Year after year, I thought I had insured myself against any homeschool curriculum mistakes. I had a carefully chosen curriculum, made well thought out timetables and bought some inspiring stationery. However, it became clear that things were not working as I had intended. What was wrong – was it lazy kids or had I made some homeschool curriculum mistakes?
Trying Not To Make Homeschool Curriculum Mistakes is Optimistic
Planning your homeschool curriculum is usually a big part of getting ready to go back to school. But I found when I actually started my homeschool lessons they never looked the way I hoped or thought they should?
When I finished my homeschool journey, I still had a cupboard full of homeschool curriculum mistakes worth hundreds of dollars.
Sometimes we think that because we are working out our children’s curriculum, we need to understand everything that we need to teach them. Phooey to that! Creating your own Australian homeschool curriculum doesn’t mean working out all the lessons and chugging through the syllabus linking outcomes and crossing all the dots. Although you will need to understand the curriculum to some extent you can still use pre-made curriculum and it’s not cheating – it’s sensible! Much of what I have taught my children I have learnt along the way myself. The skills we need to learn are where to find information, how to tweak and how to slash.
The perfect homeschool curriculum doesn’t exists. You will find that some curriculum works better than others but as a whole nearly everything you buy will need a little tweaking. Although this may seem like too much work, you do get the hang of it.
Firstly we need to debunk some myths and false expectations.
What Are The Myths to Homeschool Curriculum Planning?
1. I need to know it all
I have bought curriculum since I started homeschooling. However I must admit to never strictly following the resources as directed but I do find having a preset curriculum has been very helpful for me. The subjects that I have felt needed some structure are the ones where I have used set resources.
2. Always use textbooks or never use textbooks
I’ve found that I have needed a math textbook. Up till 8th grade I can remember most of the material that my kids learn BUT I could never put it all together or remember what it is that they should learn when. Using a program is sensible for me. I’ve been a Singapore math fan for ages. We are also a Math Online family as well. I made many homeschool curriculum mistakes as I shuffled around looking for the perfect math resource.
English is a subject I feel more confident in, however daily lesson planning is exhausting. So I find having a backbone curriculum works well for me. See our English suggestions.
3. You must teach everything you are told to
When you purchase a curriculum it’s ok to leave portions out if they re not relevant to your child or you feel you will cover (or have covered) it somewhere else.
A classic example of this is when you are using curriculum written for another audience. For example I know in Australia we can often feel that some of the resources offered don’t apply to us in Australia but here are a few tips to Australianising your curriculum:
- Swap books for Aussie books and poems. You can use our book lists for some ideas.
- Find the corresponding information in an Australian setting. Try our curriculum guides for some ideas.
- Remember to swap the seasons on the calendar.
- Watch for American spelling and convert to Australian/British spelling.
- Cut or reduce imperial measurements and use metric.
4.You must stick to the right grade (or higher)
It is OK to juggle with grades. In the US and Britain their school years start around late August so you will sometimes find that a sixth grade text may suit your seventh grader better than a seventh grade curriculum. If you’re group teaching some subjects (e.g. history) your children you may want to follow a family schedule rather than teach according to the grade in a syllabus. It’s OK to do that. When you document your lesson planning have a plan for when you will cover particular topics. The board of studies say they are flexible with planning – but you do need a plan.
5. Conversations are not lessons
Many a time I’ve just talked about something I need to teach my children. For example my children have never done lessons on what does a fireman do – I just told them. I haven’t given them any worksheets on puberty – I just told them. A lesson on slang (which is in the syllabus) is simply me identifying slang words as they come up. When you get in the habit of teaching as you go you realise how much you really are imparting knowledge to your kids.
6. A book isn’t good enough
80% of my children’s seat work education is book based. Books are a wonderful source of information and far more engaging than most textbooks. When you are hunting for curriculum look for books first – curriculum second. If you want a worksheet try to shift your thinking to notebooking as a way to record your learning.
Accepting Homeschool Curriculum Mistakes & Moving On
I used to find that this bursting of my homeschool bubble in my first few months back homeschooling made me feel like an utter failure. I would think if I can’t even succeed in the first month how will I make it to the end of the year. Now I expect it! And I try to use it constructively to help me filter out some unrealistic expectations and focus on what is really going to work.
Does that mean I have to lower my standards, chuck out my ideals and settle for less? “It depends!”, is the answer.
I think as homeschoolers we all have strong convictions of how things should be done and that is what probably led us to homeschooling in the first place. On the other hand, pride can get mixed in with our ideals and sometimes it’s hard to discern between the two.
When I am faced with the obvious reality of my homeschool curriculum mistakes, I start to look at what I can change. Here are questions I ask myself that help me get back on track:
- The first thing that I look at is MY TIME. What am I expecting to accomplish with the time I have available? Do I need to drop some activities in order to achieve what I want to do with my kids ?
- I also look at the kid’s time. Are things taking much longer than expected? Do they understand what they are supposed to do?
- Am I expecting too much of my children? Is this too hard for them?
- If a curriculum is not gelling, I look at it closely and make a decision. Do I stick with it, or do I pass it on? Do I leave it for another year? It is very difficult to always get it right when you buy curriculum without having actually seen it or used it. Some work beautifully, others not so well.
- Defer a planned resource. With so many great books and resources available I occasionally overburden their schedule or find that I get a curriculum that is pitched to high for my child. At these times I put away the resource and wait to use it another year.
Adding Routine To Planning Your Homeschool
When we homeschool we want our children to learn how to do their work independently. However it is a common mistake to expect too much too soon when requiring independent work. This is especially true if your children have recently come out of a formal schooling environment where the teacher has directed all of their learning. If this is a struggle for you I suggest you look at setting up a structure to your homeschool schedule. For some children a timetable for them to follow will be enough but for others you will need more help getting organised to homeschool. I personally found workboxes worked very well for training independent learning.
I’ve Wasted Money On Curriculum
Curriculum shopping is fun, and it’s easy to go overboard. I know that I still have resources in my cupboard and ebooks on my computer that I have never used. “It’s okay,” I tell myself (and my husband). My motto in times of buyer remorse is that homeschooling is cheaper than private school and if I waste a little money finding out what works, I’ve still saved money by not sending them to school.
My Kids Hate Homeschool
New homeschooling parents often find the reality of homeschooling is a shock because their kids don’t respond to all of the great resources that their parents have bought for them. Some parent’s have the expectation that all school should be fun, and that their kids are going to love all their lessons. Whilst this is the case sometimes – to expect this all the time is certainly a homeschool myth. However, if your child is in tears with a resource you won’t make progress so work out a strategy.
One common reason for kids hating school is that lessons consists mostly of workbooks and fill in the blanks type work. Changing your approach from a school at home scenario to methods more suited to homeschooling, like the Charlotte Mason Method can often lead to greater home education satisfaction.
I have come to accept over the years that the first month of homeschooling usually has lots of tweaks and changes. I know this does not mean I have failed. It means that I am learning how to be a better teacher.