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5 Questions to Ask Before Trashing Your Homeschool Curriculum

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It happens to every homeschooling family at some point – you discover that your carefully-researched homeschooling curriculum isn’t meeting your expectations. But tossing curriculum after you’ve invested your time and money isn’t an easy decision.

How do you know when it’s time to change curriculum?

changing curriculum

Before You Trash Your Homeschool Curriculum, Ask Yourself:

1. Is it a readiness issue?

Sometimes the problem isn’t the curriculum. Instead, it’s a child who isn’t developmentally ready for a particular skill. Is your child is easily frustrated with the curriculum or failing to retain what he’s learning despite obvious effort? If so, try putting the curriculum aside for awhile. Sometimes a few weeks or months can make a world of difference.

While there’s nothing wrong with simply putting the curriculum aside for awhile, you may also want to try other low-key ways to work on the skill, or some aspects of it, in the meantime. Try playing games, using educational apps, watching videos, or enjoying lots of great books together.

2. Have you given it enough time?

Sometimes, particularly with a complex subject or a more in-depth curriculum, it takes some time to find your groove, work out the kinks, and get comfortable with the curriculum. Make sure you – and your kids – are giving it a fair shake before tossing it aside.

Is there a customer service number or a forum of users? Many homeschool vendors now have Facebook user groups for their products. Those are great places to ask questions or seek tips on using the product. It’s okay to ask. That’s why those resources are available.

3. Is there a conflict with your child’s learning style or your teaching style?

Obviously, everything isn’t going to be a perfect fit for your child’s learning style or your preferred teaching style. However, when there is a choice between something that does fit those preferences and something that doesn’t, I’d lean toward the one that does.

What if your teaching style and your child’s learning style are polar opposites? That situation may require a bit of trial and error. If a curriculum is a good fit for your child, but it bores you to tears, you may have to pull out the tissues and deal with it.

On the other hand, enthusiasm is contagious. Your student may catch your excitement for the curriculum if it’s a particularly good fit for you.

4. Are you using the product as it’s intended?

I am constantly tweaking curriculum to fit my family’s needs and style. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, when using a new program or product, I make an effort to use it just as it’s laid out for a few weeks.

In most cases, you can’t get a good feel for curriculum or figure out where and how you may need to tweak it until you’ve spent some time using it as the author developed it.

If something feels like a poor fit, but you haven’t even read the introduction, try following the teaching guide for a few weeks before tossing the curriculum.

homeschool curriculum

(Pictured above: curriculum my family loves)

5. Can you tweak it?

If you’ve ruled out the potential issues I’ve mentioned, the next thing to ask yourself is, “Can I tweak it?”

Here’s where the fun comes in! It’s rare to find a curriculum that fits your family perfectly right out of the box. That’s okay. If it provides a good base, look for ways to flesh it out and make it work for your family.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Take what works and change what doesn’t to create the perfect curriculum for your family.” quote=”You don’t have to choose all or nothing with your homeschool curriculum. Take what works well and find alternatives for what doesn’t to create the perfect fit for your family.”]

Some areas to consider:

  • Need something more hands-on? If so, what can you add? Related games, experiments, lapbooks, drama, or art?
  • Does it need more literature? Related literature, biographies, and historical fiction can bring subjects like history and science – and even math – to life.
  • Need something meatier? Use it as a spine book and add videos from the library, YouTube, or Netflix along with more in-depth reading, related writing assignments, or online research to flesh it out.
  • Can you do the assignments differently? Try speeches, oral presentations, dramas, photo journaling, or making a video or Power Point presentation as alternatives to more traditional question and answer assignments. If you have a child who finds writing difficult, let him dictate his answers to you. Complete the assignments together on the white board with you doing the writing.
  • Can you use some, but not all of the curricula? Maybe you like the writing assignments, but you aren’t crazy about the reading choices. Perhaps you like the science experiments, but you’d prefer different books to introduce the topics. Take what you can use and leave or modify the rest.

You don’t have to choose all or nothing with your homeschool curriculum. Take what works well and find alternatives for what doesn’t to create the perfect fit for your family.

