Dropping subjects is Not the Best Solution

29 Sep

In the homeschooling world, from time to time, you’ll come across people who have ‘dropped’ this or that subject in the elementary years, and loudly advocate it to be a workable option for others too.

They justify their decision in all manner of ways:

My kids don’t need it for their career

My kids (and/or I) hate it

I don’t have time to teach everything to all my kids

We just weren’t getting to it

We’re just going to focus on the 3Rs

Can parents do such a thing?

Well sure.  You are your child’s parent.  You can teach them whatever you want, however you want.

Is it allowed?

Well, technically, no.  According to most Australian homeschooling laws, we can’t just drop subjects according to our whims.  There are key subjects that have to be taught to all children.

Is ‘dropping’ subjects the best thing, educationally, for our children?

No.  I don’t agree that it is.

Perhaps your child doesn’t need that subject for their career.

Perhaps neither of you like the subject.

Perhaps you struggle to find time because you are dealing for a large multi-age family and the housework that come with that.

Perhaps it is the subject that is often forgotten.

Perhaps it would be more time efficient to just focus on the 3Rs.

But I can never agree that dropping whole subjects is the best thing for your children’s education.

Homeschooling is about education, not vocation.  Its focus is lifelong and not just career focused.  There are a lot of things we learn, that we won’t use in our careers, that still have value in our lives.

There are lots of things that we don’t like that have value and should still be learned. Perseverance and joyfulness in all things can be learned when we endured and don’t give up.

Homeschooling is hard work.  We have to make school a priority and learn to be organised enough to make it happen.  Time management can help families with two children or twenty.

Planning is vital to ensure things aren’t forgotten or constantly skipped.  You can’t ‘wing’ homeschooling and do it justice. 

And focusing on the 3Rs is very limiting.  The 3Rs provide the skills but no content.  And without content, you have no use for the 3Rs.  It’s like a cart with no horse.  (“The Knowledge Deficit” is a great book to read about this.)

I think where people stumble is in incorrectly lining their decisions up with their educational goal.  We need to be honest with ourselves.  Can we, in all honestly, say, that dropping whole subjects is beneficial to a child’s education?

If our goal was to limit our focus solely to ‘getting a job’, then dropping a subject may work

If our goal was to remove discomfort from our school day, then dropping a subject may work

If our goal was to gain more time, then dropping a subject may work

If our goal was to end our guilt over neglected areas, then dropping a subject may work

If our goal was to simply teach the skeleton skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, then dropping a subject may work.

However, if our goal is to provide our child with a great education, then dropping a subject just won’t work!!

It may certainly seem easier.

But if our goal is a great education, then we need to look at other alternatives.

Remember, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.


Posted by on September 29, 2013 in Homeschooling Thoughts


3 responses to “Dropping subjects is Not the Best Solution

  1. Amy

    September 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Hi Tracey,
    The ‘skeleton skills’, as you say, of the 3R’s, really prove their value as you use them in other areas. The two go hand in hand.
    I agree with much of what you say here, but I do believe that it is beneficial to lay aside a subject from time to time. We are familys’, not school systems, and occasionally it is necessary to make adjustments, rather than burning yourself out trying to accomplish everything all the time.
    For myself, when I have dropped a subject for a period of time, I make sure we continue reading widely, and I also try to have on hand resources for the children to use in their own time of activity and free learning. Using this technique, I find usually that when we return to the dropped subject at a later date, we have renewed enthusiasm and we are often surprised at what we have continued to learn in that area that we can now apply to its study.

  2. Tracey

    September 29, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    I think of subject ‘holidays’ differently to dropping subject completely. Say for example you have a very heavy History focus at the beginning of the year, well there’d be nothing wrong with leaving say Science or Geography until later in the year to give it your focus. Or to give some subjects a break while you focus on finishing something up or working on something significant. Or to do minor subjects less often than major subjects. But to drop them in their entirety wouldn’t be wise. Going with this natural ebb and flow is helpful for keeping your oomph.

    In “The Knowledge Deficit” Hirsch explains that the 3Rs and basic skills are not enough for a good education. In fact, he would say they were woefully inadequate. I’ve always thought this, when schools allowed us to teach “whatever”, provided we taught specific key skills to the children. I remember a teacher one year using “Star Wars” as her content while she taught various skills from the curriculum. Ludicrous. Content has great value and the 3Rs goes hand in hand with it. I don’t think either can exist well without the other.

    No we’re not schools and yes we are families, but we are both involved in the same thing – education (although it’s sometimes questionable that schools actually are). 🙂

  3. Susan

    October 1, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Yesterday, as I was driving through from one end of my home city to the other, the bizarre thought occurred to me that navigating your way around a city is a bit like the cumulative knowledge we build as we learn history, geography, science and other areas of knowledge. The skills of driving and map reading can be compared to the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. To be able to navigate a city you need those skills of driving and map reading (although with GPS’s these days perhaps the latter skill isn’t quite as necessary:-) ) But to become really familiar with your city takes years of driving all over the place. I know people who never venture further than their own suburb. They are too scared to drive in unfamiliar territory and so limit themselves to a whole world out there. Such people don’t know their way around and are too timid to step out of their comfort zone. They can drive perfectly well but lack the confidence to drive further than their local shops. Quite possibly they fear getting lost. But the more they step out and branch into unfamiliar territory the sooner all those roads start making sense and they aren’t daunted by going somewhere new. Perhaps it’s my bizarre thinking, but to me the same can be said about the acquirement of knowledge. At first things don’t make sense and it can all be too “foreign”, but as time goes on connections start being made and networks, or maps, start falling into place. Learning about something unfamiliar can be daunting- and difficult- especially at first. As time goes on and more roads are connected then the easier it becomes and before you know it you’re happily driving down hidden little roads you’d never have dreamed of driving down otherwise. Yes, those skills of driving (or the 3 r’s) are vitally important but it’s on those side roads where true education happens.
    Just my two cents.:-)


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