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Before You Bail on a Curriculum

Ahh…January.  A month of new beginnings.  Fresh starts.  A chance to re-evaluate and make adjustments.  For the homeschool mom, the “new” of January often brings an opportunity to overhaul the chosen curriculum.

It is likely that after four to five months of use, the honeymoon stage of all the books and lesson plan guides purchased last fall is over.  The sparkle of excitement for learning that both you and your children shared back in September has probably began to fade.  With the realization that the mid-year hump has arrived, you might be regretting the idea of continuing the school year with your curriculum choices, especially if they have, at times, brought tears of frustration or have not lived up to your expectations.  Chances are, you might be entertaining notions of pulling out all those curriculum catalogs in hopes of starting fresh.  But, before you “jump ship” on your previously purchased program,   I encourage you to ask yourself a few basic questions.

Is the lack of motivation a discipline issue?

If your desire to change curriculums stems from having a frustrated learner who dreads any or all subjects, consider that the frustration might simply be a child with a bad attitude.  If so, switching curriculums is not the answer.  You could drain your bank account buying the latest “it” program only to sell it all on next month’s garage sale.  If your child has a negative attitude about a subject, every curriculum, no matter how wonderful it is, will seem like a failure.  Before bailing on your current situation, take some time to evaluate the source of the frustration.  Is it truly from a mediocre program or is it just the negative attitude coming from a child who would rather play than work.

Am I adhering too rigidly to a prescribe pace?

Many of the major curriculums come complete with suggested lesson plans and schedules.  And although there are many benefits to a “boxed” curriculum, they often don’t account for the individuality of an individual.  Perhaps the frustration comes from a hasty pace that has not allowed your child to fully grasp one concept before being thrust onto the next.  Or on the flipside, maybe the pace is too slow and your child is unchallenged and bored.  Either way, never feel trapped by a pre-written schedule.  Allow you and your child the liberation that comes from setting your OWN pace for learning.  Consider keeping your current curriculum but use the schedule as a “suggestion” and not a dogma.

Am I only utilizing the basics?

For the harried homeschool mom, it is easy to opt out of the hands-on science experiment or the art project that promises a lengthy clean-up process.  But, by removing all “extras” from the curriculum and only making time for the black-and-white page, you could unintentionally be sabotaging your school year.  Although the “basics” are a much-needed foundation for education, they are not usually what ignites a love of learning into most people.  If your child is staring at five more months of lifeless academia, he/she is naturally going to resist the current plan.  Set a goal to add in one fun “extra” to your curriculum and watch as the spark begins to return.

If after you’ve thoroughly examined these possibilities, you still feel like a change is due, ask yourself this…

Can I re-purpose some or all of my current curriculum?

What was it that attracted you to the curriculum choice in the first place?  Did it come with a nice assortment of manipulatives and games?  Did it have a thorough time-line or wonderfully written text?  Chances are, the elements that made the program worth buying months ago can be salvaged and repurposed with another curriculum.  Don’t make the mistake of tossing out the entire course simply because some or even most of it was not a good fit for you or your child.  Get creative and determine to find new function for as much of it as possible.
In the end, the decision to change courses mid-stream is a difficult one; one that should be made only after a thorough assessment of many factors.  I’ve, obviously, only touched on a few.  It is true…January can be a great time for fresh starts and new beginnings.  In light of homeschool curriculum, the “new” doesn’t always have to come from a flashy new program with an equally flashy price tag.  On the contrary, sometimes it comes from having a different perspective on the “old.”
Jamie E

Jamie E

Owner/Writer at The Unlikely Homeschool
Formerly an elementary school teacher, Jamie left the school desk to bring the learning home in 2006. She is the doting wife to “Mr. Right” and blessed momma of five gifts. After some simple trial-and-error, she found herself homeschooling with an eclectic, Charlotte Mason-esque approach. Somewhere between diapers and division flashcards, she finds time to write and speak about parenting, organization, and homeschooling.

Comments

  1. Hi Jamie! Great post, as usual. :) I would be one to jump around to many different curriculums if it weren’t for my wonderful, engineering, very steady husband who always encourages us to finish what we start. Thankful for him!

  2. I just recently went through something like this. I wanted to change curriculum because I thought a new one would be a better fit for my family. I was so excited over making the change and thought my family would be too. My children cried and begged to keep their books. I decided to stay the course since my children cried for their current curriculum.

  3. Great insight!!! Um…I’m guilty of a couple of those! :(

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on not doing just the “basics.” That is what happened to us, and we became bored after spending a good chunk of money on brand new curriculum with the add on package.

  4. What a great post. Thanks for the great advice. I have to remind myself that this is not school and I am homeschooling and don’t have to do things exactly as written.

  5. I guess I was lucky from the very beginning. I found a curriculum that I love, that my daughter loves and that really works for her. (Time4Learning). I didn’t have to make major financial commitments up front, and it doesn’t give me a timeline that puts undue pressure on me or my daughter. I can see sticking to a curriculum for financial reasons (some are very expensive) and even sticking because you might think your child just needs an attitude adjustment. But one of the beauties of homeschooling is being able to individualize your child’s education, and if something is not working it is time to try something else. I think it is more important to me that we maintain forward momentum and not get bogged down in something that isn’t working or is making me or my daughter miserable. I guess the biggest question then, is when do you stay the course, and when do you move on. The answer to that is as individual as the families that are homeschooling. Thanks for some great food for thought!

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