Friday, July 25, 2014

M is for... Make It Work

(Originally there was no pretty graphic for this post, and I had to come back later to add one!) My main computer is out for repairs, so I am making do with an old computer with a lot of limits. It's kind of funny that I'm also writing a post about "making it work" with homeschool plans, and that's what I'm needing to do with my blog and several other things this week. Thanks for understanding!

Okay, raise your hand if this has happened to you. You've got a curriculum that you've been using, or something that you really want to use, but for some reason it just isn't working the way you'd hoped. And yet, you can't afford the time or the money or whatever it is to scrap it and start with something completely different.

Anyone? Yeah, I don't think it's just me. In fact, I think at some point in our homeschool journey, something along that line happens, and we need to figure out what to do. Now if it's something that is really making you or your kid miserable, or it turns out that it's completely incompatible with your beliefs or style, then maybe it's best to just ditch it. But more often, it's something that isn't quite as good a fit as we thought, or there's just parts of it that aren't working, and then we have a tougher time walking away from it. Fortunately, homeschoolers tend to be pretty good at tweaking, adjusting, and adapting resources to suit our individual needs.

Here are some suggestions for Making It Work:

Leave that part out. Yeah, sometimes it's really that simple. If it's a relatively small part of the overall curriculum, there's often no harm in just leaving out the chapter or the couple of projects or whatever that don't sit right with you, or aren't suitable. We have very often used curriculum that included quizzes and tests that I didn't think necessary, so we just left them out. When my boys did Saxon Math, I never had them do the Facts Practice or whatever those things were called. Nothing bad happened!

Replace that part with something else. Don't think an assigned book is appropriate for your child? Choose something else on the same general subject that is. Art projects or experiments that are too messy for your taste, or you don't have the supplies needed? Find something else related that's easier or better. We have replaced entire chapters of some texts or study guides with a few books or projects that covered the same topic but in a way that was more appealing or effective for our needs.

Adjust the expectations or the assignments. This is a tried and true method for making good use of a curriculum that is the right level academically, but has assignments that are too easy or too difficult for your student. It's also a wonderful way to use a curriculum for multi-age students. Sometimes an adjustment is called for when a student's learning style or strengths and weaknesses don't match up with the curriculum. My high schoolers have done the Notgrass courses Exploring America and Exploring World History, but the boys don't care much for reading or writing, so the entire accompanying Lit course and the writing assignments were more than they wanted or needed. No problem - we picked out the most appealing of the assigned novels, and I greatly reduced the amount of essays they had to do. They got a half credit in Lit and the essays they were assigned went with the separate Grammar and Composition course they did, so they got the full credit for that.
Cobble things together. Sometimes combining more than one curriculum or resource into one course of study makes sense. I have often pieced together multiple resources around one main study spine to come up with an individualized course of study that covered what we wanted and used some of the best of each of our sources. For the coming year, Kennady wanted to study European culture and geography, which is a great idea... but there's not much out there in the way of curriculum. We really liked the Grade 9 Cultural Geography text from BJUPress, but it's pretty rigorous, and it covers the entire world. I found a study guide called Visits to Europe from Simply Charlotte Mason that I thought would be just about perfect, but somehow I wanted a little more. When I had the opportunity to purchase the BJU set second-hand for a good price, I had my solution. She will do the Visits to Europe guide along with the chapters about Europe from the BJU text. And she'll do the opening unit of the BJU text that addresses weather and climate as they relate to the study of geography - because that is the perfect addition to round out the study of meteorology she chose for science. If all goes according to plan, she will complete almost half of the BJU text in her Grade 8 year, and she can finish it in her Grade 9 year and earn the full credit. 
How do you make things work? I know there's lot of other good ideas out there! Leave a comment and share your ideas! 

This post is linked at Blogging through the Alphabet, hosted by Ben And Me.
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Michele said...

Yep, raising my hand over here too! After years of Sonlight History, we are walking away from it as it is just not a good fit for my son. Hard to do, but sometimes changes are good, right? Very interested in the High school level Notgrass. I will have to ask you about it sometime!

Kym said...

Please do! It's one of my all-time favorite curricula!

Meg Falciani said...

We've totally done that! The most freeing thing I ever read was when I did my very first crew review - in the Apologia Swimming Creatures book Jeannie Fulbright said to NOT do everything in the book, just what works!

Kym said...

That is a such a relief, isn't it? To realize you don't have to do everything exactly the way the book says!

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