Friday, April 10, 2015

The Curriculum Wars

It is that time of year again.... homeschool conferences and curriculum fairs.  For a new homeschooler the choices can be overwhelming.  For the first few years we homeschooled, it was exciting AND overwhelming to me.  I don't claim to be an expert even now, after over 7 years of homeschooling (not counting the preschool years), but I am one of those people who believes in learning through mistakes and sharing knowledge.  I felt led to write this article because I believe I am not alone in my experiences.  This is for the new homeschool parents as well as those who have been at it a while and need a pep-talk!!  What I share here is what I have found to work for us... it may not be for everyone....
Know your child's learning style and teach to it... you will see this a lot in blogs, books and articles.  If you listen to nothing else veteran homeschoolers suggest, listen to this one.  It will save you a TON of headache and help you pick the best educational materials.  This article gives a quick run-down on styles with some helpful links to assessing your child's learning style.  Keep in mind, sometimes learning style changes as they get older. If you keep their learning styles in mind and not your own idea of how they should learn, your homeschool will be more peaceful (not necessarily perfect, just less overwhelming!)

Pick a Math Program that works and stick with it... if I were to change one thing about our homeschool, this would be it.  I have one public school graduate, pulled 2 out when they were 4th and 2nd grade and a fourth who has never attended public school.  I was on such a budget when we first started (my husband got laid off halfway into our first year) that I pieced our math program together with odds-and-ends, half missing workbooks I found at garage sales, gifted public school curriculum and partial freebies on the Internet.  This left gaps in their math learning I am having to make up for now, 7 years later.  We could have actually had more fun had we just stuck with one.  When I did find a program I (mostly) liked and could afford, I let other people's poor opinions affect my own and I tried to find alternatives to replace what was already working.  There are rare exceptions, but if it works, stick with it.

More money does not always = better curriculum.  If you can't afford Teaching Textbooks, don't think you are failing your kids in their education.  If you can't drop hundreds of dollars on full Sonlight curriculum, don't fret!  There is a plethora of more cost effective programs (and even some free ones), your kids can and will still excel with.

Pick a Language Arts Program that works and stick with it... some will say L.A. is not critical, I'm not here to debate that idea.  Just, simply, if you are pro-L.A., stick with what works for your kids.  Another mistake I made recently!  Our program worked but I thought I could find something better.  I didn't recognize the step-by-step process and value which comes from sticking with it and following it all the way through.  Now, the fact is, we all miss the old program (and are going back to it in the fall).  The cohesiveness produced results.... maybe not always instant results.... but results none-the-less.  For you, this could be Notebooking, it may be full Charlotte Mason, you might prefer Classical.... whatever it is, if God has led you to it, if it fits your kids' learning style, USE IT and stick with it, don't let the surrounding debates dissuade you from what you feel Led to do.

There is no such thing as "perfect".... perfect curriculum, perfect homeschool, perfect anything.  Math and L.A. above as just two examples.... I have yet to meet a perfect curriculum that I didn't feel the need to alter in some way.  Pray over material you and your children feel comfortable with.  Seek help for the tricky areas, cut out the non-essentials, and enjoy it for it's intended value.  Nothing in life is "perfect", why should homeschooling and the curriculum we use be?!

Consistency is key... perhaps the first few points subtly say this but I want to be clear! Whatever the subject, whatever the schedule, whatever the method.... consistency is key.  It is true, if something doesn't work, drop it.  However, in all fairness, give it time.  Some methods, curriculum, schedules don't seem like they are working at first.  It often takes time and consistency for everyone to fall in line with expectations and the rhythm of things.  Results will come, just be consistent, be patient and give it time.  On a related topic.....

Kids complain, it is unavoidable...  We may be homeschooling but we are still working with kids who will often find an excuse to complain or simply get out of school work for the day.  Don't think this means your curriculum is to blame.... and don't despair.  It doesn't mean you failed, it simply means our children are human!!  You are blessed indeed if you tour through ALL the homeschool years without this age-old annoyance occurring at least once but most likely, expect it from age 11 on up (some kids even sooner)!! 

