5 Simple Ways to Make Homeschool Curriculum Work for You


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This time of year is when many homeschool parents are feeling stressed and burned out in ways that have nothing to do with the holiday season. No, the kind of stress and fatigue I’m talking about comes from trying to stick with a curriculum that isn’t working.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of allowing yourself to become a slave to your homeschool curriculum. And, although I’m entirely in favor of changing curriculum mid-year if that’s the best option, hopping from curriculum to curriculum is a frustrating waste of time and money.

How to Make Homeschool Curriculum Work for You

Despite the wonderfully diverse variety of options, there isn’t that a perfect curriculum that’s going to meet all the needs of every homeschooling family.  Rather than wasting time and money looking for something that doesn’t exist, it makes more sense to find the best – not perfect – fit and make it work for you.

So, how do you make homeschool curriculum work for you?

1. Use What Works and Toss What Doesn’t

Brianna used History Odyssey for high school history. We loved the way the texts were laid out, but some of the research and writing projects were overwhelming for her dyslexic mind. Also, we were using Institute for Excellence in Writing at the time. Having two separate writing assignments would probably have sent her completely over the edge.

We took the elements of the curriculum that worked for us and skipped the rest. That allowed us to focus on the positives of the text without letting it become a source of frustration. Brianna did the History Odyssey map work, outlines, reading, and other assignments, but skipped most of the writing assignments, doing those in IEW instead.

2. Use Curriculum as a Spine or Guide

Maybe you need some direction in a particular subject – just a little help knowing what to cover and when – but you don’t like the details of your curriculum’s lesson plans.  If the information works for you, you can still use the curriculum as your guide. Just teach the topic in the way that best suits your family.

For example, let’s say you’re teaching math to your Kindergartener and you don’t want to use workbooks, but you do want to make sure you cover everything in a logical sequence. You can still follow the order of ideas presented in that highly-recommended math curriculum’s workbook, but teach the concepts in a way that suits your family’s personality. You may want to use a more low-key, hands-on approach, for example, such as counting beans together or sorting buttons.

3. Don’t Do Every Bit of Every Assignment

You’re the teaching parent. You get to decide what constitutes an assignment. Nothing says that your child has to do every single problem or fill in every single blank on a page.

Remember high school math?  Our teachers usually assigned all the odd problems or all the even, but I rarely remember having to do every single problem…thank goodness!

Before we made the switch to Teaching Textbooks {tossing confetti}, we used and loved Horizons math for many years. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that there were frequently a lot of problems on a page. Unless it was a new concept, my kids knew they only had to do half the problems. If it was clear from the work they completed that the kids understood the idea, we moved on. If they were struggling, I’d go over the other half of the problems with them as extra practice.

How to Make Homeschool Curriculum Work for You

4. Modify the Curriculum to Meet Your Child’s Learning Needs

Do you like everything about a particular curriculum except that it has so much written work it overwhelms your child? Do the assignment orally or together on the whiteboard.  Not enough reading for your voracious reader? Supplement with books related to the topic. Got a kid that wants to know all the how’s and why’s? Add in some research projects.

Often a curriculum choice will meet your basic needs, so it only takes a few simple tweaks to make it the perfect fit for your family. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make the curriculum your own. If you have a struggling learner, try a few simple modifications to make the curriculum meet his needs.

5. Make It More Interactive

I’m a big fan of hands-on projects and it’s easy to add activities to most homeschool curriculum. You can:

  • Add in a baking project
  • Make an edible model (Always fun because you don’t have to find a place to store your completed project!)
  • Complete a craft
  • Put on a puppet show
  • Assemble a presentation for Dad
  • Write the answers to the math worksheet on a sheet of paper. Cut the paper with the answers and the page with problems into squares and let your child match them up.
  • Turn the assignment into a bingo or board game

And don’t forget to include hands-on activities for middle and high school students. They get tired of workbooks, too.

You don’t have to completely toss your curriculum or let it drive you and your kids batty. See if a few simple changes might make it just the right fit for your family.

How has your family tweaked homeschool curriculum to make it work for you?

updated from an article originally published January 6, 2011

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2 Comments

  1. Love this. I am a big believer in using what works until it doesn’t. I also like changing the curriculum and making it work for you. We often slow down and make a one year program last for two and really dig in. Great suggestions Kris 🙂

  2. I really loved your article because I have changed my curriculum and it has helped me a lot. My kids are learning English as a second language since we are from Honduras, and my curriculum is ACE, which is very personal. Anyhow, we don’t do it personal, they read to me, we discuss topics or they have to meke expositions about the whole PACE, and that way they practice pronunciation and I make sure they are learning, because the test are very easy. I loved some of the ideas you gave and I am looking forward to apply them with my kids.

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