~ Curriculum Hopping ~

curriculumhopping-graphicThose of you who are members of my yahoo list, I apologize for the rerun. I received such positive feedback after posting on this subject that I thought I would share it here as well. If you are not on the list, I’d love for you to join us at Raising Self-Learners for Life. We’re all about–you guessed it-self-teaching and mastery stuff.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RaisingSL4Life/

One of the things that reeeeally bothers me is how many parents are swayed to change curriculum because little Jimmy “doesn’t like it.” Kids should not be determining the curriculum, folks. I don’t ask my younger kids which spelling book they want to do, or which history series they want to use, etc. I look at it, I decide if I think it is in the best interest of my educational philosophy to use it or not, and then the children DO IT. Period.

Granted, for me I am dealing with crowd control. If I catered to each child’s whim on curriculum and tolerated one of them saying how they “didn’t like their spelling book” and wanted to try another kind, then before I knew it, I would be hearing complaints about every piece of material in the house from every child.

You all know that I am a huge proponent of students taking more and more control of their educational processes. However, there is a fine line here that many parents cross thinking that they should let their children decide if they “like” curriculum or not, or if mom should go searching for yet another history text that perhaps Junior will like better.

Hogwash! I don’t know what I would do if one of my kids said, “Mom, I don’t really like this handwriting book. Can you look for something else that I might like better?”

If I DID hear that from one of my kids, I would ask what it is the student didn’t like about the handwriting book, and I would listen to their complaints. Then I would gently but firmly let the student know that I think this series is the best one out there, and while I am sorry they don’t like _________ about it, it is my choice for their handwriting instruction. End of subject. I would not allow any future comments or whining about the handwriting book.

I am the mom. I trust my judgment. My kids trust my judgment. One way to make them NOT trust my judgment is to give in to them and go looking for “something better.” Have I looked at every single handwriting program out there? Uh, no. I have found one I like and that I want to use, and that is what we do. In fact, I have used the same program for every single child thus far.

If Lilie, child number 8, complains about the book, do you think I am going to substantiate her whining by assuring her that her 100% enjoyment of homeschooling is my ultimate goal?

If she had been my first child and she had complained, I may have been swayed to look around for something else because I would have had no past experience that said, “This curriculum works,” and I may have waffled. Don’t do that!

If you have one child who randomly and regularly complains about curriculum, don’t give in! Sure, you need to listen and address the child’s concerns, but do not give your young children control over what you use in your homeschool. And especially do not change from one series to another just because your child complains.

What happens in college? What if a college student doesn’t like the curriculum the professor chooses? Exactly! So why do parents doubt themselves when their kids kick up a fuss about curriculum? Why do homeschool parents not RELAX and use what they have instead of feeling a compulsion to scour the aisles of curriculum fair after curriculum fair in search of a curriculum that will make the child happy.

Can you tell this is my pet peeve?

I would also say not to change your math curriculum either. Lauren, when she was in high school, did not like or enjoy Saxon math.  We pushed on through it. I wish for her sake that she had liked it, but she had to work through her dislike of the curriculum, and she had to have a good attitude about it. She did. She pulled an A in every level. She also earned an A in her college algebra class her freshman year while tutoring other students in her class who requested her help.

The ability to tailor learning to the individual student is wonderful; however, do not feel that you have to find a curriculum that your student is delighted with all of the time. Find what WORKS and stick with it. As an experienced mom of many, I can assure you that forcing your child to work through what you have chosen, to work with excellence, and to master the material is NOT UNREASONABLE. It is the expectation!

Keep it simple. Stick to your guns. Work through what you have. You will never find the perfect curriculum, so why torture yourself and think that it is out there? I even recommend that parents NOT go to curriculum fairs if all they are going to do is shop around for different curriculum.

It is like looking in a candy store window. You WILL like what you see, and you WILL be tempted to buy, but you don’t need it! Why go looking? You know you will become unsatisfied with what you have, and you will doubt yourself. You will think, “I like this and this about Math-U-See (or whatever), so maybe we’ll try this to see if little Jimmy likes this better?”

