Searching for What Works

Searching For What WorksI confess, I bought a book (a set of books, really) and they just aren’t working for us. I’ve tried to renegotiate and finagle; I’ve tried to beef them up with additional materials. But, the sad, sad fact is they just aren’t what my kids need. It seems I am back to searching for what works.

You’d think after over ten years of homeschooling this mama would finally have it down, wouldn’t you? After all, once you find a good curriculum it ought to work for the remainder of their schooling experience. However, once you’ve done this a while you realize something. Kids change! (laughing) What works one year, doesn’t work another. What worked for one child, didn’t work for another.

It can be a continual search for the materials which best fit our kids needs (and our household budget). How do we determine which curriculum works best? When do we make that investment and when do we walk away? While we seem to go through the process each year, weighing each child’s needs, there are a few constants our family stands by:

Christian Materials (or at least not anti-Semitic/Christian) – As Christians, we try to ensure our children’s learning is centered on Christ. When at all possible, we purchase materials based on our worldview.

Budget – Is this something I can do myself, find somewhere else for less expensive, or get at a discount? If not…

Longevity – Will this last for only a month or so? Can I make this stretch for more than one child? Some materials are worth the high price, even for only one child; others could be set aside for something better.

Preparation – Will this help my child be ready for whatever future the Lord has prepared for them? One child may need challenge in a particular area, whereas another needs something completely different. I want to ensure each child has what they need to fulfill their calling.

Time Consuming – I don’t mean for my kids, I mean for me! Is this curriculum going to take up mounds of my time in the planning, prepping, and teaching? If so, I might wish to regroup.

Challenging – This is for my kids! I want them to be stretched and challenged. (Notice I said challenged and not overwhelmed!) I want our kids to be pushed to achieve more, continuing to find their own limits.

Enjoyment Level – Lastly, while I understand some subjects, especially during high school, might be forcefully endured, I like to make as much of their learning as I can, fun. Will my kids enjoy this particular curriculum or is there something which might excite them to learn more?

While there is no ‘perfect’ method for choosing which curriculum works best for our kids, the checklist above helps guide us in narrowing down our choices. Each curriculum we’ve used, no matter how long we’ve used it, has always taught us something valuable. Even if it’s just to appreciate the beauty of something else… anything else! (laughing)

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21

🔔Time to Chime In: What are your criteria for picking new curriculum? Share your list with us and help other homeschooling families in their journey to finding new learning materials!

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10 thoughts on “Searching for What Works

  1. I pinned this criteria list – thanks! I tend to think “I can make this myself” (budget) but then it ends up taking hours (time-consuming), and by the time it’s ready, I’m ready to move on! 🙂
    ~Lee

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’re so pleased you found this helpful! I understand exactly what you mean. There are times building the project can be tons of fun and other times when I overwhelm myself, losing all interest.

      May the Lord give us wisdom to know when it is worth the effort and when we need to move on.

      Like

  2. My kids really enjoy a balance between literature based and workbook style curriculum. We do like Christian curriculum but not preachy curriculum. Sometimes we just want to learn science without every other paragraph (ok, slight exaggeration) proving creation. Since I have very active boys we need hands on projects.

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  3. My kids are hands on kids… My son, has to visually see it to understand it, work with his hands etc. My middle daughter is super intelligent with a very short attention span, so we also have to find something hands on that she doesn’t get board with quickly. And my youngest, Kindergartener is doing 1st grade work, because she is an overachiever….she wants to keep up with the other two, She is also a perfectionist… So it is hard to find a balance. We also have to find Christian based curriculum.

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  4. A few years ago, I was faced with planning for High School homeschooling. My oldest daughter wanted to be a Doctor (and still does) so I needed to find curriculum that would be all the things you mentioned: cost effective, time effective, challenging, and will help product study skills. I’m using a program that helped me plan high school so it’d be as ’rounded’ as possible within our means mentally and monetarily. 🙂 Some extra stuff I’ve tried to add…. just didn’t work.

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  5. So true! I’m on our 4th year homeschooling, but it’s my daughter’s first “official” year (1st grade). The first three years I put together my own curriculum, piecing things together here and there. Especially since it was for such a young age, I wasn’t going to bother spending a lot of money, and the content didn’t have to be challenging – it mostly had to be fun and engaging.

    Now, I look for something Christ-centered that isn’t expensive (I always look for secondhand options first – like on HomeschoolClassifieds.com) and doesn’t require a lot of extras and won’t be too time-consuming for me to put together. Since I have two younger children, I plan on reusing the materials. I like to get recommendations from friends and read reviews here and there, but eventually I have to decide on something! When I created my own curriculum, I was constantly researching and requesting books from the library, looking for worksheets and activities and recipes and it took up so much of my time. Now, I basically have my plan laid out for me, with a few materials I have to have ahead of time. FYI I’m using Heart of Dakota, but change it up here and there to work for us.

    Of course it’s important to think about the child(ren) whom you’re teaching, but just because they haven’t shown an interest in something doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. I think it’s great if your home library has a variety of materials that might pique their interest. It’s not part of our curriculum, but my daughter loves to draw, so I have a bunch of art books on hand for her. My preschool-aged son loves to build with Legos, and I consider that just as educational as sitting down with a math workbook – if not better. That brings me to my next consideration – I don’t want whatever curriculum/program I decide on to be so time-intensive that the kids dread it; I don’t want it to be something that takes away from their personal time. I don’t adhere to any one approach; I like the idea of unschooling but still like the structure and safety net of some sort of lesson plan.

    I’m sure, no matter how long I’m in the game, things will forever be changing! I guess it just keeps things interesting, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great ideas for a checklist. I really like how you change your curriculum as the kids change. It’s so neat that you don’t make them do it because its what you have. What a wonderful adventure you are on. It’s neat that you do the research to see what is out there. For our home school – we do public school on line. Right now we like the material and the kids are doing fine with it. There is some flexibility in the curriculum. But the minute i see my kids are not getting anything out of it, i will change it. Change is hard for me. I tend to stick to what I know. I want to branch out more and this is going to take more effort on my part and more trust in God. i admire moms who home school with lots of different material and gear it to meet their kids needs. That is awesome!!!

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