20 Best Tips
Teaching Textbooks

When Curriculum Isn’t Working

This post was originally published in 2011, but even after six years is one I refer back to when something isn’t clicking in our homeschool year. 

Each year we begin our school year with big intentions, excitement about the curriculum that we have in store for the year, but sometimes that excitement takes a big ol’ nosedive when something that we’re using results in frustration and tears {sometimes for the teacher as well as for the kids}.

When curriculum isn't working - www.homeschoolcreations.net

Even bigger of a frustration is when you have put quite a bit of money into a curriculum. Somehow that seems to magnify the ‘what to do?’ questions that go around in my mind.

How Do You Handle it When Curriculum Isn’t Working?

I asked you all that question on Facebook and the results were mixed:

  • Press on ~ keep working if there is a way to salvage it. Especially if it’s a component that was more expensive.
  • Put it aside ~ maybe it will work down the line with a future child or at another time
  • Move on and sell it if you can!

Out of the above, we’ve tried all three…and the last two have been effective for us ~ the first one didn’t have great results {grins}. It boiled down to me asking a few questions about the curriculum to see how it should be handled:

  1. Are we just bored with this? Could it work in a few years?
  2. Is it a readiness issue? (i.e. are you trying to use something that your child isn’t ready for yet either academically or in another way?)
  3. Is the curriculum problem just with me or the kids as well? {i.e. does it just not ‘click’ with my teaching style/format? or the way my children learn?}
  4. Is this inhibiting our children’s learning and making learning not fun?
  5. Are you using the product the way it was intended? (cough – did you read the teacher’s manual and follow their instruction? or have you tried to tweak it from the start?)

This year, we had a two things that just weren’t clicking and working. Mid-October we realized there were two programs we were using, one with the boys (history) and another with McKenna (biology) that weren’t working as we had hoped. The boys were the ones who asked us about changing our history program back to one we had used in years past, and together McKenna and her friend taking biology together helped us as we sorted through biology programs. We had previously used the biology program with Laurianna and while it is a solid program, reason 2 above was the issue – and with a high school class, we really wanted to make sure we are getting all the learning in that we can! While it did mean pulling an older curriculum off the shelf for history and investing some money into a new biology curriculum for our high school daughter, it was something we felt we needed to do.

Could we have kept pushing on with both? Most likely. Would it have caused more frustration? Yes. Would that have made learning together something enjoyable? No.

Ultimately, that’s what closed the book on that particular subject for us. Above all, my goal is to make learning something that is fun and enjoyable for our kids {and myself}. If I have a kiddo that is frustrated, pressured, and close to tears because of something that we’re using, I would much rather put it aside and find something else to replace it.

I also happen to know myself and my personality. Once frustrated {or having seen a child frustrated} it ends up souring my view of the curriculum…and truthfully, I don’t want to keep at it or try it in the future. I’m also not one that likes to accumulate things that we won’t likely use again, so I want it off my shelves and out the door.

The curriculum we put aside will be resold and we will put the sale money toward the curriculum we have purchased. I am so thankful that we have a HUGE variety of things to choose from, even though those choices can sometimes be overwhelming, and that we all have different teaching and learning styles!! It’s always a reminder to me that our kids are each different in their learning styles – and that’s okay!

That said, please know that we are ALL different. What works for one person may not work for another. What I choose to do or how I handle something may not be the way you choose to handle it.

What are your thoughts on the issue? How have you handled the need to change out curriculum when it isn’t working?

 

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

 

*NEW* Weekly Homeschool Planner

For the past three years I have been working on something behind the scenes, but never got around to actually DOING anything about it – as in sharing it with you. If I’m being honest there are a lot of things I’ve started and never completely finished. The main reason is perfectionism. 

It’s something I’ve struggled with for a very long time. While it may seem like I procrastinate on projects (which I do, in a way), the honest truth is – if it isn’t matching up to what I picture in my head, something inside me shuts down and doesn’t keep going. My brain has a million ideas, and there isn’t enough time. I can’t get it put together the way I envision, so it gets pushed aside. 

