January 12, 2016

When Your Curriculum Isn't Working {Homeschooling: Keeping It Real}

When you plan out your curriculum for your children at the beginning of the school year, you have big dreams! As you are stashing goodies away over the summer months, and ordering your new supplies, you eagerly think about all the great things you are going to be doing over the coming year. All the different subjects, all the different resources for each subject. And when they are all typed out and put into a "schedule" for the year, the list looks grand and mighty! As a homeschool teacher, I see it and go "Yes! Let's do this!" But what happens when come the end of December, things aren't going the way you had hoped? What if one of the curriculum you purchased isn't quite...working? Join me as I share about what's been going on in our OWN school year and how I answered that question when it happened to us, in my first post of the Homeschooling: Keeping It Real Series!
What Do You Do When Your Curriculum Isn't Working

The Problem

I began this year with a new adventure in teaching my youngest, as he was "officially" going to be working on Kindergarten curriculum. Over the previous year and summer, I thought long and hard about what we were going to do. I knew he adored doing school work. I knew that he was already "ahead" of the game having been sitting in on his brother's lessons for the last...well, since he was a year old. But I made my plan. I pulled out material that I had saved after Little Britches was done with it. I bought the curriculum I needed to go with it. I had it all planned out. You can read my post about the curriculum I had lined up for him when we started. I was sure it was going to be perfect.

As the year began, I could see that he adored school. Oh he BEGGED for more work. And as I suspected, he WAS ahead of the game when it came to all the Kindergarten basics. I made some minor adjustments and we kept on. As we continued, I discovered that something was...off. As I worked with him, I was noticing things that screamed out something loud and clear... 

Baby Britches has a different learning style than Little Britches. 

Oh this really isn't THAT big of a deal and really usually only needs a few adjustments. I mean, anyone working with kids understands that they all learn different. So it's not like this life altering discovery. No real big deal. But it is something that started making me look deeper in how we did school.

I discovered that the curriculum I had--the one that was oh so perfect for Little Britches back in the day--well, it just wasn't working very well for Baby Britches. In fact, he's not really making good progress at all when it comes to the reading aspect.

Yes, I know that reading comes when it's ready...but he is on the BRINK of it. He's ready for the keys to unlock the mystery of words....and we are working together to make it happen.

So what's the problem?

Well, I have learned that he is NOT an auditory learner (his brother is) and sounding out the phonics (Something I have always believed to be very important)...well it's not working very well. Hearing the sounds doesn't seem to be making it click in his head. He also has a speech issue we are working on, so having him duplicate the sounds I give him, can be super frustrating! We can go over blending a word...over and over...but he doesn't "hear" how it works.

However, once he SEES a word, he will remember it and can tell me what it is later pretty well. So for him, sight words are the name of the game.

--Can you guess his strongest learning style?? Yep, he's my visual kinesthetic learner.

Our curriculum (My Father's World-Kindergarten God's Creation from A to Z) isn't very sight word friendly. They have an incredible phonetic program and it worked fabulously with my oldest, who picked up phonics super quickly. (he HEARS it and gets it) But I finally (after 11 weeks!!) accepted that the reading portion of this curriculum, just wasn't working out for Baby Britches. He couldn't follow the letters to sound out the words. New words confused and frustrated him immensely--especially when they were similar with maybe only 1 letter different. Did I mention it also was difficult with his speech issues that we are still dealing with?

So what do I do????

Do I just push through? We don't have a big school budget. We invested in the program, and still have most of it left to finish. That's a big stack of worksheets and activities. Not done. Do you know how hard this is for me?? To think about walking away from it--left undone? And I don't really have anything on hand to go with his learning style, which means purchasing something new (with a budget that has already been used for the year).

The Solution

After thinking and praying about it. I decided that a change had to be made for his sake. I wanted to keep feeding his love of learning. I recognized that continuing to work with a program that was hindering and not helping him...just wasn't going to facilitate that! Fortunately, "Cyber Monday" happened when I needed it most. And one of my most favorite companies (Institute for Excellence in Writing) had incredible sales, which included (coincidentally enough) a complete reading and writing curriculum for K-2 (You can read reviews about the Primary Arts of Language [PAL] Reading and Writing Curriculum here).

