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It happens to best of us.
Maybe it’s a slow fire that crackles and hisses, leaving a trail of ash behind. Or maybe it’s a five alarm fire that rages and roars. In either case, you’ve found yourself in a curriculum that isn’t working, doesn’t fit, or you just flat out don’t like.
What do you do?
Curriculum failure happens.
First, let me say that “curriculum failure” doesn’t mean that the curriculum itself was “bad.” It also doesn’t mean that YOU failed. Curriculum failure just means that it didn’t work for you. And that’s okay.
We have so many options available to us now, and that means we don’t have to try to make any particular one work for us if it’s just not what we need. But how do you know if you need to let it go or if you just need to keep trying?
At the first sign of Curriculum Meltdown: STOP
Curriculum Meltdown is more than just a bad day or moderate resistance toward school work.
- Meltdown can show up as a daily power struggle on a Code Red level, where your child insists they hate it, or can’t understand it, or can’t do it.
- Meltdown can also show up in the form of a deep dissatisfaction in how well your children are learning and remembering and progressing through the material.
- Another way Meltdown can occur if you all feel regularly bored, disengaged, or bogged down by the material.
When any of these happen, you’ll probably find yourself thinking, “THIS ISN’T WORKING.”
The second you find yourself thinking it’s not working, that’s your cue to STOP and examine what’s going on. Stop, and move to the next step.
When you think your curriculum choice isn’t working, it’s time to DROP.
There’s no point plowing through a curriculum that isn’t working, and you need to assess whether that’s the case or not. So let the daily lessons drop and step away from the book in question.
For a child struggling with a math or language arts curriculum, the first thing you will want to do is address is whether your child is “getting it” or if they are struggling with basic concepts. Shoring up the weak spots might be all your child needs. You might want to spend a little bit of time working on the troublesome areas and then resuming the curriculum temporarily to see if it is working.
Or for disappointment with how well a curriculum is meeting your family’s needs, or engaging your children, and the like, you’ll need to decide if you want to regroup and try again a different way or if you’re already certain this one isn’t a good fit.
In any case, as soon as you feel certain that this particular curriculum is in imminent meltdown, it’s time to DROP IT for good. Drop it and let it go.
The final step for putting out this curriculum fire is ROLL.
You gotta roll without the punches, and don’t let this curriculum failure get you down. Choose something else to try and move on.
While you research your next move or wait for a new curriculum to come in, you can let your child practice and review, or fill in with a unit study, or maybe even take a break from that subject while you wait.
Now, I know what you’re thinking–if you’re like me, you’re thinking that you don’t want to waste money on unused curriculum. I get it! But you also have to remember that a curriculum that doesn’t work, doesn’t reach your kids, doesn’t help them learn, well… that’s a waste, too. Money is tight here, too, and I like to be frugal as well. But using curriculum that fits is valuable.
A few thoughts:
- I buy non consumable curriculum when I can. This can be a bit more challenging for subjects like math. Even for math, there are reusable options like Teaching Textbooks, Switched on Schoolhouse, and Life of Fred. I like to look for non consumable options so I can pass them down to younger kids, but this also helps when I need to sell something we didn’t like.
- Also, I like to buy used books to begin with. I don’t mind buying used books with a little wear so that I have less money to recoup if/when I need to sell it.
- Also, you can take the time to sell the curriculum first and then use that money to buy the replacement. It will do you and your kids a bit of good to have a short break before diving in to the new one.
- Remember that just because something didn’t work for one child, doesn’t mean it won’t work for another. Kids have different learning styles and strengths so you may not need to discard a curriculum entirely if it might work for a younger child later.
- If you’re pretty sure a curriculum won’t work for any of your children, it’s better to part with it now than waste the money spent on the book again and again. It’s disappointing to need to purchase another book or program but money spent on a good fit is money spent well.
Changing Isn’t Failing.
One final thought for you: I’ve heard homeschool moms hesitate to admit that a curriculum or approach isn’t working. Sometimes we don’t like to admit that we are having a struggle or difficulty with a particular child or subject. Perhaps we worry someone might accuse us of not qualified or succeeding at teaching our children. Perhaps we have experience with people in our circles who make judgmental remarks about other homeschoolers. OR perhaps, and this one is a big one, we are our own worst critics, judging our own success or failure in homeschooling before anyone else has a chance to comment.
I know this because I’ve been here several times. In fact, I just switched tactics with my daughter who struggles to retain details read from a text, and who was struggling with Life of Fred math, which is text based. So last month we switched things up to find what she needs to succeed. I absolutely love Life of Fred, but she needed a change.
Let me remind you that switching curriculum or approach is not a failure. Success is not defined by achieving perfection without trials. Success is persevering and overcoming struggles through hard work and dedication, to achieve the desired goal well.
One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that we CAN switch gears. So allow yourself this freedom. When curriculum meltdown happens, don’t force yourself to stay in the inferno.
Don’t be afraid to stop, drop, and roll!