The Challenges of Writing a Curriculum Guide

“The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”

― Charlotte Mason, School Education: Developing A Curriculum

One of the drawbacks of a Curriculum Guide is that it, of necessity, produces division rather than integration. Classical education aims to show students the integration of all things in Christ, the One in Whom all things hold together. In some ways, the very structure of a Curriculum Guide is antithetical to this goal, for a Curriculum Guide—in order to categorize and communicate effectively—must divide and break down concepts into separate disciplines. The Curriculum Guide analyzes the animal of education in the same way that the scientist does—by cutting it apart, by tagging it, labeling it, defining it. It is the skilled teacher who can take these two-dimensional diagrams and parsed out pieces of pedagogy and pull them back together into a living, breathing animal that can run on all fours or take flight into the unknown.   

Another challenge for a Curriculum Guide is conveying that the non-academic aspects of education are the most important. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world of Calculus and Physics and lose his soul? Since we believe that the foundation of education is piety, “the proper fear and love of God and man,” it is necessary that our Curriculum Guide should go beyond academic standards in some of its goals. It must advance from the realm of quantitative knowledge into the realm of wisdom and virtue. Those of us who have formulated Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) know that a key result must be measurable. And yet how can wisdom and virtue be measured by human means? The goal of education is “to love what is lovely,” but where is the yardstick to know whether that has been attained?

Because of these challenges, any Curriculum Guide will have limitations in conveying what it means to be a student. And yet, despite the limitations, the benefits of the Curriculum Guide still make it a profitable tool as we guide students along the way.

Who or What is the Curriculum Guide?

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

– Hebrews 12:1-2


The vision of Paideia is to train worshipers of Jesus Christ. We aim to assist parents in bringing up their children in the culture (paideia) and counsel of Jesus. This is the ultimate goal that informs all else in our specific Curriculum Guide.

The word curriculum comes from currere – “to run.” It is the course that students run as they grow in the paideia of the Lord. The author of Hebrews speaks of the whole Christian life as a course to be run. As teachers, we are guides along this course. We are part of the cloud of witnesses, mature Christians who have traveled farther along the course than they have. As human guides, we urge students to shake off any hindrances and point them forward to the True Guide: Jesus, the source and fulfillment of our faith.

The importance of the teacher as guide cannot be overstated. Luke 6:40 says: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” If students are to become like their teachers, the teacher must then be someone worthy of imitating. As Paul says, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). In a sense, the person of the teacher is of primary importance in the classroom. The student goes to second grade, not merely to learn carrying and borrowing, but to learn “Mrs. True.” The student goes to sixth grade, not merely to learn sentence diagramming and Shakespeare, but to learn “Mrs. Barnard.” The best Curriculum Guide in the world will not make up for a foolish or ignorant teacher. An excellent teacher can make up for deficiencies in the Curriculum Guide.

Yet although the character and aptitude of the human guide is paramount, at the same time, a cohesive Curriculum Guide is necessary, especially in a school setting, so that students can gradually and incrementally work their way through the various disciplines under the tutelage of various teachers. The Curriculum Guide highlights the “must-see” sites along the way. The Curriculum Guide sets the wayposts and stopping points as students transfer from one guide to another. The Curriculum Guide makes sure that none of the journey is forgotten or overlooked. To attempt a journey of this magnitude without a map might mean that the Stage One scout is planning to hand off his wagon train in Kansas while the Stage Two scout is expecting the wagon train to make it all the way to Wyoming before the reins are given over to him.

But, like a roadmap, the Curriculum Guide requires its reader to have the skills to read it and implement it properly. Of itself, the map is only a pretty picture. In the right hands, it becomes a powerful tool. Teachers must realize that the Curriculum Guide is only effective insofar as they are effective guides who know how to hold the map right side up, assess the strength of this year’s pilgrim group, and plan for weekly stages and watering hole stops.