The last few years have been a process of me working toward getting over that hump, one baby step at a time. I’m definitely not all the way there yet, but maybe you can relate? 

One of the things I’ve been working on is a paper and pen version of my homeschool planner. I’ve been using it the past few years and love it – it’s simple but pretty. Efficient. While I love my other planner, staying off my laptop during school time has been important to me. This planner makes me smile (and that’s a great thing) and keeps my focus on the four people in front of me, rather than off on a rabbit trail. For my brain too, putting pen to paper really helps me connect the dots and remember things.

Because I love it so much, I really want to share it with you all – and I truly appreciate your patience in waiting with me.  I’m still tweaking a few things, but the best part is, I can share those tweaks via a bonus download page available only to those who purchase the planner! 

A Peek Inside the Weekly Homeschool Planner 

A few things to know about this planner: 

  • 8.5” x 11” undated pages – over 150 pages to use year after year (just like our Student Planners)
  • Colorful – not overly crazy, but subtle. Pretty makes planning fun!
  • Plenty of room for both weekly planning and a month-at-a-glance overview.
  • 10 subject areas with lined planning space
  • Planning pages include a month-at-a-glance, a weekly layout, homeschool vision, homeschool requirements, curriculum planning, daily schedules, and more.
  • Bonus download page (password protected) where you can find additional pages to add to your planner: curriculum wish list, field trip planning, goals for children, names/addresses, notes, unit planning, yearly attendance, and (coming soon) editable monthly and weekly pages.
  • 2 layouts: one labeled Monday-Friday and another with no days of the week so you can write in your own schedule 

A quick note: Our printer will print BORDERLESS. It is one of the paper choices in our printer settings. Our front and back covers were printed onto cardstock and then laminated for extra durability. We use a heavy weight paper (24 lb.) to print the planner and make the pages a little thicker.

Purchase Your Copy of the Planner 

If you would like to purchase a copy of the new Weekly Homeschool Planner, you can do so by clicking the link below

This planner is undated so you have the option of printing off a new copy each year. The pdf planner is available for $10 and you are more than welcome to print off copies for yourself – this year and in years to come. Please note the Weekly Homeschool Planner is only available as a pdf download and prints off double-sided. 

Your purchase also allows access to a ‘buyers only’ page where optional pages will be added including additional dated covers and other pages as readers/users request.

I truly hope this planner is a blessing to you all!

 

 

Does Your Homeschool Need a Little Organizational Help?

Much of my sanity revolves around keeping things in order during our homeschool time. While one of our kids has a brain that thinks much like mine, a few others tend to move in opposite directions. One way that we have been able to track the kids studies has been through the use of a Student Planner

A few years ago our girls asked me to create a full-sized Student Planner for them. Half-sized planners just weren’t cutting it for them, so together we came up with one they both loved. Both have used the Student Planner every year since then and this year Zachary joins their ranks. 

Two choices of student planners from Homeschool Creations - help get your student on track

These planners have been a huge help to our girls in keeping their studies on track, making weekly and monthly goals, and even planning their weekends. 

The Student Planner contains :

  • 8 1/2” x 11” undated pages – use it year after year!
  • Year at a glance dates
  • Student information and schedule page
  • 12 blank monthly planning pages
  • Weekly planning pages for 8 subjects
  • Planning for every day of the week (smaller spaces for Saturday/Sunday)
  • Goals, notes, and ‘what I learned’ section
  • Tracking for books read
  • 2 layouts: August through July or January through December
  • access to a ‘buyers only’ page where optional pages will be added including additional dated covers and other pages as readers/users request.

