Iron Man is Swimming in My Lemonade Part 3: Homeschooling Lessons – Curriculum!

mhATI80If you’ve been following my recent posts, you’ll know that I’m sharing some lessons that I’ve learned while I’ve been homeschooling. (Iron Man is Swimming Part 1 and Iron Man is Swimming Part 2)  Today’s topic has been one of the biggest learning curves for me and our whole family as we’ve gone through this process. Curriculum.

We’ve used several different styles of curriculum during the course of our homeschooling years and with each one, we’ve learned something that we take with us to the next one.

The first year we did an ‘online’ curriculum that promised us virtual classrooms with very little need for parental involvement. For this newbie homeschooler, that sounded perfect! When we got the massive boxes of books dropped on our doorstep, I thought it was the coolest thing. I mean she was just going to be at the computer where I could watch and help – but participating in a real classroom! How cool is that?

Then we logged in and everything sort of crashed downhill from there. My daughter spent hours a day watching pre-recorded lessons that were old and many were out of date. She struggled with keeping involved and excited and I struggled under mounds and mounds and mounds of paperwork. On some days I’d spend 8-10 hours just grading her homework or setting up for the next day’s classes. It was just too much for both of us.

The following year, we switched to a different curriculum that was all online and software based. This worked for our whole family for a few years. It took grading and scheduling out of my hands and kept track of how much time each child spent on every lesson. That was truly a God send for us because I was trying to keep my home based business going, be a caregiver for my husband (who has a chronic pain condition) and tackle this homeschooling monster. It really took a lot of the weight off of my shoulders. But even with that, we could see the holes in it. Lessons didn’t go as deep as we would have liked and we found ourselves struggling to supplement adequately and make sure kids were actually learning. We discovered that my kids have a tendency to treat that curriculum like a video game. Once they ‘scored’ the answers, they were happy to let it go and move on to the next level. This meant that the lessons were not sticking with them and we ended up spending a great deal of time going backwards, reassigning and trying to make sure that they really comprehended what they were doing.

Another aspect of the computer based curriculum that we really hadn’t considered was that it really separated our family. With each kid at computers or at a computer at various times, no one was ever working together. We started experiencing the ripples from this when our kids began interrupting each other and constantly ‘one upping’ each other. We realized that they rarely connected together and were more tempted to compete and get things done faster – not necessarily right!

So where are we now on curriculum? Are there any sports fans in the crowd? Right now, we’re in a ‘rebuilding season.’ Things once again have shifted at home for us and we’re ready to take homeschooling to a different level. We’ve decided to pick and pull from various curriculums and build our own lesson plans. My husband has time to do that now that he’s medically retired from the Air Force. So we’re back to working on the fundamentals and the basics. Our kids are away from the computer and learning to work together again. They’re beginning to encourage each other and realize how important each aspect of school lessons is.

Let’s face it – the prices on a lot of the curriculum out there is off-putting at best.  We’ve learned our lesson multiple times with buying and being really excited…but then finding it doesn’t live up to the hype.  So we’re cautiously approaching curriculum now and figuring out what systems, plans and programs would work for us.

What should you know before you jump in? Here are a few quick things.

– Know how much time your child will be able to put in on it and how much time YOU will be able to put in. If you’re running a business from home while you homeschool or if you’re trying to fit it around another schedule, you need to be aware of what will be needed from the teacher. If you’re ready to be a full time teacher and make this your occupation, then be aware of that as well.

– Take into account your child’s abilities, preferences, and your own. What can you teach comfortably? What curriculum will give you the most help/advice where and when you need it? And what fits into your budget?

As far as we know, there’s no homeschooling curriculum that will take everything out of your hands and if you’re choosing to homeschool, that’s probably not what you want anyway. Be aware of this as you make your decisions. Search the curriculums you’re considering and look up reviews. If you don’t know some things, don’t be afraid to ask. Find other homeschooling parents and find out what to ask. (I admit that the first three years I didn’t ask many questions because I didn’t have a clue WHAT to ask. I’m over that now! LOL!) See if you can find people using that curriculum and ask if you can observe for a day and see what it’s like.

I think one of the biggest things to keep in mind is that you’re not alone. Homeschooling is on the rise and there are tons of people who are doing it and doing it well! Do a search for homeschooling groups in your area. Find out how you can connect.

This is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made and I would not change a thing! If you homeschool your family or are considering it, I’d love to connect with you! Drop me an email and tell me about your experiences.