Sunday, January 24, 2016

When Your Chosen Curriculum and Your Child Don't "Mesh"

I'm currently in my 3rd year of homeschooling my kiddos who are now ages 8, 6, 4, and 2.  We have always used the same curriculum (A Beka) as it was a fantastic program.  It was also familiar as that's what we used at the Christian school where I taught Kindergarten.  It was easy, effective, and challenging for my kiddos.

Because I loved the curriculum and it seemed to work well with our children, it never occurred to me that at some point it may cease to "mesh" well with my children.  And honestly, it took a good month or two of struggling through math each day with my just turned 8 year old before I realized that maybe it just wasn't a good fit for her learning style and personality.  My school-loving child had come to HATE math, and was beginning to look for ways to skip out of math each day.  When we did sit down to do math together, it was a long and stressful process.  I finally realized that maybe this was not the best curriculum for her to be using right now.

One of the most incredible blessings of homeschooling is that you are able to follow your child's lead when it comes to their education.  You're able to switch it up, try new things, and find what works for YOU and YOUR child.  It's also incredibly challenging to do so!

When your chosen curriculum doesn't "mesh" with your child....change it up!  You are not required to stick with a curriculum forever.  But since there are SO many curriculums out there, this can be a daunting task.  Here are some things to consider and try...

1.  Talk to other homeschoolers.  Ask around!  Even if you don't have many real-life homeschooling friends, there are MANY Facebook groups that offer support and encouragement in all things homeschooling.  Ask what their favorite curriculums are and why.  Ask if anyone has a child with similar personality tendencies or a similar learning style, and ask what they use.  If you have friends near you, ask to look through their curriculums or to borrow a grade that they're not currently using so you can try it out for a few weeks.  Many of my curriculum choices came from viewing and looking through a friend's curriculum, or through feedback I received online from friends near and far.

2.  Shop around.  Homeschooling supplies can be pricey!  I typically buy student work books direct from the publishers, but all other curriculum supplies, including curriculum books, can be purchased used online.  Ebay is a great place to start.  I recommend shopping there in late fall or in winter as that's off season for school supplies and the prices are better.  Prices on eBay in late spring or summer might still offer savings, but they will certainly be more expensive than the other times.  Join local homeschool marketplaces on Facebook, as well as some of the larger homeschool marketplaces that span across America.  Also look for curriculum-specific Facebook curriculum marketplaces (i.e. "A Beka Curriculum Marketplace").  Start keeping your eyes open for deals on the curriculums you've chosen, and buy them when you find a great price.  I recently bought one of our newest curriculums at a discount of over $100, and it was almost completely new!

3.  Don't be afraid to mix and match curriculums.  When we used A Beka, we used it for all subjects.  We supplemented our lessons with other books and activities and classes, but for our sit-down book learning, it was all through A Beka.  In light of Ellie not meshing with the A Beka math, we are now breaking up our curriculums and finding a variety of sources for learning.  While Zoe (6) is still primarily all A Beka, Ellie is now in a variety of curriculums to meet her needs.

For example, Ellie (8, 3rd grade) is using:

*A Beka Language Arts, 4th grade (Except independent chapter books as she doesn't enjoy the A Beka readers)
*Teaching Textbooks for Math, 4th grade  (Computer component, which Ellie loves; TT seems to be generally behind other math curriculums, with this comparing to 3rd grade A Beka math)
*Life of Fred math books (stories for math?!?!  TOTALLY my Ellie)
*A Beka 3rd grade history & science (I actually use these to teach all three of my big kids together)
*My Father's World, Exploring Countries & Cultures for a combo of history, Bible, geography, science, literature, music and art (designed to teach multiple children together, which will save me SO much time in the coming years)

4. Sell your old stuff.  Unless you plan to still use a curriculum with another child coming up, sell those books!  Local and national marketplace boards, as well as eBay, are quick and easy ways to sell your items.  Fortunately, curriculums retain a pretty good resale value, so you can often make a good chunk of your money back to pay for other needed curriculums.

5.  Don't be afraid to scratch a choice.  So you bought a new curriculum and you happen to hate it?  Your child finds it boring?  You just can't make it work with all your other books and lessons?  Don't stress!  Not everything that works for someone else is going to work for you.  Just because it worked for your best friend does not mean it will work for your family.  And that's okay!  Again,  curriculums have great resale value, and if your curriculum is still in fabulous condition and barely used, you'll probably be able to get back most of what you spent.  Don't be afraid to try again with a different curriculum!

6.  Don't feel rushed.  You have plenty of time to figure it out.  Don't let the stress of trying to find a new curriculum cause your days with your kids to go haywire.  Find some fun resources in the meantime (Khan academy online is a fun, free math program my kids often use in "down time") or some new books from the library for them to check out while you research and hunt for curriculums.  Homeschoolers have flexibility...use it in your favor!  Take a breath, give yourself some time, and find what works.  We often work through traditional school breaks but take breaks whenever we need or want to.  If you take a break now, you can "make it up" on other traditional break days.  No big deal!

Sometimes a curriculum and a child don't mesh.  That's okay.  As homeschooling parents, we have so many options and choices at our fingertips, that there's bound to be the perfect fit out there for your child.

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