Two things generally happen when I look at homeschool curriculum websites, articles, and catalogs with the idea of choosing homeschool curriculum.
My eyes glaze over.
My brain wants to shut down.
Choosing Homeschool Curriculum
Choosing homeschool curriculum is often a contributing factor to homeschool stress. I think there are a number of reasons for that.
- It’s often expensive so we don’t want to make a costly mistake.
- There are so many choices it is overwhelming.
- We don’t want to mess up our child’s education and teach her the wrong things.
- We feel pressure from friends, family, and other homeschoolers to do school a certain way.
- It’s tempting to get sucked into the newest and hottest thing.
I do think it is possible to greatly reduce the amount of stress related to choosing curriculum if we adjust our mindset a bit.
Homeschool Curriculum Choices
First, accept the fact that you are going to waste money. You are. So cut yourself some slack from the start and accept that NOBODY makes perfect curriculum choices every time, every year. It happens to all of us.
The second is this bit of wisdom from a veteran homeschool mom. I’ve linked to this many times since she wrote it in 2007, but it is so true. Anna at Pleasant View Schoolhouse wrote in Homeschooling Heresies:
Curriculum doesn’t matter. I don’t care what I use to teach my children. Give me something, and I will make it work. I am deeply wary of the desire for perfect teaching materials, and I view the search for the magic bullet curriculum as a time and money pit. Because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you sat down with your child and together engaged in mastering an idea.
If you aren’t familiar with Anna and her children… I would say her approach has worked out very well for their family eight years later. Don’t miss the rest of that post.
So how do we reduce the stress of choosing curriculum? Here are a few suggestions.
Adapting Homeschool Curriculum
When classroom teachers are given curriculum, they adapt is as they see fit for their students. Unless their school district is incredibly rigid, teachers take what they are given and do what works for them. They never use it as it is written. (Often they don’t even LIKE what they’ve been given!)
That’s what we should do as homeschool moms as well. As Anna said in her post, adapt rather than buy different. If you discover you’ve purchased curriculum and it isn’t working, ask yourself why. Ask your child why. You may be able to continue to use it but in a modified fashion. Sometimes it might truly be something that you cannot salvage, but oftentimes you can.
Get Rid of Homeschool Curriculum
If you can’t figure out a way to adapt it to make it work, get rid of it. It’s not worth the stress and conflict. You would be better off printing free worksheets from the internet for a few months than trying to use something that isn’t ever going to work. For example, I bought Life of Fred to try with Caroline after reading how many children who are wired like her love it. She hated it. Flat out rejected it. If you’ve ever seen it, you know there really isn’t any way to adapt it. Chalk it up to a loss and move on.
Work With Your Child’s Natural Bent
Be sure to work with your child’s natural bent. I’ve said it before, but my learning style and Caroline’s are different in many ways. It really doesn’t matter what I like. I have to work with her natural bent. I have to figure out how to work with who she is and plan to accommodate her needs.
So seek to understand your child and then choose. If you are choosing based on your school experiences or what you think a “good homeschooler” should do, then you may end up with curriculum that doesn’t work for your child. We all choose to homeschool so we can give our children the education they need. The way we do that best is by working with who our child is whether it is his personality type or his age-specific needs.
Keep Homeschooling Simple and Be Realistic
Keep it simple because less is more. We all start off the year with these grandiose plans about how much we are going to accomplish. The reality is most of us are biting off way more than we can chew. Then we feel guilty for not using the things we so carefully purchased which leads to more guilt. Instead of trying to cram in as much as possible, how about trying to do the minimum and open up more play time for your child?
Have clear and realistic goals. If you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish,it is going to be hard to select curriculum that will get you there. Don’t worry about the goals of other families in real life or online. The only family that matters is yours. Set clear and realistic goals and then find the materials that will help you achieve those goals.
Be realistic about your own limitations. You know what classroom teachers lament? There isn’t enough time. You know what homeschool parents lament? There isn’t enough time. No teacher can meet the needs of every student. And you know what? You can’t meet every perceived academic need of your child. You really can’t. You have to choose where you are going to focus your time and energy. Just like every child who graduates from traditional school has holes in his/her education, so will your child. That’s just reality. No one does it all. No school system does and no homeschool mom will either. If you think you can find curriculum so your child’s education has no holes, you will slowly drive yourself insane. Seriously.
So as you decide on curriculum for the upcoming year or try to figure out what to do with the mess you currently find yourself facing, remember that choosing curriculum is a problem that can be solved. You can make changes. And you will find an answer!