"We shouldn't be putting them asleep, we should be waking them up."
- Sir Ken Robinson
The term 'curriculum' has many definitions. In Parkay, Anctil and Hass' 'Curriculum Leadership' they open by outlining 5 popular definitions:
As course of study; derived from the Latin currer, meaning "to run a course"
Course content, the information or knowledge that students are to learn
Planned learning experiences
Intended learning outcomes' the results of instruction as distinguished from the means (activities, materials, etc. of instruction)
All the experiences that students have while at school.
Which of these definitions do you align with most? I certainly align with the last one. But early childhood curricula in the public system typically align with number four. When I look at the fourth definition, the definition that I need to adhere to at school, I can certainly fit it inside the 5th definition. I believe that we learn from everything. In fact, I could argue that my school board does as well. In their curriculum documents they make mention of what children bring to the table. On The Ontario Kindergarten Program page 109 states "children's learning and development occur within the context of their daily lives in families and communities." This allows me to look beyond the specific expectations of the written curriculum, into the realm of the hidden curriculum. But I do not ignore the written curriculum. It is very important. Public school system curriculum is developed to honour the purpose of the system.
When we remember that the purpose is to produce members of society, we can start to see how curriculum is developed and one thing is for sure, it is very linear. Depending on your epistemological views you may or may not like the linear progress of curriculum. But, even if you're like me, someone that believes very little in life is actually linear, there is great importance to having overall and specific curriculum expectations. Without a written curriculum, we wouldn't be much of a profession would we? There would be very little accountability from the board, province or state perspective. The only accountability that would be left would be between the child and the caretakers to ensure the educator was capable. In order for this to be the case, public school systems would have to be no bigger than a single entity, a private school. So in order to have public education, we MUST have shared accountability, enter the written curriculum.
But just because it's written doesn't mean it's complete or final. In a play based setting, I view the curriculum as a guide. If an episode of play happens to touch on a new expectation, wonderful, but I'm not going to force a child to 'master' an expectation just because it's written down. It's not best practice. It doesn't fit under the scope of play based learning and my school board knows this. Each child is an individual in the classroom and each child is an individual in society. The bottom line of public education is to help children be positive contributing members of society. It is NOT to eliminate creativity and produce a cohort that are clones of one another. What good would society be if everyone became an engineer?
Public school curriculum has flexibility built into it. It just may be hiding a little bit. I hope the above dialogue will help you find comfort in your desire to manipulate the written curriculum in order to better serve the unique voice of each one of your children.