This curriculum was totally different in style than what we were doing, but I saw pieces of things in the samples that resonated with me as working well with Baby Britches' learning style! Praying that the company would come through for us again, (they totally saved us with Little Britches for similar reasons)--I went ahead and purchased the product.

Now I owned TWO complete Kindergarten programs. Sigh.

I was so nervous. What if this one didn't work either? What do I do with MFW if this one DOES work? So much anxiety!

When the program arrived, I looked through it with a fine tooth comb. The more I read, the greater I became convinced that it WAS going to work. So I went ahead and did all the prep for starting the program and starting on the next Monday, I set aside MFW and we did the new Primary Arts of Language Reading and Writing Curriculum instead.

After just 2 days of using the program, it became obvious that this was EXACTLY what Baby Britches needed. So much progress just in two days--even showing up in his speech progress! It WAS the right move!
The new program is full of activities/games encouraging sight word recognition based on phonetic blends identification.
A perfect blending of sight word and phonetics--just what he needed!

Thank you, Lord!

But what about the MFW? What do I do with that now?

Well, Baby Britches actually took care of that for me. He wants to do it ALL!!!

What? Are you serious? 

Yes, actually I am. He asked me if he could still do his other letter program. He said he liked it and wanted to keep doing it. But he liked this story letter one too.

So what do I do?

Well, I said....


You see, I am pretty sure that I can make it work. Now the PAL Reading and Writing is our core, and the MFW reading/phonics is our supplement! I can just pick the things from it that we want to do and leave the rest. We will still work through the thematic science and unit study that goes with each week...but the rest of the curriculum will just be bits and pieces here and there.

Remember--as I have already said several times--Baby Britches ADORES school and always asks for more! Now with a blending of these two curriculum, I can give him what he wants. AND if it gets to be too much, I simply drop the MFW. NO regrets.

Here is the thing...

When you find something new and different that does work, you shouldn't carry around regrets that your initial plans didn't work. Being able to make changes when things don't work...THAT is the beauty of homeschooling and being in charge of your own curriculum. You can cater it to fit every child. Trying things out until you find the perfect fit. So don't forget to be flexible and able to admit when something isn't working. Don't lock yourself into a..."we MUST finish this curriculum no matter what" or an "I can't not use it because I paid so much $$ for it!" mindset. That doesn't help your child at all!!!

Do you have an older kid that seems to be struggling with a curriculum? Include them in the decision! Have a heart to heart and ask him or her what they think they would change about it! How do they think they would learn better on that subject? Do you know their learning style? If not, maybe you should take a simple assessment to help figure it out! This will assist you in finding something that might match their needs better! There are SOOOO many options out there for every subject, that if you keep searching, I'm sure you will find what you need!

So what happens now?

Well, we are two weeks into the program and we are still doing great. I am still combining it with MFW and so far it's going fine. I know what he's willing to do and we just take day by day. Today we did part of a lesson and we will finish it tomorrow. Thankfully the PAL program is separated into sections, so it's very easy to stop and pick up later.

Just as I have always done, we will take it one day at a time and one lesson at a time...but so far, I can assure you that it was most definitely THE right decision to make. However, if at any time it doesn't seem to be working...well, you know what I will do!

Thank you for joining me on the first part of the Homeschooling: Keeping It Real Series. I am looking forward to having this be a continuous series over the next weeks, sharing some of the more "behind the scenes" sides of homeschooling, in order to bring encouragement to those experience similar situations. Homeschooling can be messy, and sometimes we forget that. So stay tuned as we explore this very fun and revealing series! The next installment will be appearing next week, as I discuss how we deal with the bad attitudes that can bring a day of schooling to a grinding halt! Yikes! This one is going to be brutally honest! So you don't want to miss it!
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1 comment:

Megan Russell said...

My 5 year old, Silas, also has speech issues. It has hindered his Phonetic development. We are using All About Reading, the pre reading level. He is much slower at letter and number recognition that his older sisters and brother, but he is making such an effort! We also changed curriculum, because what he was using wasn't working. AAR is working!