Tips to navigate the Homeschool curriculum maze...
I know itʻs been awhile since my last post, but please believe that I havenʻt forgotten nor given up on my homeschooling blog. Iʻve actually been busy educating myself about homeschooling, business, blogging, and the business of starting a homeschool blog…LOL!
During this time away Iʻve been able to step back and really dive into what I do well with my keiki and where I want to head in the future. Iʻve joined various Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram groups and feeds to gleen from others across the globe.
It has been an eye-opener for sure, yet at times I found it made my brain hurt. If youʻve ever felt that way then know that you my friend are not alone. According to my social media travels through homeschool-land Iʻve discovered that there are many of us in the same boat.
None the less we are all navigating different journeys. So how do we go about ensuring that our keikiʻs educational needs are being met? We donʻt want to go about purchasing every single curriculum for a particular subject just to rule it out. Overwhelming? Indeed!!
How do I decided what to use?
Originally I was going to write a review on a new curriculum we have decided to try out this year. However, Iʻve since decided that I want to talk about curriculum choices in general. Specifically on why no matter what we choose it wonʻt ever be a one size fits all situation.
I believe that most if not all curriculum is incapable of meeting the individual needs of every single student. Majority of curriculum is still mass produced with the intention of reaching the most customers (aka students) as possible.
Yes, some are better than others but still I find myself, picking and choosing and piece-mealing from various resources to teach my keiki. I know Iʻm not alone in this, please tell me Iʻm not. I encourage you to share your curriculum struggles with me in the comments section.
Hopefully we can work together to help one another get over some of these hurdles. If you have none, Iʻm truly happy for you! Please share with us some of your best insights and tips. If youʻd like you are welcomed to leave a comment below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.orgIʻd love to hear from you!
My simple solution...
My solution from the very beginning was to think of the end results that I wanted to nurture in our homeschool. For example I wanted my keiki to have a strong foundation in reading and comprehension. I also wanted to ensure mastery not test-ery (my made up word) was the order of the day. Therefore I shyed away from and still do avoid overly illustrated and colorful “workbooks” (with the exception of the new curriculum we are testing this year). With that goal for our homeschool I chose the Rayʻs Arithmetic collection to start with. Bare in mind that I was leaning towards a more Classical method of homeschooling when this decision was made; and still do. However, I donʻt strictly adhere to the “curriculum” choices.
Was I wrong to choose this? Of course not. Please DONʻT ever let yourself feel that youʻve made the wrong choice. Please DO remind yourself that youʻve made or are making the best choice(s) with the knowledge and experience you currently have. There are no wrong or right choices when it comes to curriculum. Find your tribe or people to gleen from when times of doubt or confusion arise. Iʻm glad to have this type of support when things get tough. To know that Iʻm not alone in the curriculum maze. All we need to do is, do our best, be willing to learn, and keep moving towards your homeschool goals.
If you decide in the future that a particular curriculm is not meeting all of your childʻs needs you donʻt need to start from scratch. The simple solution Iʻve implemented is to keep what works and add other components or supplementals that will support your end goal or goals. This strategy has helped me and my keiki to make forward progress during our four years of homeschool. Iʻm not looking or trying for perfection, forward motion or progress is our goal.
The 5 R-actions...
Review, Re-use, Root out, Re-purpose, and Relax-or-Reflect (or both…LOL)
Once you have chosen you curriculum you want a system of “grading” it. So letʻs talk about how to go about doing this. We want to make sure that your curriculum is truly working for you and your keiki. Here is what Iʻve come up with to help me and my keiki have a successful homeschooling experience. I call it the 5 Rs.
I assume that most of you look at reviews online or seek advice from fellow homeschoolers. This is a good place to start, however it can also be overwhelming. Then of course you have the curriculum company who obviously wants you to purchase their product. They promise all these results and so on, but they do so without the necessary insight and most crucial piece of information; “Your homeschool students.” Following are the steps I implement to help us through the curriculum maze.