JUST SAY NO.

One concession that I will make is for a video tutorial. Sometimes students, especially with math, need to SEE and HEAR a teacher go through the steps to understand more complex operations such as algebra. Algebra is MUCH more complex than spelling, right? Spelling is memorization, whereas algebra requires complex operations. Get a video tutorial if your child struggles with Saxon algebra (or whatever)IF and ONLY IF you are unable to explain it to him or her.

If you are able to do it, then take the time and spend it generously with your student to help them along in this area. If you totally don’t “get” algebra, and your student is unable to read the book and get it, then bring in some visual aids if necessary, but only if you feel they have hit a wall.

I will be talking about this topic in my next HSE column. One way to be an underwhelmed homeschool mom is definitely to trust your instincts and not allow your young children to do anything other than happily do what you place before them, as you have chosen that material for a reason which is not open for discussion with the student, as a rule. I am talking about younger children here, meaning the elementary and even middle school years.

Should a high schooler have an input on what “brand” of material they do? YES, but I would be asking for input and letting the student know that I am interested in their thoughts; I will be making the decision, however. Do not send the message that the student’s likes and dislikes are the ONLY factor and not the educational content being a huge factor in the brand-choosing. You should definitely consider whether or not you think the material will be a good fit for your student(s), but be objective about it.

Wrong thought: Will Susie like this history text and not complain about it and say it is too boring?

Correct thought: Will the material in this program present the given information in a learner-friendly manner? Is it presented in such a way that Susie will comprehend it and be able to remember it?

One of the reasons I like Abeka materials is that they are colorful and the material is presented in an interesting way. One reason I do not like Rod and Staff is that I find it hard to read through the books myself, and I find them interesting: few pictures and black and white text only. (They may have changed things since I last looked.) If I am not interested in it, I can safely assume my students won’t be, either.

However, the content is more important than presentation. I am happy to have found BOTH in the Abeka series–to me, that is. You’ll find what YOU like for your students. But once you choose, stick with what you have chosen. Make your life easier by remembering that if what you have works, don’t turn it in for the next new thing that comes down the pike. The next new thing WILL BE COMING to a curriculum fair near you–I can guarantee you that.

You know, curriculum choices are like meal choices in a lot of ways. Our goal in meal-planning is good health for our children, right? If I leave it to my children to choose their own food, they would most likely not choose what I would choose for them.

Sure, I try to make things that they do like, but I will require them to eat something they don’t particularly like because that is what we are having for supper. In our household, you don’t complain about dinner; you eat it thankfully.

Same thing with curriculum. You don’t pick it apart; you just do it.

Curriculum fairs, however, are good places to go to in order to find your curriculum. Once you find it, don’t negotiate with your children to get them to cheerfully use it. Expect them to cheerfully use it. If they don’t love it, don’t think you made a mistake and go looking for something bigger, better, nicer.

I don’t know that I have ever met a curriculum that I thought wouldn’t work. Sure, children will have preferences, and get what you think is right for your children. Then stay there.

As I have said before, other than a brief dabbling into the Robinson Curriculum, I have used the same materials for all of my students for the past 16 years, and I see no reason to go hunting for something better. I am not compelled to do so NOW, but I used to feel the pressure. For some reason, I thought I had to be up on the latest thing in home education.

I remember feeling enormous relief when I realized that what we had been using all along was yielding great results! And I really don’t credit the curriculum. I credit the mindset of mastery learning and self-teaching.

Will I ever change anything? Perhaps, but it will not be because one of my students is whining and carrying on. My positive attitude about what we use spills over to my children. If I am confident, then they are as well. Funny how that works.

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2 Responses to ~ Curriculum Hopping ~

  1. hi-d says:

    This is an awesome post! Thank you for writing this. I don’t change things up much around here, but it is good to read this from somone with so much experience.
    I appriciate the time you take from your busy schedual to help other homeschooling moms!
    Thanks Joanne!

  2. jana says:

    I think this is something that is often overlooked by home school parents in our attempt to find the perfect curriculum. Well said!

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