Despite all the research we do, sometimes the curriculum we choose turns out not to be a good fit. How do you know when you’ve made a poor choice? Check these signs you’re using the wrong curriculum – and find out what to do about it if you are.
Common Signs That You’re Using the Wrong Curriculum
Tears and frustration
We all get frustrated from time to time, but if your student regularly cries or exhibits other signs of frustration during a particular subject, that’s a good indicator that the curriculum may not be a good fit. In most cases, when a subject elicits tears, it’s probably too challenging for your child. It’s also wise to consider an undiagnosed learning struggle, such as dyslexia or dysgraphia.
Anger or refusal to complete work
Anger or refusal to complete work can also be signs of frustration, finding a subject too challenging, or a potential learning struggle. It can also indicate a readiness issue or a fear of failure. If anger or obstinance regularly occurs during the same subject, it could be time to consider alternative curriculum choices.
Despite the love of learning most homeschooling parents hope to instill in our students, it’s not uncommon for kids to find school boring – at least when compared to other things they’d rather be doing. However, if it’s consistently one particular subject that results in cries of boredom, the curriculum may not be a good fit.
Boredom may occur when the material is too easy, or it’s presented in a way that doesn’t captivate a child. Many adults say that they found history boring when they were in school, but when they began learning it through living books and biographies instead of a dry textbook, they realized how fascinating it truly is. Consider how the material is being presented to your student.
Boredom can also indicate that content isn’t offering your student enough challenge.
Procrastination or finishing quickly
At some point, most kids will procrastinate on their schoolwork. It’s a normal reaction to something that we don’t especially want to do. However, sometimes it’s an indication that we find the task challenging and don’t know how or where to begin.
On the flip side, quickly finishing an assignment can mean that the task was fun and the student had plenty of ideas and enthusiasm. However, regularly completing the assignments in a particular subject very quickly can indicate that it’s too easy and perhaps your student would benefit from a bit more challenge or depth in that subject.
If you’re hearing comments like, “This is dumb,” “This is too hard,” or “I’m not good at this,” your curriculum may not be a good fit. Sometimes kids complain when they just don’t like something, and I’m a firm believer that sometimes you just have to do the hard or not-so-fun things (otherwise the toilets at my house would never get cleaned).
However, if it’s consistently the same subject that is making your child feel inadequate, it may be time to adjust or change the curriculum.
What to Do if You’re Using the Wrong Curriculum
If it’s become clear that your chosen curriculum is not the best fit for your student, you have some options.
Evaluate how you’re using the curriculum
Ask yourself the following questions before changing curriculum:
- Is it a readiness issue?
- Have you given it enough time?
- Is it in conflict with the way your child learns or the way you teach?
- Are you using it as intended?
- Can it be tweaked?
It could be that you need to put the curriculum aside for a few months or until next school year because your child just isn’t ready for it yet. Or you may need to make some adjustments to how you’re using the curriculum.
Adjust the curriculum to meet your family’s needs
The perfect homeschool curriculum doesn’t exist, but the best fit for your family does. Even when you find something that you love, you may have to adjust the curriculum to meet your family’s needs. You may need to:
- Add more living books or read-alouds
- Add more hands-on activities (or don’t do all the ones included if your family doesn’t care for them)
- Make accommodations for struggling learners or beef it up for stronger ones
- Add videos or documentaries
- Skip some sections, chapters, or problems
- Find alternative ways to complete the assignments
Often a few simple tweaks can make all the difference in how you and your kids enjoy the curriculum.
Sometimes it’s clear that the curriculum just isn’t a good fit for your family. In those cases, it’s often best to cut your losses and find an alternative. If you’re using non-consumable texts, you can usually sell them to recoup some of your investment. Changing homeschool curriculum mid-year doesn’t have to be stressful. We’ve done it successfully a few times.
When looking for a replacement:
- Ask other homeschooling families
- Read reviews online
- Check to see if there are sample lessons on the publisher’s website
- Take advantage of online placement tests/guides
- Look for online user groups
- Check YouTube for reviews, sample lessons, or tutorials
- Check your local library to see if they have the curriculum you’re considering available for loan
It’s likely that you did all of that initially, but it may be easier to figure out what your students needs now that you know what doesn’t work.
Depending on your circumstances, the subject, and the reason the curriculum isn’t a good fit, you may have to power through. For example, if your child is struggling with the concepts themselves, changing curriculum may not help. In that case, you might consider:
- Finding a tutor
- Supplementing with learning aids to bolster a particular skill
- Look for different methods of teaching the concept (such as lattice multiplication for multiplying multi-digit numbers)
- Working through the material at a slower pace
- Finding a co-op (some kids may benefit from a different perspective or method of teaching the skill or topic)
- Look for online resources such as YouTube videos, online tutors, or a site like Khan Academy
Sometimes small adjustments in approach or a different perspective can flip the switch to understanding for a child.
Have you ever found yourself using the wrong curriculum? What signs did you see? How did you address the problem?
This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.
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.