Thursday, November 11, 2010

Twiddling Your Curriculum Choices: Small Changes Can Make a Big Impact

Dear friends,

Have you ever started out using one curriculum and then realized it wasn't working for you or your child?  What do you do next?  This has happened to me many times in the past two decades of home schooling.   Sometimes, I see what I can do to adjust the curriculum so we can keep using it, picking and choosing from it what is helpful and what is not.  Other times I switch to another resource to use at least for a while.  Much of home schooling is a matter of trial and error since each child can be so different from the others, and some curriculum just doesn't click!  Also, there are times when we buy something that we haven't used before and we don't know yet how it will perform in the daily scheme of things.

For about four years, our family was enrolled in a structured home school co-op where each teacher selected the curriculum that would be used by his or her students.  This was, of course, necessary to keep things in order so everyone could be "on the same page" and make it easier for the teacher to plan assignments.  However, I have always loved picking curriculum, so this was one trade-off I had to make.

However, this past spring, having decided we would go back to what my husband calls "true home schooling", I relished the opportunity to go resource hunting again.   There is a wonderful used bookstore near us that carries a lot of curriculum, and I noticed some middle school Earth Science books from a Christian publisher on clearance for $6 a piece.  I bought two identical ones, because the child who would be using them likes to read to me, and it's easier for me, as a visual learner, to follow along if I have my own copy right in front of me.  Well, we used this text for about 12 weeks, but it seemed like he was having a hard time motivating himself to read the chapters, and hunting down the specific answers to the questions always slowed the process down even more.  I asked him about this, and he said he really wanted to learn about a whole variety of science topics, especially physical science, chemistry, technology, etc.

I didn't want to buy anything new for him right then, so I started looking on my shelves for what we already had.  I hit the jackpot with a science encyclopedia (published by Dempsey Parr) which was written for his age level.  Each page spread covers a different topic, with plenty of visually appealing diagrams, charts, and photos.  There are also experiments in the back of the book.  I showed it to him and he was absolutely delighted.  Each day he reads four pages and then writes a paragraph about what he has read.  He prefers this kind of open-ended written narration rather than comprehension questions anyway, so this is perfect.  I love reading what he has learned each day.  Science has become a joy for him instead of drudgery!

One small change, one big impact!  I'm not saying we should be wishy-washy or give in to every sign of discontent in our children, but we do need to give it careful thought and see what we can do.

Don't be afraid to adjust curriculum as needed.  It is not a sign that you "failed" in picking something out the first time, but of sensitivity to your child in being willing to change!  It gives your child the message that you care. 

Oh, what happened to the two Earth Science books I had bought?  I brought them in to sell back to the used bookstore, and oddly enough, the on-line resale price had shot up to $60 each.  The store pays about 50% of expected sales price if you choose to take store credit, so I came out with $30 in credit for each $6 I had spent!  Sweet deal!

Virginia Knowles

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