Homeschool Curricula Choices & Why They Don’t Matter {Part I}

Every year spring comes-the flowers, the rain, the joy of the nearing end of the school year …

and the excitement every homeschool mom has planning next school year’s curricula. Then summer, and finally, fall! Aaaah yes, you see, if you aren’t a homeschooling family, what you may not know is:

Most every homeschool mom was once a little girl that hoarded her favorite, perfectly packaged school supplies in the corner of her room waiting for the first day of school when she could put her supplies- the markers in their pristine box, the spiral notebooks with their shiny, un-bent coils, the Lisa Frank folders and erasers- tidily into a new pencil box, tucked into a fresh backpack. (that isn’t reality for most kids anymore, as in public school supplies are community supplies for the entire class. But man, those were the days of being an 80’s/90’s kid. haha).

And so we see this love flow over into buying homeschool supplies, planners, curricula and books. Me? Well, I love books … a large amount of our budget goes to books. It is just how I roll, and my husband is currently building me more book shelves because I have a problem he loves me. Curricula? I prefer to find what works and stick it out until it either 1) it doesn’t work anymore because we have outgrown it or 2) we complete it.

But overall, our curricula choices matter to us. We don’t take them lightly, do we mama?

We fret over the math that is just right, or wait … is it too rigorous for my 8 year old? We ask- can the 7 year old keep up with the writing needed in the science workbook I want to use, or should we wait? Should we even use a workbook? Charlotte Mason purists say never… Am I a purist?!

We ask ourselves, will this program help my 12 year old be more independent so I can wrangle the other 5 kids in the house, and teach the 6 year old to read this year? HOW do I get my reluctant 9 year old to read?! The list goes on.

And while it does matter what we choose, it really doesn’t, mama.

Why Curriculum Choices Dont Matter

Like most things in life, if you use it, it will work. If you don’t … it never had a chance.

It’s similar to keeping your body strong and healthy- just about any workout or eating program will work if you use it consistently (and don’t have other health problems in the way).

Just about any curriculum will work if you use it consistently, and don’t have any learning struggles that make the program incompatible with your learner. BUT because we homeschoolers are freaks of nature you have those struggles in mind, and know your child better than anyone, you can avoid that mistake.

So what does matter when choosing a program? How do you choose? When do you ditch the thing that seems to not be working and try something new?

Choosing the right curricula is 2 fold- 1) does it meet our needs, and 2) does it bring joy to our days?

If you need a program to have quick lessons (20 minutes for each: math, reading, and writing is ideal) then don’t choose something that has a long, drawn out script that takes 45 minutes to get through, PLUS the child’s practice work. Maybe it does hit writing, spelling, and reading all in one tidy teacher’s manual (every homeschooler’s dream). But if you never get to the curricula because lessons are LOOOOOONG, and your child is struggling because of it, then that won’t work.

Does it bring joy to your day? If a program is dry, or we add in too many “joyful” things, homeschool life will be harder than it needs to be. We don’t HAVE to do all the things right now! We have them for 18 years; that’s a lot of years to add in foreign language, science journaling, notebooking, extra curricular activities, art lessons, classic literature, and every single read aloud on your “to be read” list.

It goes by quickly- I know! In 10 years my oldest will be an adult, and HOLY COW that is terrifying. It was nearly 10 years ago that I was pregnant with her. But dividing your school years into semesters, terms, or 6 week intervals can allow you to try different things each term, if that’s how you roll. Want to learn about art this term? Drop the science for 6/9/12 weeks and do art instead.

Want to use a morning basket for a loop schedule routine? That’s great too, but again, adding too many things to that loop will make it seem like *nothing* ever gets done. If you need to feel successful, set yourself up for success!

All the things sound like joy, don’t they? Who doesn’t want to read aloud from a beautiful nature book while their children practice the art they learned during a rigorous online art program they attend 4 days a week via the internet, after their music lessons on Tuesday, their Spanish lessons on Wednesdays, and their nature walks on Fridays, between co-op meets every Monday morning? I mean- FEAST right? We want to give them a feast, this amazing life of experiences and fun that continues that fire for learning they naturally have, that wouldn’t get anywhere else is what homeschooling is about (mostly).

But we can’t do it at the expense of our sanity or theirs. 18 years. 18 short years, but years non the less, to try and accomplish so many things they may love. Dipping our toes in here and there is fun and creates that feast of delight we are all looking for. But know, we can take it slowly! We can do science this term, family tree history next term, and a huge literature unit the next term or year.

So if putting too many joyful things in your life is creating a bigger to-do list that never gets done, stressing your family out, not allowing time for your children to have freedom to create and have down time-then something needs to go! That’s when we say, “ok, what isn’t getting done that doesn’t HAVE to be done now? What can go and wait until the baby isn’t a constant nursing machine? What can wait until the kids are 10 & 12, instead of 6 and 8?”

That is how you know.

Because is doesn’t really matter what program we choose-if it is the most popular, the best, new thing, the oldest tried-and-true, if we don’t actually do it.

This year, our family is taking a break from everything that isn’t priority-this year’s priorities will be placed on all the changes happening in my children, and fostering them. They are turning 8, 6, and 4 (with a very loud toddler running around), which means we are on to new phases.

We are focusing on good habits so they can develop great, Godly character that will serve them their whole life through.

We want this homeschool year to be filled with more games, more reading aloud than we’ve ever done before, and more time in our woods. This means more self-directed delight for them, and less stress for me.

We are *simplifying* which means more time at home with friends that love us, and building the meaningful relationships in our community, because those are most impactful day in and day out vs running all over the place for other’s expectations. We are building a life, and that means focusing on what that life should look like for our family.

Because homeschool IS what life looks like, it is learning everywhere, everyday, during everything. It isn’t just grades and workbooks, paying our kids to read a book, or awarding them points for achieving something that is just part of living. We were made to learn non stop, all our live long days.

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