We’re back from the mother of all field trips (a month in Italy) and ready or not…here comes August and school.
I’ve spent the last week evaluating where my kids are and which curriculum will work best for them. Let’s be real. It can be daunting. Overwhelming. Make you want to suck your thumb in a corner. And I don’t attend curriculum fairs for this very reason. It’s simply too much. So how do I reach a decision that I pray will work for each child this year? I answer the following questions:
- Where is this child excelling? For one child it may be math, for another it may be handwriting. I need to honestly assess where the child is. If they are doing well, then I will stay the course with the curriculum that is working. For example, I adore history and minored in it in college. It is easy and a joy for me, so the kids and I are taking the slow road through American history as a group. My daughter who will be a junior (Gulp) has never been a huge fan until we discovered the Mystery of History. Then she discovered a text she would willing read on her own without any prompting from me. This year, while we wrap up American history in August or September, she will launch into the final volume in the Mystery of History and also read Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Renaissance World. My daughter has really loved these. My younger daughter (3rd grade) has discovered and inhales the Who Was? books. It is not unusual for us to walk out of Barnes & Noble with 2 or 3 of these. I’m all in if it ignites her love for learning about important people. And I love how much she takes from them. While we will do traditional texts to make sure she understands how history fits together, these books are what turned her on to biographies.
- Where is this child struggling or has the potential to struggle? If you’ve followed my homeschooling journey at all, you know that spelling was a struggle for us until we discovered the All About Spelling curriculum. Then the light bulbs began to pop for my kids. And it’s a program I don’t hate. I had to hunt and ask a lot of people before I found this curriculum. It also means this is where we have to supplement to make up ground with the older two from the years I didn’t know what I was doing with spelling — fortunately, this program makes it easy. Higher math is another point of transition where I have to really evaluate where my child is and what they need to help them most. I am terrible about grading on a consistent basis. I don’t enjoy it and there are other things that demand my time, so Teaching Textbooks has been a God-send for us. It has a teacher on the interactive CD that walks the students through the lesson, and when the student answers problems, they get immediate feedback, a chance to try again, and then a step-by-step tutorial on how to solve the problem correctly. It’s made a difference for my teenager. Now that I have an eighth grader, I’m hoping it will work as well for him, too.
- What does my child need right now? Have they done heavy-duty grammar for several years and need a break? Then how about an English unit study or book driven study? Is handwriting slipping? How about some fun art? Or music lessons?
- Quit looking at what everyone else is doing. Just because someone else loves a certain program doesn’t mean it will work well in your homeschool. Know yourself. How do you best teach? Know your time. Some of the programs out there are crazy time intensive. Can you realistically do that? Have you found something that works for your family? Then don’t abandon it every time you hear of a new curriculum or option. However…
- Be open to hybrid methods. I never imagined my children would take public school classes, but my oldest takes two or three classes a year at the local high school and it’s been a wonderful experience. She’s getting some great science classes that I wouldn’t give her — I know myself well. But she choose to stay home for the rest of her classes. She likes the hybrid nature. We are blessed to live in a community where the private schools and public schools are all open to this process. One friend’s son takes band at a local Christian high school. Another friend’s daughters take band at the same high school my daughter attends part time. A third friend’s daughter is taking classes at the local community college. Which leads to…
- Be open to the plan and vision changing to reflect the needs of the child. When we started homeschooling I fully expected my kids to do what I did and start taking classes at the community college when they were 16. My oldest turns 16 in October, but won’t be at the community college. Instead, she’ll be taking third year high school French for dual credit. She may be able to get dual credit for a science class as well. My youngest is far enough ahead already, that he may be out of high school and in college at 16…only God knows. And that’s a key…
- Trust God to lead you to what is best for each child. You love your child, but God loves them even more. You know your child, but God knows them better. Never stop partnering with Him as you educate your children. He’s the ultimate principal.
What would you add to my list? What have your experiences taught you?