If you’ve ever wondered whether you should change homeschool curriculum, you know it can be a painful experience. On one hand, maybe your child is still settling into schoolwork and will get it if you just wait long enough. On the other hand, you could damage your child for life because you bought the “wrong” curriculum!
Fortunately, this worst-case scenario is almost always false for a number of reasons. There’s rarely ever a right or wrong curriculum, just different options for different types of learners.
Many longtime homeschool veterans will readily admit that they’ve switched curriculum at one point or another, sometimes right in the beginning (or middle) of the school year.
If you’re considering whether to change homeschool curriculum, here are some ways to make the decision as easy and affordable as possible:
1) Review any new curriculum options before buying.
If at all possible, try to review the curriculum before you buy. We’re not talking about reading the product description or even discussing it with friends, although those things can help. We mean, “pick-up-the-book-and-smell-it” type of review!
Going to homeschool conferences such as our upcoming conference April 1-2 is a great way to preview curriculum. When you pick up the book, you can see the natural chapter progression and concepts explained on the page. You can also imagine your child working through the book and whether they would appreciate this approach, or that illustration. Perhaps most importantly, you can decide whether this curriculum would work for a whole year (and maybe multiple years!).
Other practical ways to preview curriculum are used curriculum sales and asking to borrow from other homeschool families who are already using the new curriculum.
2) Explore cutting any “busy work” from existing curriculum.
As HSLDA blogger Jessica Cole explains in this article:
One of the most influential points I learned this past year is that “completing” a textbook does not necessarily mean doing every single assignment in every single lesson. As a perfectionist, I tend to lean toward the absolute completion method; but as it was pointed out, not even most public high school classes follow this standard. Instead, a textbook is considered complete when a student completes around 75-80% of the assignments. That helps me relax a bit!
Knowing that you don’t have to complete every single problem or assignment in your curriculum can free you up to focus more attention on the few concepts or topics that your child is struggling with. If they already know and have mastered the concept, you can skip it.
Remember, you are the “principal” force in your own homeschool!
3) Consider your child’s unique needs.
A major challenge with curriculum is that what worked for one child may not work for another. Because we all have different ways to process information – visual means, auditory means, or hands-on (kinesthetic) means – it makes sense to choose curriculum tailored to your child’s learning style. (HSLDA has a helpful list of learning styles for those new to this idea.)
Make sure you adjust for any learning disabilities or special needs. For example, Wendy Hanson found that her children struggling with dyslexia preferred a multi-sensory approach rather than working on traditional textbooks.
4) Consider other, cheaper forms of curriculum supplementation.
Sometimes learning doesn’t have to take place just through books. Families often reinforce difficult concepts by using flash cards, memory games, sensory blocks, and so forth. For example, MidAmerica Nazarene University has a Center for Games & Learning that homeschoolers can use, all for free!
Make use of the library and other public resources. As one homeschool mom wrote, “We used sight word flashcards and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (which she did not like but it was effective). That book is available at the library.”
5) Give yourself some grade-level grace!
Maybe your child is using the curriculum just fine, but they’re at a lower grade level than usual. If that’s the case, many homeschool families say, just take it easy and don’t fret.
“If [your child] gets a solid foundation of reading and math in a lower grade for now, every grade afterwards will be easier and more successful,” one homeschool mom wrote. “And with a good solid foundation, he’ll move more quickly in subsequent years. He’s more likely to catch up if he really understands the basics. Plus, if he’s more successful at easier studies, he’ll have more confidence in himself, believe he is smart, and it will come true!”
Other homeschoolers have found great freedom in tailoring their curriculum to their children’s current learning abilities – and not worrying about the grade level unnecessarily.
“The great thing about homeschooling is that we get to meet our kids where they are, not where we feel they should be,” said one homeschool veteran. “So breathe deeply and don’t worry about what name/label/year is on the curriculum.”
Enjoyed this article? See some common first-year homeschool mistakes and how to avoid them.