I sat on my bed and cried, yet again. My heart ached for my child. Most of the books she had no interest in, and some she barely understood. The activities were a bust, too. She’d rather spend her days hanging upside down from a tree than making the “fun and educational” salt dough map of whatever country we were studying.
I obviously was a terrible teacher, and I wondered if I was really cut out for homeschooling. Everybody online loved the curriculum, and I knew that it was the absolute best one out there.
That meant that the problem was with me.
There must be something wrong with me, I thought.
And I secretly wondered if there was something wrong with my child, too, who didn’t love the curriculum like everyone said she would.
It couldn’t be the curriculum.
It guaranteed that every child would love it, and implied that the people it wouldn’t work for were those who didn’t want what was best for their kids.
Was this true? Nope. But I had bought into the hype and marketing.
It was time to break up with our curriculum.
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Why we delay changing curricula
There are several reasons why we stay with a curriculum even when it’s not working.
- Loss of the dream
- Admitting to ourselves that our dearly held beliefs are wrong
- Feeling like we wasted our money
- Feeling lack of integrity, especially if we were an outspoken proponent of the curriculum
- Feelings of failure, “I or my child is a failure, because this is the “best” curriculum
- Feeling we will give our child a sub-standard education if we use something else, because (say it with me) this is the “best” curriculum
Loss of the dream
Often we buy into the dream of what our homeschool will look like with a certain curriculum, whether it’s free or one that we purchased.
Our children will grow up loving reading, they will do all these projects with high educational value, they will be conversant in world geography and social issues.
People outside the family will be impressed when you tell them about the volunteer soup kitchen your child organized all by himself as part of the Service to Others assignment in 10th grade.
Your child will not only know how an internal combustion engine works, but be able to sew for the family and discuss the deeper themes of Shakespeare and grow prize-winning tomatoes.
But when our child doesn’t like to get his hands greasy, or thinks Romeo and Juliet were stupid teenagers, or would simply rather be hanging upside down from that tree instead of reading the books …. it can be unsettling.
What will the future look like if not what we’ve already envisioned?
Admitting to ourselves and others that our dearly held beliefs are wrong
Sometimes we can get so caught up in the hype and marketing and, yes, lemming-like activity of believing that there is One Best Curriculum to Rule Them All that we are crushed when we discover that it is actually not working very well for our own child.
Especially when we’ve told others that this curriculum is The Best.
We have to admit to ourselves that perhaps we were mistaken, and that the others who also believe this are wrong.
This can be particularly painful if we’ve been the one convincing others that this is the best curriculum.
When we have the dearly held belief that this curriculum is The One True Way to Give Our Child a Great Education, we think that everything else is sub-standard.
Other people may actually say this.
That you’re selling out your child if you switch.
That you’re just not trying hard enough, or you’re not being strict enough with little Jimmy and by going a different route, you are sentencing him to a life of inadequate education just so he can be happy now.
Feelings of Failure
This is a big one that is often unvoiced. We feel it in the deepest recesses of our soul, but are afraid to bring it to the light.
That little voice that whispers “this is the best curriculum for everyone… you’re a failure because you can’t teach it right … your child is a failure …. something is wrong with you both … this is the best curriculum for everyone ….”
The logic goes like this: If this is the best curriculum for everyone, the best and only way for a child to get a great education, and every child loves it and loves learning, then
… if my child doesn’t love it, I must be a terrible teacher
… if my child doesn’t love it, there is something wrong with her
… if my child doesn’t understand it, then she must be rather unintelligent and maybe doomed to a life of failure
The Truth About Curriculum
Here’s the simple, honest truth.
Curriculum writers are not gods.
We do not always choose the best books, but the best books currently widely available that we personally like. That means we make compromises.
Curriculum writers do not know your child. It is as silly to think there is one homeschooling curriculum that can work for everyone as it is to think that the one-size-fits-all curriculum of the public school system fits everyone.
There is not one and only one path to an excellent education. There is not even one definition of an excellent education.
There are many homeschool methods and styles out there. Even if you believe that a particular method is the best (cough, Charlotte Mason, cough), there are almost always several curricula out there that follow that method.
One is not inherently better than another. One might be better for your child, or for you as a teacher, than another.
Oh, and those lemmings all jumping off the cliff to their deaths? It was staged.
Breaking up with your curriculum
First, realize that leaving your current curriculum, even if you previously thought it was the best one, or even if everyone in the forum elevates it on a golden pedestal, is OK.
Your children will not curl up in their bed, catatonic, or spend the next 30 years playing video games 24 hours a day and not know the difference between Africa and Australia.
If your current curriculum is not working, it’s not working.
It doesn’t matter if it’s because you don’t understand the method, or your child hates doing projects, or you can’t stand the religious worldview of the books … if it’s not working for your family, it’s not working.
Then, feel the freedom! Once you leave one curriculum that you felt was the only right way to educate your child, the whole world opens up. You realize that even if you stay within your chosen method, there are different ways to interpret it. One is not better than another.
You can use books that your child finds interesting. You can do science experiments or projects that mesh with her interests.
You realize that your child will not be denied entry into college because you skipped that boring read-aloud when he was 8.
I vividly remember the first time I left a curriculum that I had bought into the hype and marketing about.
We stayed with it for over 2 years, despite the fact that it didn’t match our worldview and my daughter would literally throw herself backwards on the couch and scream when I brought out the books.
I stayed with it because I was terrified that if we left, I would be giving her an inferior education. I felt like a failure that I couldn’t teach it well. I felt like there was something wrong with her because she didn’t like it. I felt like we were both… wrong.
Then the company made a strategic marketing error that alienated a large part of their customer base, and I and others left in protest.
I dipped a toe into the water and got a few books from a competing curriculum.
When I got those books home and cracked one open, I cried.
THESE were the kinds of books that my daughter would want to take to bed with her at night. THESE were the types of activities that she would love.
I realized that it wasn’t that there was something wrong with us, it was that the curriculum wasn’t a fit.
And breaking those chains was glorious.
It will be just as good for you.
Find what works for your family. For your child. For you.
Not what other people say is The One True Way. Find what works for YOU.