Is It Me? My Child? Or the Curriculum? What to do when homeschooling frustrations abound
On to curriculum! In this final post in our series, Deb Bell helps this homeschooling mama learn to let go of unchecked boxes, and embrace the learning lifestyle—flaws and all.
Heather Eades: So if you have determined your curriculum is the culprit of your homeschool’s frustrations, what would you suggest?
Deb Bell: First adapt. I adapted every piece of curriculum I ever used. I slowed it down, sped it up; if it was tedious, we did every other problem. Don’t be afraid to change the assignment. I do not subscribe to the philosophy that you have to be “thorough.” I believe in a spiraling pedagogy, and that over time with repeated exposure and different contexts, students will get there. It’s perfectly fine to skip stuff and adjust; modify assignments–read a different book! Curriculum is a tool. Don’t let it enslave you.
HE: While many of us know that makes total sense to hear, I have countless homeschooling friends who have told me they just can’t handle it if all the boxes aren’t checked. Any advice for us Type A personalities?
DB: Most homeschooling parents are simply trying to do right by their children. They feel they are shortchanging their child if they don’t do everything, or that they’re being a lazy homeschooling parent. But the vast majority of homeschooling parents just need to understand that they can be more relaxed in their approach, and that God is in the details.
For Christian homeschoolers, the main reason to homeschool is so God can show you His faithfulness and His abundant provision. God has already accounted for our mess-ups, failures, and limitations. Make God a big part of this whole evaluation, and show your kids it’s OK to make mistakes, even though we all try to do the best we can. It’s the wrong emphasis for a parent to think, “Homeschooling is something I’m doing to my children,” rather than supporting their child in their own quest for knowledge and understanding, and gaining competencies; figuring out what God wants them to do with their life. Support those things. Boxes can go unchecked.
HE: Was there ever a time when you completely abandoned a curriculum completely mid-year?
DB: Yes, one of my children was part of a co-op using a math program that was not a good fit for the child’s learning style. It wasn’t that my child was being over-challenged as much as the child was frustrated and confused by the way the material was presented. If you realize you can’t change the content or coach the child through it to make gains, you know it is time to make a change.
HE: How does a parent determine if a curriculum or philosophy does not fit their child’s learning style?
DB: Be“student- centered.” Focused on the child, not the curriculum. It’s the homeschooling parent who is actually learning how their child learns—they become a student of the student. If your child struggles continuously in a school subject and you see they are putting in a lot of effort and have the desire to learn, yet they’re not making gains, make changes. Every child is uniquely designed by God. Your child’s cognitive growth is just as unique as your child’s physical development. We need to normalize differences in our children’s cognitive development in the same way we normalize differences in their physical growth.
HE: Thank you, Deb! I think a lot of homeschooling parents like me need to hear this reminder. We can all feel such pressure, especially this time of year.
DB: At this point in the year, we’re all aware of our inadequacies. But I believe God allows that so we can then figure out how to call for a greater dependency on the Lord for these decisions and for our children’s lives—God is homeschooling us! So many of the practical questions we all have in this evaluation process are really just symptomatic of God calling us to press in to a deeper sense of His call and provision.
So celebrate! In homeschooling, we are so often aware of where we’re falling short and what’s not working and where our kids are struggling…that we over-emphasize, completely discount or minimize where God IS providing abundantly. Where are your kids THRIVING? Where are they IMPROVING? Where are they MATURING and SUCCEEDING? Celebrate those things in the process.