No matter how long you’ve been homeschooling, picking curriculum can be tricky. The problem with having so many options for curriculum now, is that there are so many options! How do you pick one, and how do you know when to ditch one? You can do your best to read reviews, get advice, and preview curriculum online, but even doing all of that doesn’t guarantee you’ll end up with something that fits.
If a curriculum, no matter how popular, takes a child who previously loved a subject and makes them hate it, then it’s time to seriously consider switching. I started out teaching my oldest to read with a popular phonics curriculum, and it brought both of us to tears on many occasions. It was when my daughter finally declared, “I HATE reading!” that I woke up enough to set the stupid curriculum aside and just go back to reading aloud to her for a few months before trying something different. I now joke that I’m the only homeschool mom who doesn’t like X curriculum! I could add a few others to the list too though. There’s a popular science curriculum that I just can’t make myself like. Two years of it has taken my Munchkin from a girl who wanted to be a chemist, to a girl who doesn’t like science very much. That’s how I knew for certain that I needed to shop for something different to use this fall.
Sometimes, you’ll carefully research, order a curriculum, and then once you have it in hand… there’s a sinking feeling that you’ve made a mistake. That happened to me with the history curriculum I picked out for Munchkin’s Freshman year of High School. I had such a hard time choosing one, but I finally settled on one and ordered it. When it arrived, I was underwhelmed. I set my doubts aside and started planning for the fall. The more I planned and read, the less I liked the textbook. I pushed through and made copies of the worksheets and tests. The more I saw of this curriculum, the more I didn’t like it. At. All. Too many times the text seemed more concerned with pushing their opinion on the reader, rather than actually talking about history. The daily reading assignments were far too short for a high school level course, and there were no projects or writing assignments at any point in the year. The tests… well, there were a lot of reasons why I didn’t like the tests. The thing is, I spent the money and bought the curriculum. I didn’t want to waste the money, so I kept pushing forward. After talking to my husband and trying to envision using the curriculum for a year, I decided to find something better. Yep, it still irks me that I spent that money on a curriculum that I’ll likely never use, but my daughter is going to end up with a much more robust year of history because I chose to pick something different. I can’t bring myself to regret that! I’d rather “waste” a few dollars and have Munchkin keep loving history, than stick with something that’s going to make her start hating the subject altogether. Know when to listen to your gut feeling about a curriculum! You know your kid and you know yourself, and it’s better to pick something else before the start of school than to get part way through the year and have to make a switch.
I could have made the history curriculum that I ordered work. I could have added in supplemental reading, created writing assignments throughout the year, and written new tests to go with the text. It would have been a significant time investment and I still would have had a course that I wasn’t fully happy with. I honestly considered that option and even started making a list of documentaries, books, and other resources that I could add into the course. I looked at a few of the chapters and tests and tried mentally writing up a new test. If we had already started the year, then I may have done just that. Discovering the issues with the curriculum this summer, before we started school, gave me the option to find something better though. (This is one reason why pre-reading the curriculum that you ordered is a good idea!)
There are times when a mid-year switch is unavoidable. When Munchkin was in 6th grade, the math curriculum that I’d used since she was in 1st grade just wasn’t working anymore. Six weeks into the year, my husband and I agreed that it was time to switch. That’s the only time so far that we pulled a mid-year swap in curriculum, but I don’t regret it for a moment. There was a lot of discussion put into that decision, and we told our daughter that she’d have to put in a fair amount of effort to make sure she finished the new math curriculum in the time left. I can’t tell you the relief it was to her and to me, when we made the decision to switch. In that case, it’s not that the curriculum we had used was “bad”, it just required a lot more hands-on teaching time that I could devote at that point. That coupled with the lack of adequate review in that level just made it something that no longer fit our needs. Jumping to a new curriculum mid-year is definitely not my first choice, but in some cases, it’s the best one.
While there are circumstances that warrant a mid-year change, it should be the exception and not the rule. First, take a look at the reasons why something isn’t working well, and see if there’s a way for you to modify part of it and make it work for the rest of the year. If you’re not making a habit of curriculum hopscotch and you honestly can’t make a curriculum fit with your family’s needs, then make the switch and don’t feel guilty. If you discover serious problems with a curriculum before your academic year starts, then so much the better!