Updated: Oct 13, 2021
As October starts and your homeschool year has had some time to get underway, this is the time when new and veteran homeschoolers start to see issues. There are several things to keep in mind when reevaluating what to keep, change, or disregard as you continue the year.
If you are new to homeschooling and have heard all these wonderful stories about how rewarding homeschooling is, and yet you are ready to ship your student off to public school because you think this is just not working, hold on a minute. Let’s look at what might be causing the issues you are experiencing and what can be corrected by adjusting how you are homeschooling.
Anyone who has purchased a homeschool curriculum is someone who found something that didn’t work for them or their student. I don’t focus on a specific curriculum because any curriculum can and will fall into this for some families. Not all learners learn the same and not all curriculum works for everyone. Just because it’s not working for you doesn't mean that it’s not a good curriculum, just not a good fit for you.
Because of that fact, this is when you forgive yourself if the curriculum you bought just isn’t working the way you thought it would. No one buys a curriculum with the thought that it wouldn’t work. The time researching, money spent, friends recommendations, and reviews don’t matter if it's not a good fit. That frustration is real when what you planned still isn’t working for a student.
It’s difficult, but it’s time to evaluate what is working and what isn’t. Without this evaluation you won’t know what needs to be addressed. By doing this hard work now, the rest of the school year will be more enjoyable for you and your student.
This is not the time to go and buy more curriculum!
Common issues for different types of curriculum
Boxed curriculum - Students are bored and don’t feel challenged or engaged with the material. For parents who are experiencing this, how are you going to add challenge to the material and relevance to your student. With this look at the topics and how you can add challenge, realavance, and engagement for students. Parents sometimes get in the slump of just checking off the boxes and moving forward. Make time to allow hands-on, projects, movies, games and messy learning to take place. Take a day or more away from book work and do something different. Add field trips that are relevant and engaging to the material you are studying.
My student hates math and getting them to complete the assignments turns into an argument.
Your student may need to have a tutor/teacher that isn’t you. Is it comprehension? Do they need the material presented in another way or form? Do they resist having to complete so many practice questions? Maybe they can complete fewer problems if they demonstrate the ability to correctly complete the problems. Are the problems not challenging? If the material is too hard/not hard enough, move to your students level.
Online curriculum - With this you may find that students don’t retain information only read or watched online. You may need to get physical books, print materials, review with paper materials, or cut back screen time. If you have selected this, depending on what subjects your student needs you may need to find alternatives to make sure that retention and growth in subjects continues. Students can find certain subjects work better for this type of learning than others. Be flexible and work with your student to find out what is and isn’t working. Ask probing questions and try to discover where issues are present. Students may need frequent breaks, physical activity, time away from screens, or other changes to make this type of learning be successful.
My student is sitting all day trying to do the online learning but not retaining the information and hating it.
Is there a way to cut back on what is done online? For people who have selected an all online curriculum this may need to be changed. For what you have purchased, are there print books options? Can you just upload the work after doing it offline? At a minimum, have students get up every hour and move around, consider standing desks, under desk bikes, physical activity breaks, walks, and drinking water. During breaks, have a conversation with the student about what they are learning? Ask them to apply the information in some way or compare it to something else. Having these talks will help the student remember the information.
One subject curriculum - This can be a book, workbook, or textbook that for some reason isn’t working. Your student may not like filling out worksheets that they see no point in. Worksheets can be used by a lot of teachers/curriculum writers because they can cover a lot of material and quickly check for if students remember facts. Just remembering facts is the lowest form of learning and the instant ability to quickly retrieve facts from the internet makes this less valuable than in the past. However, being able to analyze, evaluate, and create have become much more valuable skills. Consider what busy work can be cut back or eliminated and what can be done instead to show the students deeper learning of the subject.
My student hates doing grammar worksheets.
Are there other ways your student can show they have understanding of this information? Can they do fewer worksheets? Can they do writings that utilize the skills the worksheets are trying to check? Can you combine this with some other type of project? If you are doing test prep then maybe that can also be used as grammar review. Focus on areas that the student can’t demonstrate the ability to correctly use the grammar rules.
Lap book/Portfolio Projects - This can be a great way to teach and learn a subject, allowing the student to delve deeply into it. However, this can go badly for many reasons, the most common I have seen are the following: Not given clear expectations or deadlines for finished product, fear of not being creative, or too worried about the way it looks and less about the learning. If a student is struggling with this type of project, consider where they are stuck. If students are just moving into more independent learning they may need daily, weekly, monthly breakdowns of expectations and check ins to be the most successful. As students successfully complete projects, it will be easier to back off on the amount of direct involvement that a parent will need to have.
My student gets excited and works for a week then gets distracted and doesn't work on the project again.
In this example the student needs to have a clear understanding of expectations and time frame. This happens a lot with middle and high school students who are moving into independent learning. They still need direction, they may let the learning go down too many rabbit holes to know how to present the information they learned. Distraction, being overwhelmed, not sure where to start, and procrastination are all things that can impede portfolios.
After you have looked over what is working and what needs tweaking in your homeschool, it's time to rework your plan. While you do this, it is important to have honest open communication with your student and realize that each one has unique needs. My youngest two students have very different learning styles and needs. I needed to reevaluate each student's individual needs and make their plan according to what they needed.
After you have reevaluated what is working and not working with your homeschool you need to adjust your lesson plans. I find that having the student take a break beforehand, so either starting after a weekend or taking a day away from book work and doing a hands-on project then implementing the changes, has worked best. This is a way to get students excited again. If conflict has arisen between student and parent this is also a way to reset and start fresh for both.
If there has been conflict, then it is very important to make sure you are doing check-ins to see how the student is feeling after this adjustment. Parents may need to repeat this process again to get the best results after the changes have been tried. By doing this you can not only improve your homeschool but also help your student learn how to effectively communicate their needs and advocate for themselves.