on it, etc.

Curriculum: RED BADGE OF COURAGE!!!!

Me: I read that in freaking elementary school.

Curriculum: Where the Red Fern Grows????

Me: Seventh grade.

Curriculum: Uh…geez…kid…what do you want? To Kill a Mockingbird? Surely you haven’t read that one!!!!

Me: Summer before 9th grade.

Curriculum: Screw you, Lilly.

The Giver: Book Versus Movie

This is my awesome reading/viewing response.

I read The Giver a few days ago, mostly because I’m one of the only 9th graders ever who hasn’t read it. Basically, this book is your typical totalitarian government story that gets assigned to you in school. The best dystopian literature, in my opinion, exaggerates things that are wrong with our society in order to hi-light injustice and call for change. The Hunger Games deals with the unequal distribution of wealth and the exploitation of lower-class people. Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy deals with beauty standards, involuntary psychiatry (think about the lesions), and the way that emotional numbing leads to self-harm.

The Giver falls into a different category of dystopian novels – a category wherein the writer creates a society that could never happen to illustrate how great our present society is. Much like the society in Ayn Rand’s Anthem, the society in The Giver watches peoples’ every move and chooses peoples’ lifetime occupations for them. In both novels, love is forbidden and sex is no longer a thing. In both novels, the reader is expected to suspend disbelief and accept that the inquisitive, brooding young male hero is literally the first person to ever forget his Don’t Have Sex drug or to question why we don’t have love anymore. Both novels end in a similar way, with the hero running off into the sunset and hoping that someday his friends will join him.

If you think that’s tiresome, wait until you see the movie version of The Giver. Because no good dystopian film would be complete without a forced, horribly forbidden heterosexual teen romance, the movie-verse gives people their career assignments at sixteen instead of twelve. Instead of just having a wet dream about Fiona getting naked in an old person’s bathtub, Jonas actually kisses her (much to the shock of all the people who are like “what are they doing? We don’t understand!!!!”) and eventually convinces her to fall in love with him, despite her initial discomfort with the idea (more on that later).

The world is also changed so that instead of living in an Abnegation-style world (think Divergent), they have this bizarre, out of place futuristic technology like hologram computers and injection buttons in their homes. There is also a Big Bad village elder who has the same hair and general demeanor as the District 13 president in The Hunger Games. By the end of the film, Jonas actually manages to save everybody and we even see the world regain its color like it did in those Skittles commercials they played when I was little.

Fighter drones, blatant rip-offs of Hunger Games peacekeepers, and generic futuristic technology aside, the movie version of The Giver frustrated me for similar reasons that the book did.

1. It’s another example of “society hates your heterosexual love.” There are actually people in relationships that society sees as an illness and wants to “cure,” but it’s apparently more box-office-worthy if the people are straight.

2. The random baby-killing thing is such an obvious pro-life reference, oh my god.

3. The biological determinism. It seems like because the “family unit” is not biologically related to Jonas, we are supposed to see it as a totally “fake” family, whereas the baby who probably has the same birth mother as Jonas is supposed to be his “real” brother.

4. The whole “the government wants to euthanize your grandmother” thing that miraculously predates the Obama Care debate.

5. The fact that all the horrible memories are of war. Ugh. It bothers me so much that none of them are of things like rape, genocide, racism, human trafficking, etc. I know that can’t be in a book for children supposedly, but if you want a reason why sexual desire would be suppressed – look no farther than the out-of-control problem that is sexual violence (and face it, it’s totally out of control, police don’t care half the time and can be convinced to drop the whole case despite multiple eyewitness accounts if your mom vouches for the abusers, trust me I know). None of Jonas’s experiences make it really obvious why emotion itself is feared, but the writer could have made a stronger case for that.

6. The fact that ultimately the big moral is “just do the Christian conservative family and monogamy thing or else society will descend into loveless chaos.”

I guess I’m not quite sure why this book (and possibly movie) is so popular.