A few months into homeschooling, you suddenly realize the new homeschool curriculum you purchased isn’t working and the kids hate it. Now what? Keep pushing through or pitch it in the trash? Try to make it work or try to sell it? These guidelines will help you decide if you should keep using your curriculum, and how and when to modify it to fit your needs.
I’m embarrassed to tell you how much I’ve spent over the years on curriculum that I finally had to admit did not work for my family. It was a hard lesson…and one I doubt I’ll ever grow out of.
Yes, that’s right…I’m a sucker for shiny, new homeschool curriculum that promises greener grass and rainbows and unicorns. However, I am now well aware that all that glitters is not gold in our homeschool, and the wheels on the bus don’t need fixing if they ain’t broken. (tired of my lame clichés yet?)
Basically, what I want to convey is that I am not immune to buying curriculum that turns out to be a dud (for my family, that is), and I still make plenty of mistakes when adding new curriculum to our homeschool. But, I have learned the valuable lesson of knowing when to change curriculum and when to keep it with a few tweaks.
It’s that valuable lesson I want to pass on to you today, because if you are reading this, I can guarantee you have some curriculum lurking on your bookshelf, making you feel guilty every time you look at it or try to use it.
Time to make some decisions, folks!
How to modify homeschool curriculum to fit your needs
First of all, let’s work through ways to modify curriculum because most of the time that is all you need to do to save that shiny new curriculum. And let’s face it, no one likes to waste money, so it’s better to try tweaking it to fit our needs first before deciding it absolutely does not work.
Modification #1 – Try supplementing
How to supplement your homeschool curriculum
There are several different ways you can successfully supplement your homeschool curriculum to see if you can salvage a it. We’ve tried many of these with great results!
In fact, a few years ago, my 8 year was struggling to learn to read. We were using a curriculum I had used for years (Phonics Museum << read my review) , but it just wasn’t sticking with him. For a time, I considered buying something else, but I wanted to try one last thing before giving up and investing in something new, because as we all know a different curriculum means a steep learning curve for mama and a lot of extra work in the beginning.
This particular child really likes computer-based learning, so I started looking for an online program that would get him over the hump so we could keep using Phonics Museum. We landed on Reading Eggs and guess what?! It worked! A couple of months into using the program and he was back to Phonics Museum and reading like a champ!
READ>> Helping My Struggling Reader
Modifying with supplementary materials is especially helpful if the dominate learning style of your curriculum isn’t your child’s dominate learning style. Sometimes a curriculum can be saved with a little additional supplementation that matches how your child learns best. It is often enough to get them over a brain block and back into their main curriculum.
- Apps (example: Reading Eggs)
- Websites (example: Khan Academy)
- Manipulatives (example: Wrap-ups)
- Games (example: SimplyFun Math Games)
- YouTube videos
- Hands-on experiments
Modification #2 – Redo the Lesson Plans
How to Change a Homeschool Lesson Plan to Work for You
Many homeschool curricula come with a detailed lesson plan that in theory, is supposed to “help” the teacher. However, I have found that many lessons plans do not work for us “as written.” Some are too detailed with too many things to do. Some don’t give enough information, and some are not written in a format that works well with my brain.
Once you recognize it is the lesson plan that is tripping you up and not the material, the modification is simple – fix it!
Read my book Flexible Homeschool Planning to learn how to create a simplified lesson plan.
This modification is all about you, mama, and there is no right or wrong way to do this. Here are a few examples to help you get started:
The lesson plan has too many things to do.
Simply line through anything that seems too hard, doesn’t fit the way your kids learn, doesn’t appeal to you, or seems like busy work. If you struggle with fear of missing out, use a sharpie marker so you can’t see the words at all!
The lesson plan doesn’t have enough information.
Look online and in Facebook groups because you are probably not the only person who thinks there’s not enough information in the lesson plan and someone may have written out an even better one!
While you are searching the internet you are sure to find some great ideas that go along with the curriculum you are using, so write those down as you go!
This is also a great way to add in extra things to your curriculum! Look for ideas and then write them into the lesson plan itself or add sticky notes like I did for The Precious People curriculum.
The lesson plan format makes my head hurt!
This is the one that gets me most of the time. A curriculum I used recently had all of the lesson ideas written out by book rather than sectioned off by day or topic. I couldn’t follow it. Another curriculum had a grid format that made my eyes cross every time I looked at it.
I’ve learned a notebook is my best friend when trying to redo a lesson plan that has a format I don’t understand. I simply rewrite the lesson plan into my notebook in a way that makes sense to me. It’s easiest for me to do this a month at a time and only takes about 30 minutes once I get the hang of it.
You can see this tweak in action in this post >>
How I Do Tapestry of Grace with a Large Family & a Loose Schedule
Modification #3 – Don’t Do All of the Lessons/Problems/Units/Projects
How to Skip Portions of Your Homeschool Curriculum
This is going to be a hard one for those of you who are afraid of gaps or missing out. First of all, there is no such thing as homeschool gaps and secondly, trying to do it all stresses everyone out.
For instance, I realized long ago that my kids did not need to do all of the problems in their math workbook in order to understand math. If they already had a concept down I could skip entire sections of the book or only have them do a couple of problems as review.
You can skip projects that don’t appeal to you or your children, you can skip entire units that won’t benefit your homeschooling efforts, and you can skip lessons and problems that your children are already familiar with. Remember: YOU are the master of your curriculum, not the other way around!
Modification #4 – Strip the curriculum down
How to Make a Curriculum Easier to Manage
This modification works well with a book-based curricula. You can simply assign the reading and ignore any projects, tests, or extras. This is how we do the Apologia Elementary Science books.
You can also use the book list from your curriculum as a reading guide. Choose a book to read aloud from the list and then assign the other reading suggestions and call it good.
Stripping the curriculum down allows you to focus on just reading or just projects or just worksheets and gives you some breathing space to see if the curriculum is worth your time or truly isn’t working for your family.
Now let’s talk about when it is time to change curriculum…
How to Know When it is Time to Change Homeschool Curriculum
Sometimes a curriculum just doesn’t work. Even though it is difficult to say goodbye to something you spent good money on and really wanted to love, not everything works for everyone.
Your biggest obstacle to ditching a curriculum that isn’t working will be guilt, but you can’t let this rule you. You have to be willing to let go if it is for the good of your homeschool.
Here are a few good reasons to ditch a curriculum…
1 – You’ve tried modifying the curriculum and it still isn’t working.
If you’ve tried several of the modifications I listed above and you still don’t feel good about the curriculum you are using, it is time to switch. Sometimes a curriculum just isn’t the right fit for you and your family. That’s why there are so many different ones out there!
2 – The curriculum stresses you out so much you avoid teaching from it.
This is a horrible place to be. If you dread pulling the curriculum off the shelf and using it, then do yourself a favor and let it go. Life is too short to hate your homeschool curriculum.
3 – The things you’ve been supplementing with have taken the place of the curriculum with better results.
If you tried modifying with supplements like an app or a video and you find those supplements are doing a better job than the curriculum itself, then stick with the supplements and quit the curriculum. The supplements become your curriculum and that’s perfectly alright!
4 – No learning is occurring.
If your child isn’t learning anything from the curriculum, then they either need a break or they need a different curriculum or method. You can tell when no learning is occurring and deep down, you know when a curriculum needs to pitched. Trust your gut!
The next time you are wondering if it is time to change homeschool curriculum, go through this post and try a few tweaks first and then let go of the guilt and do what needs to be done!