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?

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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 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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Taming A Beka when A Beka’s too much

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I love many things about A Beka curriculum: their colorful workbooks and activities, their readers, the thoroughness. But I also totally get when a family says that A Beka is a lot of work. As a matter of fact, even for us sometimes A Beka’s too much work. Sometimes, I have to tame it down—and trim and cut and splice—until it fits our family. I thought I’d give you a little peek at what that looks like.

2 simple changes when A Beka’s too much.

1. Choose only the workbooks you need

Evaluate what you want to cover with your child using formal curriculum, workbooks, and lesson plans. Are there topics that you feel you can cover with hands-on lessons, crafts, an online game, or free printables that you would like to use to add more variety? Are there areas that your child needs more help with? Are there topics you think you can cover without making them an entire subject?

When I took a good look at first grade for my son,  I honestly couldn’t believe everything required just for Language Arts: phonics, reading, spelling, handwriting, and grammar! Too much? Maybe not, but it is definitely more workbook pages than I care to assign. So I cut the Language Arts book; I didn’t even order it. From the curriculum, it seemed that I could definitely tackle this subject on my own. Teaching syllables, prefix/suffixes (in the context of the phonics sounds), and alphabetical order were concepts I felt I could point out and instruct along the way without making it an additional subject. I considered holding off on spelling until after he had completed the phonics book, but my son loves spelling, and I figured I could tackle it in roughly 5-10 minutes a day.

Reading is again much less formal for us. For one, though I own a number of the readers, they are all older editions that do not fit the lesson plans. Rather than try to manipulate them to fit the curriculum, I decided to just read them aloud at our own pace. My son is a voracious reader, and I have no concerns that he will get enough practice. And we just do the readers—no Handbook for Reading (gasp! I know, but I hated that as a kid, and I still hate it as a parent. I’d rather teach the words as they come up in his reading than subject ourselves to that torture. Perhaps, if he were struggling with reading I’d feel differently. But as I said, I made these adjustments to fit our family.)

As for handwriting, I have assigned those at my discretion for awhile now. There seems to me to be enough handwriting practice on the worksheet pages themselves, and with our notebooking he’s getting practice with writing complete sentences and some copywork exercises. He enjoys the pages more if I space them out and only assign one or two a week.

In summary, we’ll be doing two workbooks for Phonics/Reading/Spelling/Language Arts: Letters and Sounds 1 (phonics) and Spelling 1.

2. Simplify the plans

Each of us has our own unique teaching style, and for those just starting out, A Beka’s scripted plans can be very helpful. But for some of us, the notes seem much more appropriate for classroom instruction than a conversation with our child at the dining room table. Know what you need, and don’t be afraid to skip what isn’t helpful for you.

Over the last couple of years of homeschooling, I’ve found that I am no good at looking at a scripted plan everyday. But I also don’t want to miss important aspects to the plans. In the past, I’ve nearly re-written the plans into my lesson planners to be sure that I actually see what I need to see. It was a ton of work, much more than it needed to be.

So, I’m experimenting with a new system this summer. I’ve actually written some “plans” at the bottom of the workbook pages themselves. I marked “TEST” at the bottom of the last workbook page before a test is assigned. I also marked the language arts (LA) concepts as they came up. When I come to a lesson with an “LA” note at the bottom, I’ll know to look at the curriculum. It took me roughly 20 minutes to go through his workbook and make these notes, as opposed to the hours I was spending plotting out lessons.


By making adjustments, I feel like I get the best of both worlds—a quality curriculum with colorful activity books plus a schedule that allows for more than an endless line-up of worksheets. Sometimes too much can be a good thing by allowing you a plethora of options to choose from. When A Beka’s too much, tame it until it fits your family and your needs.

Room for Improvement

Our start to homeschooling last year began with a rocky start, a long break for re-evaluation, and then a much more successful second attempt.
And this year—well, it hasn’t been without it’s own adjustments. It seems that everyday, I’m tweaking our schedule, our system, and our material. And everyday, I’m closer to where I’d like to be. Of course, there are those days when success comes to a screeching halt and triumph throws a tantrum in my school room floor. But then, I call it a day, re-evalutate (again), and tweak a little bit more.
It’s been in the midst of all that tweaking that I’ve come to appreciate a few of the opportunities that come from the fine-tuning:
1. Involving others in the solution. Sometimes a situation is more than I can handle on my own. That’s a tough reality to accept. But I can’t educate my children by myself. And yet that humbling reality leads to a much richer discovery in the help I receive from others.
My husband has been one of those heroes, coming in to save my day. Discussing the school day with my husband and including any frustrations or challenges I’ve faced allows him to stay connected with the family. And his objective advice on those situations has, on many occasions, been exactly what we all needed.
My mom has also been a huge contributor. Having homeschooled me and my two siblings, she has the perspective and retrospection that I often lack. From her, I get to hear what she found helpful and what she would have done differently.

Other homeschoolers also offer a wealth of wisdom. I interact with internet homeschool groups and even occasionally send questions to my favorite bloggers. Their perspectives and advice have often been revolutionary for me. And the beauty of the internet is that it doesn’t matter that they are homeschooling all the way across the country; they can instantly become my cyber-neighbors.
2. Realizing my own short-comings. I’m not perfect. And facing that fact, that I could be the one at fault and not my student, is extremely helpful in a couple of ways. First, it allows me to be more patient with my children’s short-comings (especially when I see that they’ve inherited those faults from me). Second, it forces me to depend on a Strength outside of myself. For when I am weak, then is God’s strength most evident. Both my children and myself are able to see the Lord answer prayer and become a vital part of our homeschooling day.
3. Learning and understanding more than ever before. I’ve heard many times that you learn a subject best when you begin to teach it. Whether that subject is phonics and reading or modern art and poetry, teaching forces you to learn. Like the mother bird digesting the food for her chicks, I must digest every fact before I present it. And that is one thing I want my children to see: that you never outgrow learning.

4. Discovering who my children really are. I’ve learned more about my children and their personalities in the last several months of schooling them than ever before, in spite of hours of playing blocks and capturing imaginary bad guys. I see how they react to challenges. I see their response to success. I see what does and does not motivate them. And I see every time their eyes light up with understanding. I’m a part of nearly every moment of discovery, and that does more than just create a special bond. It also prepares me for my role as a parent.
Taking my lessons from the school room, I better understand what will provoke my child to wrath and frustration. I have keener understanding of what motivates and inspires my child. And with that knowledge comes a higher accountability to make the most of the opportunities I have with each child to nurture and admonish in the Lord.
5. Recognizing that homeschooling is not a place or state of being but a process and a journey. It’s not about where we are educating; it’s about how we are educating. It’s about having the opportunity to make those adjustments rather than to helplessly look on while a child stumbles through learning. It’s about the privilege of taking a breather together and facing the challenge once more, united rather than at odds. It’s about having the means to administer the changes that are necessary.
Heading into our second year now, I’m certain we will constantly be making adjustments. But I want to see those adjustments as more than just rescheduling recess or pulling out a new activity. The changes do help my child to learn better, but they also provide an opportunity for me to learn as well.