Repetition is a good thing... maybe you know this.  I had a chip on my shoulder when we started homeschool.  It is a long story but sufficed to say, I was tiered of the boring repetition of public school so I did away with it.  I'm finding out, 7 years later, that rotations on a cycle of repeated topics actually re-enforce learning.  Maybe not every year on everything, but every couple years come back around.  For example, we did an in-depth study of the solar system 7 years ago and again about 4 years ago.... yet, when I asked my kids (in review and out of curiosity) to name all the planets this past fall.... they couldn't!!!  On that note....

Don't feel like the dunce when your kids don't know...countless times we have been around others who, upon discovering we homeschool, feel the need to pop-quiz my kids on a topic and my children reply with blank stares.  I usually rush in to explain we really have covered the topic but they don't remember.... or we haven't touched on it yet.... I'm always afraid someone will judge our ability and qualifications as homeschoolers if my kids don't get it right.  I realized something these last few years: does anyone do this with public schoolers?  I tried it and guess what I found out.....?  They don't know all the answers either!!!!  So rest assured, your homeschooler doesn't need to be an expert on everything to pass the sniff test.  After all, how many full grown adults loose on public t.v. while competing in Jeff Foxworthy's "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader"!?!

Pray and Follow What God Shows You.... This is the single.most.important.point in this entire article.  There will be many opinions, facts, and great ideas out there, but you will have to follow what God leads you to do, no matter what that is.  Which leads me to the partner of this piece...

It isn't about looks... don't worry what others think or say.  If you are following God's plan for your homeschool, that is all that matters.  Maybe you feel led to un-school, don't let the rigid schoolers tell you you can't.  Maybe you feel led to do school-at-home complete with desks for each student, don't let the eclectic or un-school groups tell you you are wrong. If you know in your heart it is the plan God has for your family, that is ALL that matters.  Most of all, don't let the public school advocates make you feel wrong or uncomfortable for homeschooling... even if they are your parents or siblings or best friends!  They aren't the ones who answer for your children's upbringing, you and your spouse are.

I hope this helps as you consider upcoming book sales and curriculum fairs.  It is easy to get excited and want one of everything!!!  Or overwhelmed and dazed.  Pray and stick to the plan God shows you.

I just attended a book fair on Friday.  I was blessed to order my upcoming Senior student's Civics, History and Economics and my sophomore's Geometry along with teaching key all on discount and payment because it was a display fair.  The second greatest part; if I cover and take care of them, they will last for all my students and maybe even my grandchildren (one of my kids mentioned this the other day!!)  Also, our local homeschool organization holds an annual book sale in May which I just LOVE attending.  Parents bring their used/not needed curriculum and usually, for around $20, I can round out the remainder of the next year's needs while blessing fellow homeschoolers! 

I pray all your homeschooling adventures are blessed ones, guided by the Father's hand and given for His Glory.


Article to come.... Confessions of a Curriculum Addict!!!!

Linking up today with:


  1. Such good advice! I reflected on my picks (and I did tons of things) from the last 2 years and did some cuts on things I knew didn't work. Math, Spelling, Vocabulary and Science were the biggies for us.

    1. There is so much great stuff out there.... it is hard to cut but always better for our homeschool when we are honest with ourselves :-) Blessings to you and God's guidance as you maneuver for next year!

  2. This got me thinking I should look for curriculum for kindergarten this fall. Any suggestions on where to start?

    1. Hi Bethany :-) Considering Curriculum at the Kindergarten level sort of depends on what you have been doing so far. Good Early Childhood education (especially with boys as you have) is best done on interest led basis and highly kin-esthetic. Depending on the direction you want your homeschool to go (traditional, classical, Charlotte Mason, eclectic etc) would depend on how seriously you want to look at curriculum at this stage. For a more traditional approach you will want to look into places like Sonlight or Abeka or others which offer the traditional workbook etc. Or, for a more interest led direction, just continue to keep a lot of hands-on material available like magnetic numbers, blocks, unifix cubes, etc. Check out my Pinterest under Early Childhood Ed, I try to share ideas I think others might find helpful there :-) Also, Jump Start videos are GREAT for learning letters, numbers and basic words. My kids thrived with Leap, Tad and Lilly in Letter Factory and Word Factory at that stage. I think Netflix offers these now on instant watch! I will work on an article with more details since, as you can see, it isn't a cut and dry answer! Thank you for the great question!