Surviving Homeschool Curriculum Overwhelm

homeschool curriculum overwhelm | finding the right homeschool curriculum

I recently got to venture to a large homeschool conference with a homeschool vendor hall of over 120 exhibitors. That’s a lot of books and a lot of options. As we visited with one vendor, just 30 minutes after the event opened, the vendor mentioned having a tearful conversation with a new homeschool mom who was already overwhelmed. As fun as all those options can be, it’s also a whole lot to take in. If that’s you, tearfully surveying all those options and feeling completely lost, here are a few tips for surviving homeschool curriculum overwhelm.

Surviving Homeschool Curriculum Overwhelm

Realize it’s trial and error, not pass or fail. Our success does not depend on our choices in the vendor hall or in our online shopping cart. We don’t need all of this to succeed, and we won’t fail if we make the wrong choice. Even an experienced homeschooler makes choices that don’t work out as well as they’d hope. It’s just part of the process, constantly making adjustments. But you have time to find your stride, and you won’t ruin your child’s education in a day, or a month, or a year. There are plenty of free resources to fill any gaps or rough edges you may discover as the year rolls on.

Remember it takes time to educate a child (as in 12 years!) It was comical to walk the aisles of the vendor hall and see all the promises the different products made: master multiplication in 10 days, learn a new language in a month, teach grammar in 15 minutes—you get the idea. Educating our kids can seem urgent, and in our frustration it’s easy to want a quick fix to our struggles. But the reality is, it takes time to teach our kids. I’m not saying these tools aren’t helpful and even amazing, but we set ourselves up for burnout and frustration if we plan our year according to these promises. Even with a great curriculum, it may take you longer than 10 days to master multiplication, and that’s okay.

Recognize that books and lesson plans are just tools. I’ve made a meal in someone else’s kitchen before, without my go-to tools and favorite appliances. It’s possible, not always convenient and maybe a little frustrating, but definitely possible. Homeschooling is the same way. Any of these tools will work to get the job done. Some of them may not end up being your favorite go-to item, but the real curriculum we teach from is life itself. There are so many hours and opportunities to teach what your child needs to know, and so much of it will happen when and where you least expect it. Maybe it will be from that shiny, new exciting publication you picked up from the vendor hall, and maybe it will come from the walk in the park this summer. 

I remember the days when there weren’t as many choices and options, when my mom did the best she could with what she had and improvised. And a lot of the options and resources we have today are because of those brave moms who innovated and improvised. I’m so thankful for them! I’m thankful for the richness their ideas have brought to my kids’ education. Surviving the homeschool curriculum overwhelm begins with seeing these as what they are—options, a wide range of good options. Start somewhere; and in one sense, it doesn’t matter exactly where. 

Read more about finding curriculum for ADHD and recognizing your child’s learning style.

Recognizing your children’s learning styles

recognizing learning styles | discovering how your child learns best

A huge part of homeschooling is much more than teaching material; it’s teaching a child how to learn, how to teach himself. Learning styles play a key part in this process of learning how to learn. By teaching to my child’s unique learning style, I’m not just catering to her preferences, I’m teaching her how she learns best; I’m equipping her with tools for life. What’s more, teaching to my children’s learning styles allows my children to be comfortable with who they are and how they learn. It’s okay if my daughter doesn’t learn the material in the same way her older brother does. They each learn in their own way, and they’re both learning. My daughter doesn’t have to feel stupid or incapable because she doesn’t learn the same way someone else might.

But sometimes, the whole realm of learning styles and modalities can be really overwhelming and confusing. How do you figure out which learning style fits your child? What if your child is in between styles or a little bit of several?

An Explanation of Learning Styles

At it’s very simplest, learning styles can be divided into three broad categories: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. A visual learning style could include both graphics, charts, and pictures, as well as words; it’s any learning preference that involves sight. An auditory learner primarily learns by hearing, preferring spoken directions over written directions and audiobooks more than reading books. The kinesthetic learner is your hands-on learner, learning through exploration, experimentation, and anything that involves doing or moving.

The trouble is, sometimes these categories can be a little too broad. I have two visual learners, but they learn in two entirely different ways. One is visual with language and loves words, and the other would much prefer pictures and graphics. For this reason, many people find learning intelligences or modalities to be more helpful: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, etc. Confused yet?

Knowing how your child learns doesn’t have to be confusing or technical. Who cares if you’ve got the proper name for it? Just know how your child learns best. You can figure this out without a complicated test.

1.  Watch your child play. Watch your child interact with information.

Do you have a child who can memorize anything put to music?

Do you have a child that never reads directions but follows the pictures in those directions instead?

Do you have a child that skips the lego instructions and pictures altogether and jumps into building and exploring?

Do you have a child that likes to order and arrange pieces and information before getting started?

Do you have a child that loves texture and messes and must touch everything?

Do you have a child that learns best in a community or group rather than alone?

You don’t have to know the learning style terms. Just know your child. As you watch your child play legos or organize a game with other children, what strengths does your child use? If your child loves music, add music to your curriculum. If your child loves to explore, hand him some manipulatives and have him work out a math solution before you hit the workbook; or give him a science experiment kit and journal rather than a textbook. If your child learns by pictures, make sure your curriculum includes lots of visuals.