This week only, my Student Planner bundle is included as a part of the Parenting Super Bundle

Mom Needs a Planner too…

Now while I adore our student planner very much, I also like to keep our homeschool studies in order too. The kids have a lovely planner and I wanted something pretty for myself. One of the things I’ve been working on is a paper and pen version of my homeschool planner. I’ve been using it the past two years and love it – it’s simple but pretty. Efficient. While I love my online planner, staying off my laptop during school time has been important to me. This planner makes me smile (and that’s a great thing). 

Anyway, although the planner isn’t available yet for sale on my site, I wanted to offer it to you all as a special bonus this week.  If you purchase the Parenting Super Bundle through my link this week, I would love to send you the pdf copy of my watercolor poppy Weekly Homeschool Planner for FREE. I will be offering it for sale soon at $10, and along with my Yearly Home Planner (included in the bundle), these are the two planners that help me keep my life in order – and I want to share this newest one with you. This special offer is only available until Monday, May 1st when the bundle sale ends

A few things to know about this planner: 

  • It’s undated, so you can print it each year to use again (just like my student planners). 
  • It’s colorful – not overly crazy, but subtle. Pretty makes planning fun.
  • There is plenty of room for weekly planning and also a month-at-a-glance page.
  • There is a bonus download page, which will include a few editable pages to download as well (see the link at the back of the planner for the password to use). 
  • Additional pages include field trip planning, notes, curriculum planning, yearly attendance, curriculum wish-list, read-aloud and audiobook tracking, homeschool requirements, curriculum key, and names/address – with more to come on the bonus page.

How to Get Your Copy of the Planner 


If you would like to take advantage of this offer, here’s what you need to do.

  1. Purchase a copy of the Parenting Super Bundle
  2. Email me {homeschoolcreations@gmail.com} with your receipt
  3. I will send you the pdf copy! Just mention this deal and let me know.

Simply copy the below and paste it into your email (I’m all about making it easy for you):

I purchased the Parenting Super Bundle through your link, my receipt/invoice # is below. Please send me the NEW Homeschool Planner you mentioned on your site. 

I can’t wait to share this planner with you – and I know too that you will love the Parenting Super Bundle. There are so many resources to love and use in the months and years to come.

 

motionmailapp.com

 

p.s. Don’t forget this bundle comes with a 30 day money back guarantee – which is a lovely thing! If it isn’t all you hoped for, simply ask for a refund. 

p.p.s Not interested in purchasing the bundle but you’d like a copy of the Student Planner? Choose from the following: 

The FIRST Thing to Do When You Struggle Balancing Home and School

Recently I asked a question on Facebook of you all: What is your biggest struggle in balancing home and school? The answers ranged from “everything” to finding quality time with spouse, meal planning, and keeping our home clean.

As homeschool parents, we have a lot on our plates trying to balance our homeschool time with the everyday happenings at home: meals, cleaning, shuttling kids, working, more feeding of the children, grocery shopping, marriage, and the many other commitments we have outside the home. It can seem like it never ends.

Overwhelm can sometimes be an understatement in how we are feeling. 

So – how do you do it all? Isn’t that a question that we all ask? We see all these amazing images and status updates on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram from other moms with immaculate homes and (seemingly) idyllic families. Kids who are dressed and have combed hair (the struggle is real onthat one in our house), perfectly plated food, laundry that is folded…and then put away. Often we’re struggling to keep up with the bare minimum and just see the bottom of the kitchen sink and remember about thirty minutes before 6 that we have to figure out what’s for dinner.

Let’s face it – it is SO easy to get overwhelmed and feel like life is out of balance. Quickly!

I’d love to share my heart (and home) in a short series on balancing home and school in the upcoming bit on the blog (because I can use a refresher too!), but I need to put out a few disclosures.

  1. I don’t do it all
  2. My all is different than your all.
  3. Sometimes we desperately need to redefine ‘all’ to match what is reality – not expectation.

Maybe you are looking for a few tips on tightening things up. Maybe life feels completely out of whack. Regardless, in this series we’re going to talk about some ways we can approach different areas of our homes and lives and try to bring things back into a more organized state.

