When I first started homeschooling I was a box checker and followed our homeschool curriculum to a T. That lasted about a month, and then I realized that following that route was not working well for our family. My daughter was a struggling writer, both with the physical act of writing and the thought process, and every subject required so much writing. With so much writing in history, science, language arts, and even math, she started to hate school work.
That is when I realized that part of the reason I decided to homeschool was to give her the best education possible, and what I was doing wasn’t cutting it. She needed to do school work, but I also wanted to cultivate a love of learning!
Using Homeschool Curriculum as a Jumping Off Point
I talked with my daughter and learned more about what she liked and didn’t like about her schoolwork. I didn’t want to give her complete control over her education at that point, but I did want to include her. She has always been a fan of math and science but disliked all of the language arts in general.
I wasn’t ready to give up our homeschool curriculum, but I knew we would need to do something different. So, I began by tweaking our subjects.
In math, I taught her the lesson instead of asking her to work through the book on her own. Another big change was cutting down on the number of practice problems she had to do. She was hungry to learn new things and didn’t need to be bogged down with pages of practice. She really understands math, so instead of working on how to multiply for a few weeks, I combined lessons and moved on to the next section as she understood each topic.
In reading, I switched from the boring leveled readers to non-fiction books and chapter books about topics she enjoyed. We were still learning the same skills but using books about topics she enjoyed.
We found ways for her to share her knowledge that didn’t require as much writing. Sometimes she did lapbooks other times she drew pictures or narrated what she learned back to me. We worked on vocabulary by playing games and practiced math facts on the trampoline. The work was getting done, but she was enjoying it so much more. I found that tweaking the homeschool curriculum made school time less stressful and allowed her to begin to love learning again.
Using Homeschool Curriculum as a Resource Guide
Eventually we moved to using homeschool curriculum primarily as a jumping off point. We use books as a reference and the table of contents or teacher’s resource as a guide. The history program that I bought last year is a prime example. It was a hands-on curriculum filled with projects that she would love, but even in the first unit, we were veering off track. She would find something interesting and want to learn more.
We ended up spending over two months learning about Ancient Egypt, and the curriculum had only mapped out four weeks. When we learned about the Great Pyramids she was fascinated! Learning the basics wasn’t enough. We went to the library and checked out all kinds of books and videos. Some she just looked at and others she read cover to cover. She learned how to make pyramids out of paper and then went on to learn about working with triangles in math. When she had learned everything she wanted and had practiced a lot of different skills, we moved on to the next lesson in history.
Science is very similar. We use the textbook as a starting point, adding in videos, books, and experiments. I allow her to learn as much as she wants before moving onto the next topic. On topics that she doesn’t find interesting, she does the lesson in the book and we move on quickly.
Using Homeschool Curriculum Gives Me Peace of Mind
Using homeschool curriculum gives me peace of mind that I won’t forget to teach her something important, but it also allows me to tailor the learning to my daughter’s interests. She still has to do some of what she considers to be “boring work,” but when she finds something she loves we are able to dive in deeper and follow different rabbit trails in her learning.
Using homeschool curriculum as a jumping off point can make for exciting days. Sometimes she will be so into a topic that hours pass before we realize it.
When a child is able to learn about something they enjoy, they work with a better attitude and retain the information better, but there are some downsides as well.
Scheduling has been the biggest downside! You can’t plan your school year when you don’t know how long you will be spending on a topic, and if you spend too long on a topic, you might not be able to finish a book in a school year. I think it is really about balance and letting your child enjoy learning.
Now when I purchase homeschool curriculum for the new school year, I do it with the knowledge that we more than likely will not be sticking to it. I expect to carry some books over to the next grade and for some chapters to be skipped. It is a great starting point, but I know we will dig deeper and explore additional information. I have had to become less of a box checker and more of an information finder.
Do you follow your homeschool curriculum to a T or tweak it to fit your needs?
Katie Sheasby lives in sunny Southern California where she homeschools her little girl. She blogs about Daily Life, from taking care of her grandmother with Alzheimer’s, to homeschooling an only child. She shares lesson plans, crafts, activities, field trips, reviews, and more. No two days are ever the same.