I love looking at curriculum, and I mean LOVE it. There’s just something exciting about picking out what we’re going to be using for the next year. Dreaming about how well everything is going to work and how much your kid will love it. You jut know they are going to love it as much as you. And then, it happens, your kid HATES it. The tears flow then the frustration comes followed up with a healthy dose of self doubt.
With Merrick, my oldest, we’ve tried many different methods and curriculum and I can say that it took us a good 2 years of trial and error to figure out what really worked for him. Now I feel like I’m starting all over with Silas. We chose Build Your Library for both boys after looking for a secular answer to Sonlight without the large investment of Bookshark. We chose prehistory followed by first grade for Merrick (8) and kindergarten for Silas. Merrick absolutely loves it and I knew he would, after all he loved Sonlight last year. Silas (5) on the other hand hates it. We’ve given it a good 3 weeks of trying and it’s pretty much all tears and breakdowns at this point.
So, what do you do when you’ve got this curriculum and your kids just aren’t loving it?
Why isn’t it working?
The first step is to determine why the curriculum it isn’t working. Is it too advanced? Is your child bored? Is the method wrong for your child? Is your child just not ready for formal learning? Take some time and research learning styles and homeschooling methods. You could potential learn a lot about why the curriculum you chose isn’t working.
In our situation I feel like BYL Kindergarten is just too much for him. I even think that this level could easily be used as a first grade curriculum. It’s got a lot going on between activities and chapter book reading and could even be stretched over a two year period, which is what I had originally planned on doing. I also question if a literature based curriculum is right for Silas. Maybe he’d do better with a more traditional approach using workbooks. Maybe a Waldorf style would suit him better. Maybe we need another six months to a year of gentle play based in the backyard where he thrives. These are a few of the things I need to contemplate and research.
What to do?
Perhaps, the next step is to decide if you want to try and press on or rethink what you are doing. You might even consider communicating with the curriculum publisher, as quite often they can give you ideas to help overcome some of your child’s problems.
Some things are really easy to adapt to fit the child. If your child is squirmy and has a hard time paying attention for long stretches of time try simple solutions like taking frequent breaks for snacks, outside play, or other brief activities that they enjoy. Maybe the work is too easy or involves too much busy work and your child is getting bored. Try finding creative ways to learn the same concepts. Instead of a worksheet play a game or allow the child to answer verbally when you ask the questions to help them stay engaged. Try further researching the ideas through documentaries or library books. Or, maybe put away the curriculum and come back in a few months and see if they just weren’t ready for formal learning yet.
For Silas, my plan right now is to sit BYL on the back burner and let him choose storybooks he is interested in reading while we continue to study the alphabet and age appropriate math. One of the most important things to me is for him to enjoy the books in order to build a love of reading. Perhaps we’ll try BYL Kindergarten again in 6 months, or next fall when he’s a little older and more mature. Maybe, we’ll switch courses altogether and try something different as I try to feel out what works for him and what doesn’t. Flexibility to do what is right for the child is one of the most beautiful things about homeschooling.
We went through a very similar situation when Merrick was 5 and ended up using Little Acorn Learning Waldorf based monthly guides for several months. It was a beautiful, gentle set of activities and reading that my son really enjoyed. I’m considering pulling those out for Silas to see if the Waldorf style would work for him until he’s ready to give BYL another try.
Don’t get discouraged.
One thing you have to do is not let yourself get discouraged. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s hard to know for sure what is and isn’t going to work for each child. What works for one won’t necessarily work for another.
Somethings are really easy to adapt to fit the child. Try simple solutions like taking frequent breaks for snacks, outside play, or other brief activities that they enjoy. Maybe the work is too easy or involves too much busy work and your child is just getting bored. Try finding creative ways to learn the same concepts. Instead of a worksheet play a game or allow the child to answer verbally when you ask the questions to help them stay engaged. Try further researching the ideas through documentaries or library books. Or, maybe put away the curriculum and come back in a few months and see if they just weren’t ready for formal learning yet.
If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that trial and error are at the heart of homeschooling. We’ve tried so many things with Merrick and after a couple of years we’ve finally figured out what works best for him. Maybe in a few years we’ll need to adjust again to what’s working better then, who knows.
Most importantly, know that you are not alone in your struggle. Choosing curriculum is hard and things don’t always work out like we plan. Know that homeschoolers all over the world have been through what you are going through now and take comfort in that.
Wishing you the best of luck in your homeschool journey.