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Trusting vs. Trying: One Homeschooling Mom’s Story of Throwing Conventional Curriculum Overboard

by Tina Liong,
Guest Writer

Tina Liong and her son Ryan

My 16-year-old son Ryan is a visual learner, which means he hasn’t always shown the level of interest and progress in reading that I would have liked.

So this year I threw traditional literature curriculum to the wind and listened to the still, small voice directing me: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Shaking and fearful, I got out of my conventional curriculum boat and took a leap into the deep waters and unknown currents of an unconventional curriculum called Movies as Literature.

The results were better than I had dared hope, and proved once again that things work together for good for those who love and trust the Lord.

The premise behind Movies as Literature is the same as traditional approaches to studying written literature, except that it is applied to the medium of film. As we soon discovered, this methodology is perfect for visual learners!

I chose this approach because when Ryan was 7 years old, I noticed he had the ability to watch a documentary, process the information in detail, and retain those details for years, long after I had forgotten the content.

Thus began my son’s adventure analyzing literature visually. As He promised in Proverbs, the Lord was directing Ryan’s homeschooling path.

A few weeks into the program, Ryan and I both felt there was something missing. The thought came to scrap the written work and do the questions and analysis orally.

Enthusiasm ensued! Hours passed in conversation as he responded to the workbook questions in depth. Not only did he remember the basics of plot and character development, but he also plunged right into analyzing subtle themes hidden within the storyline. Amazingly, it occurred to me that he was sprinting up the ladder of Bloom’s Taxonomy (our method of assessment) at lightning speed, consistently using higher-level thinking to evaluate literary content.

Thus began my son’s adventure analyzing literature orally. The Lord was directing Ryan’s path.

Simultaneously, the Lord was placing people in Ryan’s life who loved literature. Some of his peers were reading classics for fun. When these friends came to visit, I remember hearing philosophical discussions of the books they were reading, in between the video games they were playing.

Interestingly, Ryan came to me and inquired, “If I read Don Quixote, will that count for the historical and cultural component of Spanish 2 this year?”

Hmmm . . . let me think. My son volunteers to read an 850-page book; what am I going to say? Pinch me! Am I dreaming? Yes! Of course you can read Don Quixote!

Thus began my son’s adventure of choosing literature to satisfy his curiosity. The Lord was directing Ryan’s path.

Just this week, Ryan decided to drop by the library to pick up some more classics.

In passing, he commented, “I just saw a YouTube commentary on The Divine Comedy by Dante. It looked very interesting. I want to get that book and a couple more—Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, as well as Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky.”

God is faithful! What started as literary film analysis has culminated with time spent reading classic books!

Thus began my adventure of trusting the Lord for homeschooling. The Lord is directing my path.

Ryan’s 3rd grade reading teacher, Home School Legal Defense Association Special Needs Consultant Faith Berens, continues to work with him on yearly portfolio reviews.

It was her influence, recommendations, and inspiring words that gave me the courage to try a new curriculum tailored to Ryan’s strengths. She is passionate about learning and helping kids reach their potential.

I’m grateful to the Lord for bringing Faith into our lives. It was a godly appointment.

Could I have orchestrated this homeschool journey by myself? No. Have I tried? Yes! Each time I try, frustration, worry, and anxiety ensues. When I trust, His plan unfolds. God is faithful!

Post Script: Ryan has evaluated and analyzed over 35 literary films during this past school year. He is on summer break now, and did two more this week, just for fun!


Do you need assistance in mapping out a plan for your unconventional learner? Perhaps you want ideas for alternative curricula and teaching materials? Don’t hesitate to call one of the HSLDA educational consultants! We are here to help you along your unique homeschooling journey.

If you need to locate a homeschool-friendly tutor, evaluator, or portfolio reviewer in your area, please be sure to utilize the HSLDA Find a Professional searchable database, available here.


Out-of-the-conventional-curriculum-boat resources:


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