What to Do When the Curriculum Isn’t Working

We’ve all been there.  One of your favorite homeschool publishers releases a new curriculum series and you’ve got to have it. It’s so glossy and gorgeous.  Besides, all of the great reviews it got can’t go unnoticed. And — for a limited time only — it’s on sale! I mean, it’s now or never, right? You enter that coupon code and confirm your order and wait impatiently for it to arrive.

You practically skip to the mailbox because you know it’s waiting for you. Don’t worry, we won’t talk about how you know every city it stopped in and when due to your tracking obsession. You open that beautiful package, flip through, and think of all the joy it’s going to bring to your homeschool. You ambitiously start planning and anxiously await the day it makes its first appearance in your homeschool schedule.

What to do when the curriculum isn't working

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Now you’re a few weeks into it (maybe months, who knows at this point?), and it’s just not working for you, your child, or maybe both.

It was supposed to be exactly what’s been missing from your homeschool, but, ohmygosh, it’s just not a good match.  Now what?

10 Things to Do When
the Curriculum Isn’t Working

1. Talk to Your Child

Ask him what he likes or dislikes about it and go from there. There have been times when I knew the issues without asking, but there have been times when my son’s input was incredibly valuable. Unless you have that conversation, you may not know how to move forward.

2.  Take a Break

It’s okay to put that curriculum on the shelf for a week, month, or even longer and come back to it with fresh eyes. I’ve had to do that several times over the years and, while it’s a simple move, it’s exactly what we needed.

I can think of a time we did that with biology a few years back. Rather than powering through it, we opted to move into a difference science focus for the year. I knew we’d pick up biology again and knew this was no need for panic. After all, none of us need to lose sleep because a nine year old can’t label the parts of an animal cell. There will always be bigger battles to fight.

3.  Ask for Help

This one should be the most obvious, but it’s okay to ask for help. I can assure you that you aren’t the only one with a child struggling with fraction conversions, personal possessive pronouns, or whatever else may be bringing tears to your eyes.

Talk to the other parents at your homeschool co-op, post about it in a homeschool group on Facebook, or ask around in your other circles. It’s highly unlikely that someone out there won’t be able to provide you with great suggestions.

What to Do When the Curriculum Isn't Working

4.  Supplement

Supplementing is a lifesaver for me when the curriculum isn’t working! There are lots of different ways to do this: games, hands-on ideas, experiments, field trips, and more, but the gist here is to add little extras to make up for the ground the curriculum isn’t covering so well.

Need help with supplementing? Don’t miss this list of my favorite supplemental resources.

5.  Change Your Approach

We considered ourselves eclectic homeschoolers at one time in our homeschool journey.  At the time, there was simply no one size fits all method for our homeschool subject needs and there’s nothing wrong with that.

When a traditional textbook approach wasn’t working for language arts, we made the move to classical. When that didn’t work, we transitioned to Charlotte Mason and have settled there very nicely.  We went through this process with every subject and even ended up using different methods for each subject for a few years.

What to Do When the Curriculum Isn't Working

The curriculum may not be working because your child could be like my son was. At that time, he needed a classical approach in a couple of subjects, Charlotte Mason in most, and even a little traditional in others.

Point being, you don’t have to lock in to one method and stick with it for everything until the end of time. If you need to make adjustments, you have the freedom to make them.

6.  Start Streaming

Isn’t it amazing how a documentary or some selected episodes from series can drive home a point that’s not sinking in? Sometimes a different presentation of the information is all it takes to get you through a tough spot.

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video give you access to limitless educational viewing choices and are a great way to cover specific topics or reinforce learning when the curriculum isn’t working.

Need some viewing inspiration? Get ideas for learning through TV here

7.  Visit Your Library

Sometimes a simple trip to the library is enough to help you along when your child is struggling with specific concepts. Extra reading — fiction and nonfiction — can be helpful in helping your child grasp that very thing that just isn’t clicking.

8.  Get Pinning

Some focused time on Pinterest might be all you need to regain your momentum when the you’re having curriculum trouble.  

Just by searching, you can easily find supplemental ideas, games, activities, and even posts from other homeschool parents who’ve been there, done that, and lived to write about it. 

Sure, you’ll have to do some reading and you’ll have to resist the temptation to click over to that new veggie recipe, but Pinterest could also be what saves the day for you!

9.  Outsource It

An online class is a great option when the curriculum isn’t working, especially if you’re having more trouble with it than your child. There’s no shame in outsourcing it and letting someone else do the heavy lifting for you!

What to Do When the Curriculum Isn't Working

10.  Let It Go

Sell it or give it away.  It’s okay, I promise.  There was a time when I looked at this as defeat, but now I just call it recouping my losses!  Every curriculum choice isn’t right for every child and that’s okay.  You’ll never know until you try it out, though.

What about you? Do you have suggestions for helping your kids through a tough concept or a bad curriculum choice? If so, share them with us in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “What to Do When the Curriculum Isn’t Working”

  1. Pingback: Should I Switch Curriculum Mid-Year (or just make adjustments)? | Growing In Grace

  2. This is such excellent advice Emily! It can be disappointing when that new curriculum doesn’t work out but there are so many options which is great.
    I really love this line and totally agree – “You don’t have to lock in to one method and stick with it for everything.” It’s been really interesting for me personally to see the methods that have worked best for my children – and it certainly can be different for different subjects!

  3. Such sound advice, Emily! As homeschoolers, we don’t have to be tied to one curriculum if it isn’t a good fit for our children. At the beginning of our homeschooling years, we enrolled our children in a homeschool program but have slowly transitioned to an eclectic approach, as Michelle wrote above. Since we have learned to “let it go” and focus on what works best for our family, we have grown leaps and bounds. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Excellent advice, Emily! I think all moms who have been homeschooling for any length of time have experienced this frustration. We have also become eclectic homeschoolers and it has made such a difference for us. I’ve also found that I need to use different approaches for each of my boys. One of them is a huge reader and learns best when he gets information out of a book. The other one needs more visual and hands-on learning. It just takes time for us to study our kids so that we can discover what will work best for each of them.

    1. Thank you, Michelle! Isn’t it a huge relief to be able to customize our kids’ education this way?

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