So there I was – fully enjoying complete satisfaction of my curriculum choice for our first year of homeschooling. I confidently purchased the same program for the following year and walked into summer with a smile. When it was time to start back, we dove into year #2 with grand anticipations.
We didn’t get 3 weeks into that year before I realized, this curriculum is no longer working. I wasn’t happy, my son wasn’t happy and something had to change!
I remember staring blankly at the computer screen as I pulled up website after website while my toddler destroyed the house one room at a time. Everything looked so appealing. Each site advertised how they were uniquely the best, with their sidebar full of testimonies of transformed school rooms. Kids were learning and having fun in the process while Moms sat a few feet away, smiling. That’s what I needed. Smiles.
That’s when I realized it: I had succumbed to the infinite black hole of “What curriculum do you use?”
I couldn’t go on a playdate to the park without asking this question to the longer-time-than-me homeschool mom or overhearing someone else ask it. I finally decided as I watered my dying lawn after a park playdate that this must just be what every homeschool mom thinks about in her spare time. How do I make this better…what about this…I’ll need to prepare this before tomorrow…it never ends.
Questions mounted in my head. I began to feel like the dad in Father of the Bride when he had a melt down at the Supermarket over having to buy 8 hotdogs and 12 hotdog buns. “Because they think they can rip off the American public,” said Steve Martin, the inflamed dad to the police officer who was called to intervene because he was removing the superfluous buns.
That was me. Melting down and wanting to remove the superfluous. So I did the thing that made the most since to me. Bought them all. Someone mentioned Five in a Row, I went home a purchased it. Someone else mentioned Learning Language Arts through Literature. Bought it. Someone else mentioned Konos, Abeka, My Father’s World, Classical Conversations, Charlotte Mason.
In all this I learned something about myself. I’m not a sit behind a computer and research it kind of person. I can’t tell by looking at a pretty catalog with catchy phrases and inspiring testimonies if we will love it. I have to do it.
When I get the whim to re-arrange my furniture because I need a new flare, I can’t picture how it’s going to look in my head while staring at the room. I have to move the couch over there, put the bookshelf over here and look at it. I have to sit on the couch and see if I can still see the TV or in the other room. I may even leave it for a few days while we all live in it and see if it works. Usually, I end up making a few modifications and then love it. And once I like it, I’ll leave it alone.
I learned I do this with school. I needed to move the couch over here to see if it worked. Now, we’ve never had a money tree and I tried to keep expenses to a minimum, but yes, I bought things I didn’t like, and wished I hadn’t bought. I cried over money “wasted”, but I learned so much, even if it was just what I didn’t like.
Through all that, I found what I did and do like. And just like when I finally get the furniture functional it stays, I stuck to what I liked, for the most part.
You know, sometimes it’s hard being around other homeschoolers. We like to talk about our curriculum. We like to show off what we’ve done, how well our kids are doing. And sometimes, when you’re on the other end of that, you look at a project someone else has done, when your week has been a total flop and think, “Wow. They are so much better than me. I need to do what they’re doing.”
I remember when Zach was little, I would draw an A on a piece of paper. Then I’d hand him his own marker or crayon and ask if he could draw an A. When he couldn’t draw an A like I did, he would put down his marker and take mine. Because the marker was the problem in his mind. The marker in my hand is the one that draws an A good.
Well, that’s what I did when others would talk about their school days and curriculum. Oh. It’s working in their house. Their pen works better than mine, I need that pen!
So here’s what I hope you take away from all these words: Yes, curriculum is important. Find what works for you and your kids. Find out what works however you need to. Buy it all if need to/can and don’t feel guilty about it. You are learning as much as your kids are. But realize, what you think is going to work great, may not. And that’s ok. It’s ok to change.
But also, don’t compare yourself. Find what works and then don’t go shopping anymore!
And lastly. When I was crying over which curriculum to buy, I felt the Lord comfort me with these words: “There’s no magical curriculum. It’s what you put into it that matters.”
Each curriculum has its gaps and cons. The heart that goes behind the teaching is what your kids will remember most.
Was this helpful? What curriculum questions do you still have? I refrained from scheduling out my day, exactly what we use because of the tendency to compare and think someone else’s way is better. Because it always looks better on paper. But I want to hear your questions and maybe I can write another post addressing those concerns and difficulties. You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or ask in the comments below!
Photo credit: Flickr