Throughout your homeschool year I would encourage you to check-in with your keiki. Ask them about the work they are doing and how they feel about the information contained in them. Do they feel itʻs too easy? Or, maybe itʻs too hard? Just find out what they think and make some notes in your homeschooling journal. Donʻt have one yet? Thatʻs okay! Now would be a perfect time to start one 😉 You might even want to just use your homeschool planner to make notes. Itʻs entirely up to you, but I do encourage you to write or document it somewhere for future referance.
In the past I have had my keiki use a particular resource (e.g. library book, website, ect.) that did not work for them. They would soldier along, but then we would discover that we werenʻt progressing and augment our resource or tactic. Itʻs better to find these things out as soon as possible to avoid unneccessary frustration for you or your keiki.
In this our fourth year of homeschool I regularly use 3 sometimes 4 different math resources. Right now we are using The Critical Thinking Co., Rayʻs Arithmetic, Khan Academy, and Kumon. The Critical Thinking Co. Curriculum is new, but we have been implementing the others for several years, some for all four.
In regards to the new curriculum from The Critical Thinking Co. I donʻt have any major dislikes. However, there are times when I read the instructions aloud and look at my 8 yr. old to see what she thinks and sheʻll tell me that the instructions make no sense. Itʻs funny because I was thinking the same thing. Truely, sometimes the instructions suck and donʻt make sense. So what do I do? I just skip it and carry on. I use what works and skip over the rest. I refuse to go crazy or make my child stress out. Maybe in the past it would have been different, but like I mentioned before, itʻs all about progress not perfection.
At the end of the year we do our National Standarized Testing (we use this as our end of year reporting) From those test Iʻm able to see where we need support and where we are doing well. I donʻt do crazy testing throughout the year and this may put my keiki at a disadvantage when testing comes around since they arenʻt familiar with it. I mitigate this by making sure we do some practice test before hand. None the less, I have yet to hear any concerns from the D.O.E.
After I receive their test results I talk with my keiki again, we reflect together on what has worked and where we can improve. So, just to be clear we try to review through out the year in bite-size pieces so itʻs not an overwhelming mouth full at the end. Itʻs nice to have a more relaxed rhythm to this process and I find it helps to minimize stress 😉
This is pretty straight forward. If it works keep using it. You may want to try new things, but at least you know you have something that has been proven to work (this may apply to some or all of your keiki).
My two older daughters enjoy using Khan Academy, however I found out (in a letter mind you) from my then 13 yr. old that my youngest daughter was not liking it and that she (my daughter) was concerned that her baby sister was not ready for the online classroom.
I guess you could say that this ties back to the review portion. I love how my keiki pick-up the very skills I use to teach them, then turn around and use it to assist me and each other.
Again pretty self explanitory. If itʻs not working put it aside and move on. Iʻm not saying to chuck it out the window right now, but maybe you could try again later. But for now give yourselves a breather. If, on the other hand youʻre absolutely sure you donʻt want it, then on to the next curriculum and the next action.
If you are homeschooling more than one child, you could always try to use that curriculum with another child. Donʻt have another child who could possibly use the curriculum? Well, there are several options to choose from to re-purpose this curriculum; donate to a homeschool friend or family member, sell on ebay, share in a homeschool group. You get the picture. The added benefits to re-purposing is that you are helping others and it makes you feel good too! Winning!!
Relax and or Reflect....(or both)....
Once you have completed the prior steps, itʻs time for a break. Seriously, you must find the time to relax and possibly reflect. Do whatever it is that helps you to de-compress. I like to do yoga, meditate, or just sit down by the ocean (without my keiki). If at all possible, make this time all about you.
After all you need to re-charge somehow or you might end-up in burn-out city and that my friend is no place to try and homeschool from. While in your relaxing place, take a few moments to reflect. I encourage you to be kind to yourself as you think on the tasks you have just completed. You might want to get your journal and write out your experience, or make a list of what you enjoyed and how you might do things differently in the future.
Well fellow maze wanderers, hereʻs where I will be signing off. I hope you have found my suggestions helpful in some way. I would love to hear from you about what you have decided to do or how you navigate your homeschool curriculum choices. My hope is that you will find peace in your curriculum choices, and that I hopefully provided some useful tips to help you obtain it. Wishing you and your ohana a safe and wonderful holiday season! See all all next year!!
Aloha & Blessings!