Questions to Ask Before Changing Homeschool Curriculum

What about if you’ve tried everything and you still just really don’t like the curriculum? It’s time to move on.

Yes, changing curriculum may feel like a waste of money, but forcing yourself and your children to endure a bad choice is a recipe for a miserable homeschool year.

Forcing your family to endure a bad curriculum choice is a recipe for a miserable homeschool year. Click to Tweet

It’s better to chalk up the loss to a lesson learned and move on. Offer the discarded curriculum to a friend or sell it at a used book sale. What doesn’t work for you might prove the perfect fit for another family.

Have you ever purchased curriculum that wasn’t a good fit for your family? What suggestions would you add for those who find themselves in that position?

updated from an article originally published August 14, 2012

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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    1. After some discussion between Brianna, my husband, and me, we all — even Brianna — agreed that she would stay more focused and on-track if we removed the distraction of the computer during the school day. The temptation to check email/Facebook/YouTube was too great and Brianna wasn’t able to manage her time well with all of her work being on the computer. Already, she’s staying much more on top of her schoolwork and enjoying it much more.

      1. Good call! I was contemplating using Switched On, but hesitated because of the whole computer distraction issue. Thank you for your reply. 🙂

  1. Great post! We’ve ditched a few curriculum in our years, some that we ended up coming back to because I didn’t really think it through ;). I always try to remember why I chose it in the first place. If it’s not meeting my original goals and can’t be easily tweaked, it’s time to move on.

  2. I love this post. Yes, we’ve purchased many products that I regretted later, especially when we first began homeschooling, but even now, more than ten years later. Your thought process of assessing the not-so-great-for-me curriculum is very helpful not only for the present product but also for assessing future decisions.

  3. So very true! I had purchased a language arts curriculum last year based on my sister-in-law’s recommendation and struggled with it for weeks before I finally realized it wasn’t a good fit for my teaching style. I finally ditched it and found something else that wasn’t perfect, but worked better for us!

  4. These are fabulous reminders! With a gazillion curriculum options, it’s easy to get swayed by the latest and greatest. I try to remind myself that it might be the latest thing, but if I don’t understand a sentence of the teacher’s manual, or my kids think it’s cheesy, it doesn’t matter how great it is. That’s one of the best parts of homeschool, tailoring your curriculum. Ok, and also making sugar cookie planets…but that’s not the point of this post 🙂 Great thoughts and questions!

  5. Great post! I just decided to ditch a curriculum last week after struggling with my youngest. The oldest used it just fine but she is my Type “A” and it was just not meshing with my youngest free spirit. Trail Guide to Learning will be here next week 🙂

  6. Oh, and when you find the right curriculum – even if it needs some tweaking – it feels so good! After trying several different options – online public academy in Kindergarten, then a half a year with My Father’s World – we settled on Ambleside Online. It was like coming home for all of us. My kids were excited to have me reading to them. I love talking about books with them. We all respond well to the literature-based learning. It is usually a good idea to pause and take stock, but if a curriculum is not working (especially in the early years) DON’T be afraid to move on!

  7. I’m glad I just keep browsing through your blog after reading your Trail Guides to Learning Review. Answering the questions has solidified my decision (that along with prayer!) We pulled DS13 out of school last November when we were back to doing 3-5 hours of homework with him.

    We dumped the L.A. program after 2 months. I really needed to be trained in the program in order to teach it. We’ve been using History & Science from another company and have made it through 4 & 5 chapters, respectively, since January 2013. Even doing the worksheets and review orally. Even with adding notebooking pages. Lots and lots of prep work for me and lots and lots of teaching, with very little real learning taking place. Time for a change.

    I finally reviewed the learning styles assessments that DH, DS21, DS13 and I completed last spring. Real eye-opener! Trail Guides to Learning seems to be a perfect fit for him. It reminded me of his 6th grade year in an Upper Grade Montessori classroom. He just blossomed in that environment. We’re ready for a curriculum that fits his learning style better.

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