But today, there is one thing that I think is so very important to not only understand in our minds, but especially in our hearts. 

Know that you can’t do it all.

No matter what you think, there is no mom that is doing it all. Everyone has different priorities and things that make their families unique. There are days in our home when we are lucky to finish the basics of school and have three decent meals (because those kids keep asking for food. And the husband – he likes to eat too). Housework may be pushed to the side for a day or two…or more. Other times we may even be scraping the bottom of the fridge to find something edible. 

There definitely is something to be said for having an organization plan in place (a routine or schedule), but remember – life happens. You need to know what your top priorities are and what is most important to you.

Pinterest can be one of my biggest downfalls and if I’m being honest, Facebook too. It’s easy to see and read how everyone’s life around us is going along so amazing. Their kids are sleeping through the night after just 2 weeks, while yours are almost 10 months and can’t make it more than 3 hours (been there, friends). It’s easy to make life look “good” for others to see, but part of that transfers into a struggle when we begin comparing what friends or others have that we don’t. And then we begin the process of beating ourselves up for not having it look JUST like an image we see or an impression we got from something. 

Can I tell you something? There’s a lot that we miss in all those pictures and status updates. We are seeing what others are allowing us to see. A picture of a happy family taking a road trip together can be shared on Instagram, but I can guarantee they aren’t sharing a video or picture of the same kids that have already started fighting in the backseat over just fifteen minutes down the road. (I have zero experience with said issue. Zero.)

We don’t see the messes or the many hours that go into making something Pinterest-worthy. But our hearts take in what we are presented with and then latch onto our lack. 

And friends – that is SO not my heart for you. This is something I have struggled with tremendously over the years and it has eaten at me, stealing joy from the moments I should instead be savoring. 

If you are struggling…

While I may not know what area you feel you struggle most with, I do know there are many resources (and friends) available to help us each out along the way. Can I encourage you to pick one area in the upcoming week and spend 20 minutes a day focusing on that area? If you need accountability – ask a friend! (I will be!)

Here, the newness of spring has been inspiring to me to change up some things in our home and get back on track in multiple areas. I’m committing  20 minutes twice a day  – starting the day with time to prioritize and focus and then making a “clean sweep” of the house each evening so we have a fresh start the following morning (clean counters and a tidy living area).

What area will you focus on this week – and remember: focus on the unique priorities YOUR family has. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Do what is best for you and yours! 

 

President’s Day Handwriting Pages (Free Printables)

President’s Day will soon be here and there is a 4th grader in our house who loves handwriting practice (no, he really does!) and also a 6th grader who can always use some cursive practice, so I decided to create some President’s Day Handwriting Pages for both of them. 

(Even though we don’t use the D’Nealian font, I know some of you all do, so I included copies of those as well – and you can download them all FREE!)

As a bonus, each of the quote pages also includes a small portrait of the president quoted that can be colored (if your child likes that). 

For our youngest, these will also be some great reading practice for him (I’ve talked quite a bit recently about how he struggles with reading) and discussion on what the quotes mean. We will also be working on his overall penmanship. While he balks at writing typically, he loves short pieces of copywork like this, so we get in all the practice we can!


 

You Might Also Like…

 

If you enjoyed these printables, be sure to check out the U.S. President fact files – another FREE printable download for all 45 presidents! 

 

Download now…and enjoy!

What is Your Teaching Style?

Homeschool Teaching Styles and Philosphies.png

When I started homeschooling over eleven years ago, I had no idea that there were different homeschool teaching styles (or philosophies, if you prefer to use a fancier word). I just started on my merry way and a few years later someone asked me if we were Charlotte Mason or Eclectic.

Say what?? Who in the world was Charlotte Mason and eclectic…well, that just sounded so scattered!

