Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January is the new September. It is.

We're on Christmas break right now. We ended school at home on Wednesday, December 18th; the 19th and 20th were our last co-op days. We return to co-op this Thursday and resume school at home next Monday. As I always do on Christmas break, I'm using this time to tweak our schedule and curriculum as needed.

My friend Tiffany will tell you I frequently say "January is the new September". This is the perfect time to make changes to your homeschool. Got curriculum that just isn't working? Ditch it now. Are you absolutely, thoroughly wiped out at the end of the school? It may be time to revamp your schedule. Worried because your school year started slow, picked up a little steam but began sputtering again around the holidays? Take a few days to chart the next semester. Preparation may be the boost you need.

By now, you should know if a curriculum or text is working--for both you and your student. The best instruction for your child will be the one that perfectly joins his learning style to your teaching ability. That should be the main criteria. If a 20 year old text you picked up at a thrift store works better than the new book you've seen reviewed on a dozen homeschool sites, the thrift store tome is the one you use.

I've seen parents reluctant to part with a curriculum because it cost a small fortune and they fear discarding it will be a waste of money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Slogging onward with no success not only represents a waste of money, but a waste of time--as the child won't retain the material and you will end up re-teaching the subject later. Trust me, I know.

A few years ago, it seemed everyone was jumping on the Latin foreign language bandwagon. We did, too. A certain curriculum was declared the best thing going and several of my friends purchased it and we followed suite.

It was awful. I don't mean it was a good curriculum that just didn't work for us, I mean it was truly awful. When my girls (the oldest was in middle school at the time) began picking out errors on the DVD, I dropped it. I wasn't concerned that the text, workbook and DVD combined cost nearly $100. My girls dreaded that class and we ended up skipping foreign language for a while as I researched other options.

I found another Latin program and we began in February of the following year. By the time the school term ended in June, the girls had made a lot of progress. The reason? When you find the right curriculum you will make up the lost time.  (By the way, the program we switched to was Visual Latin. Get a free trial at the website).

We worked across the summer to catch up and started the second session in September of the next school year.

Sometimes you may need to switch a curriculum for other reasons. We used Mystery of History for a time. My girls loved it, so did I. I learned things from that text I didn't learn in school. The timeline: brilliant. The multi-level teaching schematic: awesome.

Problem was, I didn't have time for the prep and supplementary work it required. I'm a freelance writer and at the time, I was on assignment with two periodicals. We switched to a textbook for the next year. My older daughter took an online class that combined literature with history and has fulfilled those credit requirements. Grace has told me she'd like to return to Mystery of History when she begins high school in two years and we will.

I'm happy with the curriculum we're currently using. I've mentioned them here.

Our schedule may change this time around. The 16 year old is job-hunting. Her dad and I have agreed she can work a few hours on two days: Thursdays and Saturdays. We may need to move her Thursday classes earlier in the week.

What I'm doing this week is reviewing each book, marking the table of contents with the changes I need to make, searching online resources (Khan Academy, YouTube, PBS, et al) for information that will supplement what they are learning. I'm making sure I've got Beth's work graded and keeping an eye on her transcript. I keep all of this information in my planner, which is really a multi-subject spiral notebook. Classy, I know.

Those books you bought that no longer work for you--sell them. There are websites aplenty where homeschooling parents buy and sell both new and used curriculum. I've purchased and sold on If you live in the Hampton Roads area, drop by the Moore Expressions homeschool store in Virginia Beach. Cherrie and staff are more than willing to point you in the right direction curriculum-wise and offer assistance with other homeschooling issues. Find them here.

Take some to review your school and be brave enough to make the changes needed to ensure your student's success. Let's finish this school year strong.

1 comment:

  1. I agree! While it's difficult to part with an expensive curriculum, the cost of keeping something that isn't working is far more expensive. Ditch it and move on!