I received an email from a favorite curriculum company last week with the subject line: “Want to Jump Ship Due to the Curriculum You Picked Out?” along with a coupon code for their products. It’s that time of year. We’re beyond the excitement of the new year. We’re settling into our homeschool rhythms. And we’re realizing something is just not right.
You thought a resource would be great but your child is unhappy whenever you take it off the shelf, you dread the amount of time it’s going to take, or you feel silly reading the instructor script. But what can you do? It’s created this way for a reason – we’re supposed to follow it as written, right? Is it time to find another curriculum and start all over?
No and no. While it’s possible that it is the wrong curriculum for your family (we’ve all been there) it’s also entirely possible that you just need to make some modifications to achieve a better fit for your family. I am here to give you permission to change it up and some ideas on how to do that.
So first, how do you know if you need to make modifications or ditch the curriculum all together? You want to determine if there is something fundamental about the resource or approach that does not work or if it is more the mechanics or presentation of the material that is the problem. Some questions to think about:
- Do I agree with material and opinions being presented?
- Do I feel like this is a high quality resource that provides the right level of challenge for my child?
- Do I believe that the material covers the topics that I want to make sure we learn?
If your answer to any of these questions is no, you may want to reevaluate your choice of resource. However, if you answered yes and feel good about the basic material and scope of topics it’s likely that you can make adjustments to fit the material to your needs. Some questions to ask yourself to get more specificity about what those may be are:
- Do the lessons take too long?
- Is the subject material good but the lessons a little boring?
- Does the work feel repetitive? Or does your child complain because they’re tired of covering the same topics?
- Do you feel weird reading the instructor dialogue?
- Is there too much reading?
- Are there enough visuals or demonstrations?
First, for the permission. Yes, the publisher or creator of the curriculum wrote it a particular way. But they don’t know your family or child. Curriculum is a tool and you are the one who decides how to use it. Go ahead and make the changes – small or big. Trust yourself to know what’s right for you!
With those thoughts in mind, here is a list of ways you could modify a curriculum to get you started.
- When the number of problems is overwhelming – cut down the number of assigned:
- Do only the odds or evens.
- Tear the page in half.
- Have your child circle 5 (or whatever number) of their choice.
- When the lessons take too long:
- Work to a time limit instead of through the whole lesson (ex. 15 minutes of spelling).
- Take a break in the middle.
- Break the lesson into smaller chunks and schedule over a longer period of time. It’s ok if you don’t finish it in one year – you’re on your own schedule.
- When there are problems or questions that aren’t related to the actual subject or skill that you are focusing on:
- Skip them and move on.
- Alter the assignment to better reflect what you’re working on; for example, replace an essay question with writing a list, drawing a picture, or creating a set of trivia questions.
- For workbooks or textbooks that are overwhelming in size or length:
- Tear them apart – break the binding and use a straightedge to cut out the pages; hole-punch them and put into a binder and then only pull out the pages you need for the lesson you’re on.
- Look through the book and notice what you’ve already mastered or what will be covered again in the future (often, especially in math, the beginning is a review and the end is an introduction to topics that will be covered again later) and see what you can skip for now.
- For curriculum like grammar or math that can get repetitive:
- Tear it apart (see above) then switch the order of the pages, rotating topics, so your child works on something different each day but circles back to each skill.
- Work until your child masters the topic and then move on to the next; keep the additional pages for review if you need them later.
- When the instructor script feels hokey or not engaging:
- Read ahead so that you can paraphrase for your child instead of reading the script word for word; yes it’ll take more effort but the lesson will also feel more authentic.
- Embrace the silliness! Use a funny voice, or lots of expression and laughter and play the character of the narrator. You’ll all laugh and the lessons will be memorable!
- When there are books assigned that aren’t holding your attention or are don’t suit your family:
- Look for other options that cover the same time period or topic – graphic novels or picture books may be a great option (yes, even for teens!).
- Skip it altogether.
- Find documentaries or YouTube videos that cover the same information.
- When concepts or ideas are difficult or even a little boring:
- Supplement with games – card games, board games, role-playing games, video games or apps. There are so many options and they will add a little fun and whimsy to your day.
- Add manipulatives or real-world examples; if your math text is talking about fractions as a pie, use a real pie! Or draw a picture of one and cut it up.
- Substitute a field trip for a lesson. Reading about Paul Revere is one thing but going to the Old North Church or Lexington and Concord Boston is another!
Chances are once you start modifying your resources you’ll have lots of ideas for how to make them your own. You may need to try a few options before you find the perfect fit for your family but it will be worth the effort to not just automatically jump ship!
Written by Alyssa Crowder