Honestly, I had no idea what my answer truly was, and it was something that made me sit down and look things over (because my Type A personality just HAD to know). For those of you newer to homeschooling, or maybe as clueless as I was, a quick look at several of the different approaches may be helpful to you too. 

What are the Different Educational Philosophies?

Just like our children are all different, there are many different ways that we can approach teaching our children. Believe it or not, we as parents are different too and have different ideas and beliefs on how to best approach education. These approaches aren’t just in the homeschooling realm, but also exist in the public school realm as well.

It’s great to have a basic understanding of the different philosophies and honestly, they each have aspects that are helpful. Don’t put down one idea over another. There is something to glean from each area!!

This post briefly covers a few key philosophies:  Traditional, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unit Studies, Unschooling, and Eclectic. Keep in mind that you may identify with parts of different philosophies – and that’s okay!

Traditional

This method revolves more around traditional textbooks and worksheets to determine if a child is learning. Work may be graded, tests given, etc…and can look more similar to a traditional school setting. Many may say it just is the school classroom dropped into a home.

Your family may use this method in certain subject areas and not in all (for example math or grammar). It may also be your overall teaching style as well (we have friends who follow this method exclusively).

A few companies to consider for the traditional method: A Beka and Rod and Staff.

clip_image002

image courtesy of Microsoft

Charlotte Mason

This philosophy began in the 1800’s by a woman named Charlotte Mason. She believed that children should learn from real life through playing and creating. Part of the real-life learning would include plenty of nature walks and art studies. Instead of textbooks, children use “living books” – or books that make subjects come alive. This approach also includes more discussion and narration, not test taking for determining learning.

Helpful texts for this approach include A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola and Ambleside Online.

Classical

This method uses the Trivium: reason, record, research, relate, and rhetoric. Not sure what that means? In the early stages of learning, children learn the basics of reading, writing, and math. They then move into the grammar stage, then the dialectic stage, and then rhetoric (usually high school age).

One of the key things that you’ll notice about this method is the four year teaching cycle of history and science (the topics repeat every four years). We have followed this approach in our history studies and you may already be familiar with a text that follows the classical approach, Story of the World. This method also frequently focuses on learning Latin as a part of study.

Helpful texts for this approach include The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer and Teaching the Trivium by Harvie and Laurie Bluedorn.

clip_image002[5]

image courtesy of Microsoft

Unit Studies

This method of study is fairly straight forward. If your child is interested in the ocean, you would read  books that covered that topic, write about topics that related to the ocean (writing/grammar/spelling), learn more about scientists and animals {science}, etc. It can also be tied into a literature theme (i.e. based on a book that is read together).

Basically, unit studies cover a certain theme. Some parents may come up with all of their material on their own for a theme, but there are many companies and sites that offer lessons and ideas packaged together. It might get a little trickier as students get older to include all subject areas. This is how we initially started our homeschool journey – with country studies that led us around the world and studying all sorts of different things!

A few companies that use the Unit Study approach: Five in a Row and Konos.

Unschooling

This method would be mainly opposite of the public school philosophy. Instruction is led by the interests of the child and is very relaxed. Formal lessons may not be involved. It follows the belief that children are all curious and natural learners and they will continue to learn as they grow and develop.

Book for further learning: How Children Learn by John Holt.

Eclectic

Basically, this method focuses on a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It’s eclectic! Maybe you are classical in your history approach, Charlotte Mason in science, a bit more traditional in math, etc… You cover subjects with your family in a manner that best suits your individual needs.

What is Your Teaching Style?

Quite honestly, our family fits more in this latter category now that we are a bit down the road of homeschooling. Depending on our children, we’ve adjusted pieces of our curriculum (and teaching) to flow with how they learn best and what works with our family.

Over the years you may notice your teaching style changes – that is fine!! Don’t panic! Be sure to read up on the different philosophies and do a little more research on your own too.

Have you determined your teaching style? Leave a comment below and tell us yours – we’d love to hear.

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.