2. Ask for your child’s opinion (if your child is old enough).

I have learned more about my kids by getting their feedback on what curriculum options I’m looking at than perhaps anything else. I’ll show them two or three options that I am considering, and they will readily tell me which they prefer. They know I make the final decision, and they can’t always tell me why they prefer one over the other. But as I notice what they are choosing, it gives me tremendous insight into how they learn best.

Also, as I recognize and praise what my kids are doing and how they learn, they are usually quick to give me ideas of how they’d like to add that to our homeschool day. When my daughter excitedly told me she could spell “Mickey Mouse” because she can sing the Mickey Mouse Club House song, we both knew we needed to add some tunes to our spelling time. When my son excitedly draws and sketches maps for his novel that he’s working on, I recognized we needed to add more drawing to our other subjects. When my daughter could not get the concepts of area and perimeter straight, we did an abstract art piece instead, with perimeter shapes in marker and area shapes in tissue paper.

There is nothing like finding a curriculum or method that allows your child to learn in his way, that allows him to succeed in learning and to love it. Homeschooling allows you to celebrate who your child is and to capitalize on that uniqueness. And best of all, it’s not complicated. It’s just a matter of recognizing what makes your child unique.

Finding the right homeschool curriculum for ADHD

finding homeschool curriculum for ADHD

I love homeschooling my ADHD kiddos, but it’s challenging for sure. Even with diet changes that have been more effective than their ADHD medications ever were, it’s still a challenge. If you can imagine with me, I homeschool Flint Lockwood (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and Dory (Finding Dory) with Winnie the Pooh keeping an eye on meal times and snack options. It’s noisy, high energy, messy, and loads of fun. Certain days are rough; some days rocket and dive and veer into a range of extremes: anxiety and emotional melt downs, high distractibility, zero self-regulation, etc.

If you are homeschooling or are thinking of homeschooling an active or challenged child, finding a homeschool curriculum can seem even more daunting. How do you know what will work? Will they be able to stick with something for the entire year? Can we make it through all the subjects when we can’t make it through a single meal? But let me reassure you, finding homeschool curriculum for ADHD isn’t as hard as it sounds.

Classically Homeschooling with Funschooling Journals

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling ADHD & dyslexia | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I’ve been a fan of Thinking Tree curriculum, particularly Dyslexia Games, for awhile. The thinking skills, right-brained approach, and creativity of the curriculum and dyslexia therapy has made a world of difference for my daughter. So when I was looking for a way to help my daughter connect to our classical, literature-rich style of learning, I went back to the company that really seemed to understand her best, and I took a good long look at the funschooling journals.

There are so many funschooling journals, all with slight variations, that choosing one took me a long time. In the end, it was the bright pink cover with the kitty that ultimately sold us on the Homeschooling Journal for Creative Girls (though the YouTube reviews were also very helpful). The books are intended to be used with unschooling or delight-directed homeschoolers. The children are supposed to select up to 8 books that they want to learn from and work through 5-8 pages a day in the workbook. The pages cycle through similar activities that include drawing and narrating from the reading, copywork, nature study, some art and creative pages, recipe pages (to write a recipe), listening pages for audiobooks and DVD material, nature study pages, and more. There’s plenty of space for coloring, doodling, drawing, and other creative expression.

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

We obviously are putting our own unique spin on the funschooling journals. Because we use Tapestry of Grace as our main curriculum, I already had a shelf of books that I wanted her to read. But rather than assign particular books for each week as I had been doing, I gave her the new funschooling journal and allowed her to work through the books on the shelf at her own pace. Instead of 5-8 pages a day, she was assigned 5-8 pages for the week to work through at her leisure. 

The result: what would have taken her weeks to read (with tons of nagging and frustration on my part) took her a little over one week. She flew through her reading and loved journaling in her book about the parts of her reading that she loved best. She loved drawing the pictures, copying her own selections, filling out the listening sheet for her audiobook and science DVD, and the other various activities. She’s done much less coloring than I expected, but I could care less. I’m just counting my blessings that she loves this so much! 

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I absolutely intend to use these next year as well and have a couple more in mind to get (although I think she’d be perfectly happy to continue with another of the exact same journal). My intention is to continue using it as a means to supplement and motivate her to engage with our classical curriculum. While I do have books from our Tapestry of Grace that I want to be on her reading list, I also allow her freedom to add a few titles of her own. It’s a perfect blend of classically creative curriculum for my active, right-brained non-traditional learner.

And, of course, because these are such a hit with sister, my creative fifth grader thinks he really needs one, too. I may just relent. After all, this Minecraft Funschooling Journal looks way too cool. (Perhaps I’ll use it as a subtle way to add some summer learning.)

Should I Switch Curriculum Mid-Year (or just make adjustments)?

