I’ve been homeschooling for over seven years now and over that period of time I have managed to let go of the curriculum guilt that I used to experience. What is curriculum guilt?
Well, I think curriculum guilt takes two forms:
- The feeling that you must use a certain curriculum because you spent your hard-earned money on it, regardless of how the curriculum is working for you and your children. This type of curriculum guilt sounds like, “I bought this and I’m going to use it – I don’t want to waste my money!”
- The feeling that you must use the curriculum exactly as the curriculum provider says it is supposed to be used. This type of curriculum guilt sounds like, “I need to follow the directions exactly or I won’t be using it like I’m supposed to be using it and that is bad.”
I can remember very clearly a time when I let curriculum guilt guide me in how I was teaching my middle child math. He was in first grade at the time and he was a very active seven year old boy. Really, my middle son was incredibly, bouncing-off-the-wall, climbing up the refrigerator active. He was a true ring-tailed tooter. I was using a traditional textbook math curriculum with him that included a video component of a daily 30 minute lesson.
Now, there were lots of things about this curriculum that were excellent. The problem was that I followed the curriculum exactly the way that I was supposed to, according to the teacher’s guide. Therefore, my bouncing-off-the-wall, climbing up the refrigerator, active little first grade boy endured a 45 minute math lesson 5 days a week. I cringe when I think back to the days I spent drilling his rear-end on math facts he already had down pat. (I was drilling the math facts to his rear-end because he liked to sit on his head…and bounce up and down). I spent WAY more time than necessary teaching very basic math concepts to my son. I sat with him every day to make sure that he paid attention to his video, and answered every question, and completed every single exercise, and completed every hands-on activity. Doesn’t it make you tired just thinking about it?
Now, there was nothing wrong with the curriculum that I was using, there was something wrong with me. At the time, I just didn’t have the same level of confidence in myself and the homeschooling process that I do know so I thought I HAD to use the curriculum exactly the way the teacher’s manual told me to use the curriculum. Because of curriculum guilt, I made math much more difficult for myself and for my first grade son. So, what could I have done differently?
- We could have watched only a short portion of the video – perhaps only the part that covered the new math concepts and skipped the rest.
- We could have skipped the video altogether since I had to sit with him anyway.
- I could have looked over the math lesson to determine what math concepts were being introduced. Then, I could have used a game to teach the concepts rather than the worktext that day. For example, adding on a number line can be done on a gigantic number line that a young child can actually step on the numbers to find the answer. My son would have liked that game!
- I could have shortened the lessons, perhaps doing only half a lesson per day. Homeschooling allows for flexibility.
- I could have used some online math games to practice math facts with my son.
Really, there are endless ways in which I could have tweaked the curriculum to work better for my son. But I didn’t because of curriculum guilt. Since I’ve let go of that guilt, I realize that curriculum is no more than a tool and a guide. Sometimes I use curriculum exactly as it has been written, sometimes I don’t, and I don’t feel guilty about it.
What if the curriculum simply isn’t a good fit for your child/children and no amount of tweaking will make it right? My advice would be to try to prevent that from happening in the first place. How?
- Try to learn as much information as you can about the curriculum before you purchase it. Curriculum is expensive and choices should not be made lightly. Talk to other homeschoolers, read reviews, try to actually look at the curriculum either electronically or in person.
- Be true to yourself. If you truly hate doing hands-on-projects with your children, don’t order a curriculum that relies heavily on hands-on-projects, even if it sounds wonderful and works great for your best friend, favorite blogger, or homeschool group leader.
- When you find something that works great for you and your children, stick with it. New curriculum often sounds tempting but as the old saying goes, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
So, what do you do when you do all of the above and you still pick a curriculum that is not a good fit for your family?
Well, after spending hours and hours researching different writing programs for my 7th grade daughter over the summer, I picked one that I thought was a great fit. As it turns out, it wasn’t. I struggled through the curriculum with my daughter for 3 weeks – teaching her, helping her, encouraging her, and drying her tears. My daughter, who loves to write, was fighting back tears during her writing lessons. Finally, I realized that I risked damaging my daughter’s incredible love of writing if I continued with the program. So, I just dropped it. I put it away and I may try it again when she is older.
What did I do for a writing program for her for seventh grade? Actually, I decided not to add another one. I simply have incorporated a wide variety of writing assignments to our unit studies for her. She’s an avid blogger, journaler, and is writing a novel loosely using a creative writing curriculum. That’s enough for now.
Letting go of curriculum guilt is a long process, one that I think comes naturally with time and confidence in yourself and homeschooling. If you are suffering from curriculum guilt, though, try tweaking the curriculum. If it simply can’t be tweaked enough, consider other options. Always remember, there are lots of ways to teach any subject. Embrace the freedom of homeschooling and use curriculum that works well for you and your family.