I have a confession. I’m drawn to bright, sparkly new homeschool curricula. The grass always looks greener on the other side, and I’m just sure that the new math curriculum my friend is enjoying would work so much better for my kids. Or we’ve jumped into the year’s curricula, and I find that something isn’t working as well as I would like. So I immediately begin looking to make a change. I’m sure that a new curriculum would be better, right?
Although flexibility and the freedom to change curricula is one of the great benefits of homeschooling, I’ve learned in my almost fourteen years of homeschooling that changing is not always the right idea. There have been times I made a change that turned out to be really good, and there have been times that, in hind sight, I really shouldn’t have made a change. So here are five things I’ve learned to consider when I’m thinking about switching curriculum.
1. Why do I really want to switch?
I’ve learned to evaluate my motives. If I’m seeing a real need for change because a child is struggling or because I’ve found a major flaw with what we’re using, it might be time to make a change. But if I’m just drooling over something new I saw at a homeschool workshop or on someone’s blog, changing might not be the best thing. I have to take time to consider the why behind my desire to change.
Unfortunately our math learning has really been affected because I wasn’t careful about this consideration. When my older two were still in elementary school, I didn’t like the curriculum we were using that much. But I wasn’t really thinking of changing right then. I went to a homeschool convention with a friend and walked with her to the table where she was purchasing all the parts of a math curriculum she had been researching. It was a curriculum I was definitely familiar with as a homeschooler, but I hadn’t really considered changing to it. I quickly was swept away by the sparkly new curriculum, however, and we ended up investing quite a bit of money in the whole curriculum. That turned out to be a poor choice for my kids, and we’ve spent the next eight years or so trying to compensate.
2. What is the child or children’s opinion about changing?
I don’t let the kids have the final say about choosing their curriculum. But I do certainly listen to their input- especially now that my children are getting older. Sometimes I see what I perceive as a problem and I begin talking about changing, only to find out that the child or children using the curriculum really enjoy it and don’t want the change. And sometimes I’m determined to stick it out with a curriculum, but the children are really struggling with it, and I need to reconsider.
Last year I made a change in my son’s history/literature curriculum. He had begun complaining about it from the very beginning, but at first, I was just chalking it up to normal school-related complaint. However, when I began to really take time to listen to him and question his why, I realized we really did need a change.
3. Will changing affect the continuity of what we’re doing?
There are some subjects that just seem to build more on previous knowledge as they go. Grammar/spelling/reading and math are two of these. When considering changing curriculum in these areas, I’ve learned to go very carefully and thoughtfully. Will changing the curriculum help or will it cause us to miss out on vital sections of the material that we’ll have to go back to recover later? Sometimes the benefit from changing curriculum doesn’t outweigh the things we’re going to have to go back to cover if we switch.
This is what happened to us when I tried to change our math program. I didn’t consider the long-term effects of changing to a very different style of curriculum. When we changed, and the curriculum wasn’t a good fit, we lost lots of ground in trying to change back to a curriculum that was a better fit. With other subjects- like elementary science- I’ve been able to make good changes because the subject matter didn’t build on previous knowledge, so changing to a different curriculum didn’t cause us to lose anything or have to recover material.
4. How much money do I need to invest?
If I had all the money in the world to spend on curriculum, I could pursue my shiny, new curriculum addiction a little easier. It’s true. If I could just spend a few hundred dollars here and there and then still be able to change to something different if it didn’t work, I wouldn’t have to worry as much about this consideration. But, the fact is that I don’t have unlimited money for curriculum. I have a budget. And if I spend my budget money and make an investment in curriculum, I don’t have money left to make changes on a whim.
There have been a few curriculum choices that I’ve spent some time looking longingly into after a visit to the Vendor Hall of a homeschool convention. I’ll be all set on what we’re using for the year, and I will have shopped wisely and picked up what we needed…and then…then I’ll see that new curriculum on display and just know that would be better for us. But, I must consider budget restraints. And, often, knowing that I just don’t have the money to invest, will prevent me from making a big change.
5. Is there anything I can use to just supplement the curriculum we’re using?
Another thing I’ve learned to think carefully about before making a decision about curriculum change is- can I just supplement something to improve the curriculum we’re already using? Sometimes I don’t need to invest in an all new curriculum. Instead I can provide the change we need by just supplementing something.
I chose a history curriculum for my younger girls this year. I was pretty excited about it and had spent some time using it as well as much time looking over it. But, as sometimes happens, when it came to actually using the curriculum long term, I’ve not been as happy with the reading. It’s more of a textbook than the material we usually read. I thought about scrapping it and picking up something else. But, the facts are that (1) I don’t have the money to invest in another program and (2) we’ve invested quite a bit of time into this curriculum already this school year. So, instead of making a complete change, I decided to supplement with literature. Instead of getting rid of the curriculum and changing it totally, I’ve been using some good literature books along with our textbook. This has helped to make up for the lack of reading that concerned me, without a complete curriculum change.
So…should you make a change in your homeschool curriculum? Sometimes it’s really the best thing to do, and I’m very thankful we have that option in homeschooling. But, sometimes a change isn’t the best idea. Stopping to consider these five things has helped me to make that decision wisely.