Monday, September 5, 2011

Grass is Greener Syndrome

Whether you've been homeschooling for awhile, or you are just starting out...sometime this is likely to hit. You'll know when it does. Maybe one subject is hard for your child, and it sounds so easy for someone else. Maybe there's a new curriculum that people are raving about and you wonder if you should have purchased that instead. Maybe you just like to window shop...and before you know it, some bear put that curriculum into your virtual cart and made you bring it home! (My husband always says a bear made him buy something at the store if snacks sneak home with the groceries).

But before you switch gears and end up trying out multiple curricula for the same subject, there are some things to consider. Here are my personal rules for switching curriculum, especially mid-year:

1-Don't fix what's not broken. If something worked and we enjoyed it reasonably, no need to change it.

2-There is no "perfect" curriculum. There are LOTS of excellent curricula. If what I am using is excellent, then there is no need to change it.

3-The curriculum grass is not necessarily greener on the other side! What may be LOVED by someone else may or may not be loved by me and my kids. Don't change just because something else SOUNDS like it might be better, if what I have is already working.

4-I am teaching children, not curriculum, not state-guidelines, not someone else's goals...children I know well, *my* children. What someone else is teaching and how early their children knew XYZ really has no bearing on what I am teaching and how early my children know something--therefore it is not a reason to change curriculum. When my kids are grown, no one will care if they knew what nouns were in 2nd grade or did algebra in 6th grade or....

I DO change if something isn't working. I judge that by how stressed it makes me to use it, if it takes an over-abundance of my time or produces underwhelming results, or by how much my kids hate it. If they just don't like a subject, that's one thing--but if it's overwhelmingly frustrating them, that's definitely worth changing.

WHEN I change....I look at as many samples as possible. In person if I can--if not, I look for samples on many suppliers websites as well as the publisher's website. Often the samples will be different on Amazon vs. CBD vs. Rainbow and so on. If I can't see enough, or if I have questions, I email or call the company. Their response sometimes dictates whether or not I'll use their curriculum. If my kids are struggling in a subject or if a curriculum isn't working for some reason, then it's definitely an area I'll need support. Support on message boards is helpful, but sometimes I also want support from the company. Last year I emailed one company and didn't get a response for over 2 months! I was surprised they finally emailed me! I had already moved on in my search long before they responded. I know companies can’t always get back in a day or two--but 2 months is ridiculous!

AFTER viewing samples myself, I show my child. We discuss pros and cons. We discuss what is not helpful in the current curriculum and talk about changes that they think would help. Sometimes looking at samples helps them to see what would help (I found this true as early as 7 years old, which is the first time I tried this strategy.) I want my kids to take ownership of their education, and this helps them in that process. And their ownership helps a lot with not needing to skip around as much. If they have "bought in" to a curriculum by helping to choose it, they are less likely to balk at it.

Reviews can be very helpful, and I use those to help me in my search. But I look particularly for people whose teaching style seems similar to mine, or whose children seem to have some of the same strengths and weaknesses. I also like to look for what people hate, and why they hate it. Sometimes I find things that work well for us by looking for someone who either schools the opposite of how I do, or has children with opposite needs. Evaluate curricula from many angles.

I hope you find some good products you can stick with. Not perfect--perfect isn't out there! But good is.

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