Most parents who homeschool set out to do so with excellence. They are looking for academic excellence and discipleship excellence. They expect excellent grades, excellent behavior, and an excellent return on investment when it is all said and done. So of course, they are going to do EVERYTHING by the book.
Including forcing their children to do every single problem in the book no matter how tedious or how well they already know it. Because, after all, the book is the standard of excellence.
Or is it?
I think you know in your heart of hearts that your child does not have to do all the problems in their school books. In fact, I imagine some of you almost scoffed at the title of this post, and said to yourselves, “Of course they don’t!” But, I would also venture to guess that the majority of you who thought you knew the answer to this question occasionally find yourselves caught in the trap of allowing the curriculum to control you because you are afraid of missing something crucial.
Perhaps it is certain subjects that scare you or certain times of the year that stress you out (standardized testing, anyone?). It might happen after you’ve spoken with another homeschooling mom who seems to have it way more together than you do. It might even happen after your mother-in-law questions your decision to homeschool for the umpteenth time.
You are not immune. I am not immune.
You see, there once was this Language Arts curriculum with its massive text, tedious problems, and mind-numbing repetition that would lull me into believing if my children did not do every problem in the book, they would fall hopelessly behind and never catch up or truly understand another thing about grammar and composition from there on out. They would be left with gaps in their education, and it would be all my fault for not following the directions.
By nature, I’m a rule follower. You won’t see me pushing envelopes or crossing lines. So, when the book says, “Do these problems,” you can guarantee I’m not looking for a way out. Yet, after all these years of homeschooling, I’ve found it to be imperative that I listen to my children and their needs, and NOT the curriculum.
Sometimes it’s not the curriculum’s fault that I think I need to do everything. Such is the case with my early years using Tapestry of Grace. (You can read how we do Tapestry of Grace now that I know better.) In this case, the curriculum gives you a lot of ideas and suggestions on how to implement their program of study and you try to do ALL of them. You have to learn how to manage the curriculum and choose wisely what parts of it to use and what to leave behind. (By the way, this may change from year to year and child to child. You have to be discerning as to your family’s needs.)
How to manage an extensive curriculum:
- Review all the pieces and parts of the curriculum. This will give you an overview to start from.
- Once you’ve given the lesson a once over, you’ll immediately be drawn to certain parts. These are going to be the things that are natural for your family and your teaching style.
- There will be other things you are repelled by within the lessons. These are most likely the things you recognize as not a good fit for your family; HOWEVER, you need to be careful here. It’s possible these are things that scare you or that seem “too hard”. If that is the case, you need to use the next point to help decide if it is something you keep or leave out.
- For anything that isn’t a definite YES or NO, you will need to decide based on several factors where it fits. Here are the decision points:
*Is it age and cognitive-ability appropriate?
*Is it something your family values?
*Is it something your child needs to know now (or might they be able to pick it up later?)
*Is it important enough to take the time to learn?
*Does your child already know the information and might only need a refresher?
*Can it be taught as a “crash course”? (This is a quick overview of the material. You can read more about this style of teaching in my ebook Large Family Homeschooling.)
Are you homeschooling a growing family? Are you looking for ways to get it all done without losing your mind (and your joy)? Do you need ideas for putting together all the pieces that make up your homeschooling day?
This is the ebook for you!
Remember that Language Arts curriculum I mentioned earlier? The issue with that program was not that it was giving me too many options, but that the repetition and review within the program was not always needed for my children, yet I was still forcing them to do all of the problems. This is a totally different scenario, and requires you to really know your children and their knowledge of the subject. You are not going to be able to go through the book at the beginning of the year and choose what you don’t need to to teach because it is subjective. It all depends on how well your child is learning the material and how much review you think they need. This is something better decided on a weekly or monthly basis.
Let me take a quick detour here… I am not an advocate of planning your entire year in one fell swoop for this very reason. It is important to stay abreast of your child’s progress and the ever-changing needs of your family. If you do decide to plan out your entire year, please plan in flexibility to change course, slow down, speed up, etc. (To learn more about how I plan, read my post on 30 Minute Homeschool Planning Sessions and the links at the end of that post.)
How to manage repetitive and review-based curriculum:
- Start with full lessons to get an idea of what your child knows.
- When you notice your child has a good grasp of the material, assess what lessons you can pare down or cut altogether.
- Also pay attention to when your child seems to grow bored with the material. This may be an indication that the repetition has become tedious. Assess if your child actually knows the material or needs more help. Decide if you need to present the material in a new way (video, audio, kinesthetic, etc.).
Take a look at the above photo. Notice the first two sections in this math workbook I have an X on and the third is circled. After watching my son do similar problems to these for several days, I knew he had a good grasp of their first two sections and did not need to do them every single day. A few days later, I would have him do a couple of similar problems to make sure he still knew how to do them, but I would no longer require entire sections of these problems.
The bottom section; however, was one that still needed work. When he got to a point he could do these fairly proficiently, I would assign a few of the problems, check to see how he did on them, and decide how many more he needed to do that day.
I usually makes these circles and X’s a week at a time in their workbooks. But even then, I assess what they know on a nearly daily basis. I don’t want them to have to do more work than they actually need to do. This doesn’t help them. Short, relevant lessons are much more helpful than repetitive, tedious lessons.
Now, I want to hear from you! Are there certain lessons you struggle to cut out or pare down? What difficulties do you face when trying to decide if you need to continue to review and repeat lessons? What has your experience been with shortening lessons and minimizing tedious lessons? Is it easy for you to do or difficult to wrap your brain around?