Is It Me? My Child? Or the Curriculum?
What to do when homeschooling frustrations abound
Some things are probably working wonderfully for you this school year but others are not. How do you figure out how to address those problem areas? I sat down with Debra Bell for practical advice on trouble-shooting your homeschool.
This week we look at how to pinpoint the root of homeschooling frustrations, and 4 steps to help when the source of the issue is . . . you.
Heather Eades: Many of us are re-examining the investment we made in the year’s curriculum. What are some questions to be asking through this process?
Deb Bell: We need to be asking, “What’s working, what’s not? What do I need to adjust or flex to make the rest of the year a success and help my child feel successful?” Give yourself permission to stop and take a break to pinpoint issues.
2. Shift your focus from a curriculum-centered plan to a child-centered plan.
HE: Can you share some personal experience you have in doing this as a home educator?
DB: When asked what homeschool method I ascribed to, I always said my homeschool approach was intentional and strategic. And in order to be that, you have to be child-centered. So, at this point in the year I would look at each of my kids, and I would take a day—strategic and purposeful—to sit down and think about, “How is each kid doing? Where do I see focus? Where do I see interest? And if I saw those things, then I knew, “It’s working; I don’t need to adjust.”
HE: And when did you know to make changes?
DB: When I’d identify where any of my kids were losing self-confidence, were discouraged because they couldn’t be successful, or where I saw a lack of motivation and interest. I always want each child to feel successful—I can’t overemphasize how important a child’s own sense of success and accomplishment is. That doesn’t mean a child should expect things to feel easy. Hard is good. But sometimes parents may persist with a curriculum or resource even when their children are failing, or their confidence is being undermined. Many parents don’t know what to do, so they just keep going. When kids are losing confidence, parents really need to stop and prayerfully discern the root causes.
3. Set aside your timetable; adjust to the pace your child needs.
HE: If a parent has been pushing through a curriculum for quite awhile, without seeing gains, would you suggest backtracking–not being bound by a grade level?
DB: (laughs) I avoided buying resources that had specific grade levels for that reason. Dropping back might be an option, but just slowing down the pace often worked well for us. We can get very anxious about slowing down and moving at a pace that allows our children to be successful, but we really need to do that. Continually setting a pace that is beyond the child’s readiness is self-defeating. It only makes the problem worse. Whenever you’re undermining your child’s confidence, you’re actually making it much more difficult for that child to ever catch up or to ever like that subject. As a parent my goal is to make them confident in the subject. An inflexible schedule? That’s an issue with me. The schedule is not child-centered, and I need to change that.
4.Give yourself permission to use curriculum as a guide.
HE: I think many times, we parents feel like we have to keep pressing through a curriculum by the end of the year—we have to check all the boxes or we didn’t do enough. How would you respond to that as an educator?
DB: I think parents often feel like that! They feel like, “OK, we bought this curriculum, we’ve got to get through it by the end of the year!” But what many parents don’t realize is that as a classroom teacher, I never got through an entire curriculum in a year. Classroom teachers are very comfortable not doing everything. We’re picking and choosing, modifying (curriculum), not completing it. Give yourself permission to adapt, skip, or take a break.
Next post: Is It Me, the Curriculum, or My Child Pt. 2: What to do when it is your child.