Ask any veteran homeschooler about burn-out, and she’ll quickly get to the topic of curriculum. What mother hasn’t sincerely purchased piles of curriculum only to discover later that her choices were a terrible fit for her family? (Waving my hand here!)
If you’re already partway into your homeschooling year, yet you’re worried about the curriculum choices you’ve made, you probably don’t have the money to just throw it all away and start over. Still, you might be starting to worry that the whole year is a waste!
I’m going to give you some general reasons why you should not change your curriculum plans, but I’m also going to give you some specific recommendations for some simple things you can do for each subject to supplement your curriculum if you still need help.
Don’t compare to others.
The Apostle Paul gives some good advice that he tried to follow in his own ministry:
“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
As a professional blogger, I receive several emails a day from various authors and companies who want me to review their books, products, curriculum, and gadgets for the homeschooling community. I understand the valuable service reviewers offer us, but I sometimes wonder if all this “commending” of ourselves causes us to “measure ourselves by ourselves and compare ourselves with ourselves.” We hear of something better, and we immediately feel discontent with the choices we already made.
Paul says that when we do this, we “are not wise.”
Of course, this doesn’t only happen online. It also happens at church, at our local homeschooling co-ops, and at our summer conventions.
Did you and your husband pray about the choices you made? (If not, why not set aside an evening or a day to pray now?)
Once you’ve asked for wisdom from God, then stick with the wisdom He gave you.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:5-8).
Comparing yourself, your circumstances, and your children to others is never acting in the wisdom of God. It only results in instability, making you feel like you are being “blown and tossed by the wind.”
Comparison is never a good reason to switch curriculum.
What are some good reasons to change curriculum?
- You’re collapsing of fatigue because you’ve been doing school for more than 8 hours a day… and you’re still not getting it all done.
- Your child is just not “getting it,” is crying because of frustration, or has lost all interest in learning. (Note: This should be more than just a one-time occurrence or passing phase.)
- You are concerned about the vast amount of secular influence in your children’s books. (Note: This should be more than an occasional reference, which can provide you with excellent opportunities for discussion. We’re talking instead about such pervasive humanism that you just can’t counter its affects.)
- You don’t have a plan at all; rather, you’re making it up each day as you go. Actually, it’s more like you hardly ever have school at all because in reality, you’re totally overwhelmed.
- Your husband thinks you should change something! Listening to your husband should always be a high priority of yours. (So often we listen to everyone else first…)
What can you do if a change is needed?
- Are you being consistent with your teaching of phonics? Reading takes practice.
- If your child is still not catching on to phonics, authors Luanne Shackelford and Susan White recommend trying sight reading. I know, it sounds like heresy, but they contend that some children just learn with a different part of their brain.
- Take a break for a while, and just read to your child. Come back to it later, after his brain has had more time to mature.
- Free choices: http://boostforreaders.com/ and http://www.readingandspelling.org/
- If your child is either an excellent speller (who doesn’t need curriculum) or an awful speller (who isn’t helped by any curriculum), consider dropping this subject entirely and simply keeping a journal of words misspelled in everyday writing.
- See my blog post on how to teach spelling.
- Free Choices: http://www.boostforreaders.com/spellinglists.html
- Before teaching writing, teach handwriting skills. If your child just doesn’t have the physical coordination for handwriting, keep trying but also teach typing.
- Before teaching writing, teach how to “tell back” what your child has learned from his reading, from television viewing, from sermons, and from everyday life. Let him do this orally.
- Before teaching writing, a child needs plenty of life experiences. Reading is much more important in the earlier years. Discussion with you is also more important.
- Get a lovely book of copywork such as Favorite Poems Old and New (by Helen Ferris Tibbets), and ask your child to copy something each day.
- For creative writing, get the simple little book, From Heart to Page: Journaling Through the Year for Young Writers, by Michelle Van Loon. Have your child write something every day.
- Free Choices: http://www.handwritingforkids.com/handwrite/index.htm and http://donnayoung.org/penmanship/index.htm
- If your younger child isn’t understanding basic math concepts, spend more time playing. Legos are wonderful, as is time spent in the kitchen cooking (and talking) with you.
- Manipulatives will only take you so far. Eventually, your child simply must memorize basic math facts. Set the curriculum aside for a time, head to a discount store, and get inexpensive packs of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division flashcards. Learn the facts, then all the rest of math will come easier.
- If your older child is entering math subjects that are over your own ability (or time available), don’t hesitate to use a tutor, use a DVD or online curriculum, or enroll him at a local community college. A option we’ve liked this year has been http://www.khanacademy.org/.
- A not-free but helpful math choice: http://www.mathonthelevel.com/
- Free Choices: http://www.multiplication.com/ and http://www.mathcats.com/ and http://www.aplusmath.com/Worksheets/.
- It seems to me that most of my mistakes in science happen when I buy expensive curriculum (with experiment kits included), then we just run out of time and energy in a day to complete all the many things suggested. If you’re having trouble with science, try simplifying.
- Free Choices: http://thefalers.tripod.com/id29.html and http://handbookofnaturestudy.blogspot.com/.
- The best way, I think, to learn history is to grab a good book, gather your children around you, then read aloud to them. After a chapter or two, stop and discuss it. Good listings of books for history are available in All Through the Ages.
- At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think that one of the best world history choices on the market is free, written by Christine Miller and available at http://www.classical-homeschooling.org/curriculum/history-grammar.html.
- Don’t forget that your children need to “put first things first” in their lives, too, so try to always include God’s Word in your homeschooling day, no matter what else you do or don’t get done.
- You can keep it simple, such as online devotions by Keys for Kids at http://cbhministries.org/kfk/home.php.
- You can simply read a chapter from the Bible aloud and discuss it.
- Finally, you can get a little fancier and purchase Bible curriculum (such as the Foundations Bible Curriculum we publish). This option will probably help you be consistent.
- Free choices: http://torahschool.wordpress.com/ and http://www.anchorcross.org/books/BiblePlan_web.pdf
If you are a first-time homeschooler, you might like to see some of the curriculum purchasing suggestions we have made in our book, Just Tell Me What to Order. Then, next year, you will at least know what you didn’t like and can make a more educated choice for the following year.