Pace yourself

Notre Dame Cross Country InvitationalImage by Phil Roeder

You’ve spent your money. You own a bunch of programs that you were excited about enough to plunk down the dollars + shipping and handling. Those books and DVDs are in circulation at the kitchen table and in the family room. You and your kids have the hang of how they work, you have opinions about them, and you’re still deciding if you like them.

That’s when someone tells you about another awesome program. It sounds like it addresses the lack in the other program.


Do you ditch the one you’re using to take a chance on the one now pinned with your fantasies of “ideal”?

Slow down, compadre.

Too much changing midstream creates uncertainty in your kids. The ideal can be your enemy. Give the program you have a chance to unfurl itself. Adapt it, skip pages, reframe how it teaches, if you have difficulty with some aspect. Use it to inspire you to create other ways to use the product. See if you can wring the learning from this product by taking it over rather than letting it control you.

If you are sold on a new product (“Dang, I wish I had heard of this last summer!”) but worry about overloading your children, try this!

Buy the new-fangled shiny wonder item. Then…

Alternate months.

For instance: You can use your suite of spelling, handwriting, phonics, vocabulary development, and grammar one month. You can use the Arrow (for example) the next month for a change of pace. See how alternating schemes might feel before abandoning one set up for another. See how it feels to have variety rather than getting everything from one product. See if you feel like you’ve rounded out the whole world by using all the products, just not all at once.

Another example: You might like math workbooks for a month and DVDs for the next month. Why not? Kids do well with variety, but they need stability too. You can provide stability by having confidence in a system of variety, rather than wringing your hands about whether one program Is. The. Best.

Your kids can’t carry the burden of telling you whether or not a particular curriculum is working. They can tell you their subjective experience (I love this! I hate this!). But you can determine what’s needed, and whether or not the children are making progress. You can’t know this in a week. It takes a month of true immersion in the product’s philosophy to see if you all are getting the hang of it. If you don’t have a month’s worth of energy to muster, it is the wrong product no matter how many people swear by it. Put it on e-bay and move on.

My point is this: try not to dump what you’re doing unless it’s abundantly clear that it’s creating pain and frustration. Instead, feather in new ideas/programs to add depth and dimension to your homeschool.

Take things a month at a time.

Don’t worry about finishing books.

Be open to how your children learn (some might do better with one program and others may prefer the new one!).

Use more than one set of materials.

Get out of the school mentality that says you must pick a program, stick to it, and finish it no matter what. It’s okay to create an environment of exploration and experimentation, too. That’s a key culture to creating a learning environment.

Slow down, give each idea a month, free yourself from having to get it right on the first purchase, find a way to “try” the new thing without committing too much money to it.

Good luck!

Cross-posted on facebook.

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