There’s nothing more exciting than pulling that new curriculum out of the box, and there’s nothing more frustrating than feeling stuck with a curriculum that’s not working half way through the year. We’ve had our share of mid-year crisis situations, false starts and failures, switching up curriculums and styles and routines. It’s not easy to start over; it feels like admitting defeat, like you failed at something. It’s not easy to quit on a curriculum while we are teaching our kids to persevere. But we have to separate the feelings from the reality. You have not failed; your curriculum is failing you. So how do you know when to stick it out and when to start over with something new? Should you switch curriculum mid-year?

switch curriculum mid-year | making adjustments | homeschool curriculum | homeschool planning

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. For more info, please see my full disclosure.)

Deciding to Switch Curriculum Mid-Year

There is no perfect curriculum, but there are curriculum choices that just need a little adjustment. Ask yourself and your child if there is anything about the curriculum that you like. If there is something about the curriculum that you like, if you find yourself saying, “if only this one thing were different,” than you might be better off tweaking your curriculum and making a few adjustments, at least till the end of the year.

But if your curriculum has you both dreading school or dreading a particular subject, if there is very little or nothing at all that you enjoy, by all means switch curriculum mid-year. Neither of you will gain anything by trudging through. 

*Doesn’t my child need to learn do things he doesn’t like to do?* There is no doubt that teaching our children to work through hard situations is an important life skill, but I don’t think that learning has to be the platform for this lesson, particularly with young children. I have plenty of opportunities to teach this lesson with room-cleaning, dishes, and other chores. If I’m noticing that this is a character issue and not a curriculum issue, than yes, I deal with it differently; switching curriculum will not cure my child’s heart problem.

Deciding What Curriculum to Use Now

Next, take a good look at what you don’t like about your current curriculum. Does it take too long? Is the teacher material too complicated or too open-ended? Does it have too many online elements or not enough? Does it have too much review and not enough variety? Does it move too quickly through the material or not quickly enough? If you can identify more specifically what you did and didn’t like, choosing a successful new curriculum will be easier. In some rare situations, I have loved the curriculum but my child has not. Working through these first two questions is key so that I can find something that works for both of us, something that keeps the elements I love and adds the elements my child needs.

Where to Find Curriculum Mid-Year

When I’m checking out my options, one of my favorite places to start is Cathy Duffy reviews. Once I have a few items that I think will work, then I head to google for reviews on that particular curriculum, or I check Amazon or CBD.com for previews of the curriculum. Youtube is also a great place to search for reviews of particular curriculum items.

Once I’ve got an idea of what I want, I check for used items first. This time of year, check used curriculum groups on Facebook and ebay; many people who are in the same situation you are in, or are already looking ahead to next year, will be selling items at greatly reduced prices.  Try selling your current curriculum, as well. Re-coup some of your costs and invest that in a curriculum that works for you.

Sometimes, finances make switching curriculum mid-year nearly impossible, even if you can sell your original curriculum. Don’t forget to search the internet for free or nearly free activities or resources. Pinterest, TeachersPayTeachers, and CurrClick (affiliate link) are a few of my favorite places to look for supplements or inexpensive solutions to get us through the year.

If you are still not sure that switching curriculum mid-year is the best option for you, check out TableLifeBlog’s article: “10 Things To Do When Your Curriculum Isn’t Working.”

Not sure if you are ready to switch curriculum mid-year?

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King Alfred’s English review : an entertaining history of the English language

History of the English language I’ve heard so often the complaint that English doesn’t make sense, that it doesn’t follow its own rules. But really, that complaint comes from not understanding the history of English itself. Within all of those apparent inconsistencies lies a rich history of various cultures merging together and changing. King Alfred’s English provides that complete history of the English language in a fun engaging story—from its origin, roots, and early influences, to the influence of the printing press and the King James Bible.

I loved learning that English was scorned as a language for centuries. I loved learning why our words are spelled so strangely and how to tell which particular words are Anglo-Saxon. I loved learning how English finally rose to prominence as a language. And I loved reading how God paved the way for the English Bible.

King Alfred’s English is not just a history of the English language; it’s also grammar, spelling, language arts, and church history all in one. And best of all, it was fun to read. Though it may sound as though it would be stuffy and dry, the author has done a fabulous job creating an entertaining narrative. Her casual style and sense of humor make this a very enjoyable assignment for a high school, junior high, or even older elementary student. Supplemental material is also available online for chapter worksheets, unit tests, links, and suggested movies to piece together an entire course using this one resource.

Or read it, like I did, for your own enrichment and sprinkle the tid-bits of knowledge and fun anecdotes throughout your own teaching. You’ll finally have an answer to why certain letters are silent (they haven’t always been) and why there are so many different words that share the same meaning. Let me just say, I loved, loved, LOVED this book! Call me a nerd, but I thought it was an absolute page-turner. This is one history of the English language you may not want to put down! 

King Alfred’s English is available in print or as an ebook in a variety of places:

Christianbook.com (paperback, 170 pages)

 Amazon.com paperback and Kindle

BarnesandNoble.com (paperback)

RainbowResources.com (paperback)

Find out more about the book and read sample chapters at the main website, TheShorterWord.com. Then, read what other reviewers thought at Schoolhouse Review Crew

 

 

Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.