I recently had a conversation with a homeschooling mom that was new to our state and starting her second year of homeschooling. She’s been using online public programs up to this point and had changed programs due to moving, but she was already really unhappy with the new program here in Colorado.
As she shared her concerns with me and a couple of veteran homeschooling moms who joined us at the park, it was clear that she felt stuck. Stuck in the way that we might find ourselves in a traditional schooling program, when we can’t do anything about the teacher our child was placed with, who’s sitting next to them in the classroom, or what curriculum or teaching approach is going to be used — whether we like it or not. She was still getting settled in a new home, a new town, a new state, and a new online public school program — and she was unhappy. However, she was unhappy with the one thing she COULD change: her homeschooling program choice.
Depending on your state, your homeschooling options may be completely free, very restricted, or something in between. Here in Colorado, we’re free to choose between a couple of homeschooling enrollment options and depending on the route we choose, we are pretty free when it comes to curriculum choices. So we explained to this troubled mom that she could choose to enroll with another umbrella independent school and gain complete flexibility in her curriculum choices. This is just one of a few choices she has here. In other words, she’s not stuck after all!
If you’re homeschooling in a state where you have flexibility to change homeschool curriculum or programs that you’re enrolled with during the school year, how do you know when it’s time to consider making a change?
When your children are struggling
Most curriculum programs follow a specific teaching method — classical, unit study, Charlotte Mason, interest-led, spiral method math, mastery math… just to name a few! And if you’re homeschooling more than one child, you are probably also juggling the different learning styles of your children. While I do believe you need to be practical about how you approach “custom-fitting” curriculum to each child, I do think it’s important to pay attention when something isn’t working at all. If you suspect learning styles might be an issue, here’s a post about identifying and working with the learning styles of your children.
For example, my youngest daughter was homeschooled from the start, so I am teaching her to read. We’ve tried a few different programs based on the strong recommendation of others, but I’ve discovered that her kinesthetic and auditory learning strengths don’t mesh with a lot of the obvious choices. So we’ve had to work through some trial and error to find the best solution for her — and now she’s taking off!
When you are struggling
We have A LOT of quality homeschooling programs to choose from today, unlike my experience as a homeschooled student in the late 80s. There are so many attractive choices that the sheer volume of choices can overwhelm you from the start. Once you finally make some choices, you may discover that in daily practice it’s just not the right fit for you. Whether it’s feeling overwhelmed and “ruled” by the rigors of a lesson plan, or feeling like you’re not engaged enough, it’s very possible that even a wonderful program won’t work for you. As the teacher and decision-maker for your students, you can do something about that, too!
When circumstances change
Life happens, and life changes can have a major impact on how you homeschool. Whether it’s having a new baby, health challenges, moving, work schedule changes… you name it, and it can change your ability to continue using curriculum that was working for you before. One of the many blessings of homeschooling is the flexibility to make changes and even take a break when necessary. Stay focused on what’s important for your family, and don’t worry about “catching up.” God is right alongside us through challenging seasons: He knows what you’re dealing with and He will provide!
When God leads you in a different direction
The most important reason to make any changes in your curriculum is if you believe God is directing you to take another path. As you continue to seek the Lord for wisdom in the discipleship and education of your children, you may find that a particular co-op, program, or curriculum series you’ve been using doesn’t fit the plans He’s giving you. Pray for discernment about all of your curriculum choices, and continue to be sensitive to God’s direction.
I believe these are all valid reasons to consider making curriculum changes — even during the school year if necessary. Take it from me: I have made a lot of curriculum changes in my four-year homeschooling history, and I do feel that most of the changes were for the right reasons. On the other hand, I do think there are a couple of reasons NOT to switch curriculum, such as comparing yourself to others or trying to find a quick fix to a bigger issue.
You might find that you’re the only one in your local homeschooling community using the curriculum you chose — that’s OK! Don’t change your plans to fit into a co-op unless you feel led to do so. Just because a few moms think a certain program is the best doesn’t mean it will work for you. Homeschooling is about making God the center of your home and following his guidance for YOUR family, regardless of what’s going on around you.
Changing curriculum isn’t going to fix bigger issues, either. For example, if you’re having discipline or motivation issues, curriculum isn’t going to turn your child around on its own. Make sure you identify the true cause for dissatisfaction. Your child might also be struggling with comparison issues: “But my friend uses such-and-such and says it’s a lot more fun than what we do.” Whatever the cause, if it’s not truly learning-related, then new curriculum isn’t going to make a difference. Pray for direction in how to address the heart issues instead.
Now that you’re probably a month or two into your new school year, how are you feeling about the curriculum choices you’ve made? Did the puzzle pieces fall into place? Or are any of the reasons above causing you to re-examine anything? What makes you question whether a curriculum program is going to work for you? What questions do you have about finding the right curriculum fit for your family?