Curriculum doesn’t work for every homeschooler

Curriculum doesn't work for every homeschooler,

Curriculum doesn't work for every homeschooler, HomeschoolRealm.comAre you like me and you’ve tried a multitude of different homeschool curricula only to have them fail to work for you?

If you are having a difficult time finding something that works for homeschooling your children, you may relate to this….

I have a new plan for the new year. Yes, another one.

We’ve still not had a super successful plan and I’m determined to change that. I’m not giving up! I WILL find a way that works for all of us, if it kills me!

Near the end of last year I finally had to face that curriculum doesn’t appear to work for us. Even excellent curriculum like Pandia Press and Elemental Science create.

I still highly recommend these curricula, for those that do well with curriculum…but my kids just didn’t get into them and I’m done trying and failing at packaged curriculum. (Except math. Math Mammoth, for some reason, seems to work for us.)

I can’t really say exactly why curriculum hasn’t worked for us, but I suspect it’s because my kids, like me, like to be able to follow their own interests each day. And that changes almost daily.

So maybe, picking a curriculum that lays out every day’s or week’s lessons for an entire school year just feels too much like a cage to my kids and I.

And as we fall behind on where we “should” be on the curriculum throughout the year,  as we always do, I feel more and more like a failure.

I’m done feeling like that. There’s nothing WRONG with me. I just do things DIFFERENTLY than the people those curricula are designed for.

I do WISH that I could follow a curriculum. I think every homeschool curriculum that exists is designed for the types of people that can follow a schedule and stick with a plan. It would make homeschooling much easier, I think. But that’s not me.

stick-abilityI’ve talked about this before…I’m more of a “hare”. I deal better with short bursts of enthusiasm, following my passions and interests in shorter sprints, than with a tortoise’s steady, methodical, marathon pace that curriculum requires. (Read Julie Gilbert’s fantastic, life-changing book Stickability to learn more about tortoises vs hares.)

Cowgirls-Guide-to-Riding-Wild-DonkeysFrom another fantastic read:  I’m also a wild donkey rider.

I tend to have wild donkeys (passionate interests) that take me for short, wild rides throughout the year. I never seem to get the slow and steady, more dependable and methodical donkey.

Now, I figure it IS possible that there’s a curriculum out there that would work for my kids and I, but I’m not wanting to waste any more time trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I will still see if I can pull ideas from the curriculum that I have, but I am hoping that going it freestyle  might be the way to go for us.

I know there’s plenty of ideas for activities and books and videos out there to do this. I’ve found tons!

I am pinning like crazy and getting really excited by what I’m finding!  Filling up my Pinterest boards with all the cool activities I’d like to share with my kiddos.


I am using my Pinterest boards as my “red list”, my someday, my brainstorms…Learned this from Julie at Homeschooling-Ideas. LOVE HER! She has a red list/amber list/green list system that is changing my life!! You can read all about it in her free ebook, Planned Spontaneity.

I have been thinking for awhile on how I want to pull all my ideas together for my kids. Of course I want them hit the main subjects:

          • Math
          • Social Studies
          • Language Arts
          • Science
          • The Arts

…But it just didn’t feel right to study each subject separately.  In real life, subjects aren’t segregated. Everything is intermingled in real life. I tend to be more concerned with real world learning…since I’m preparing my kids to live in the real world, I’d rather be teaching them in a way that makes more sense in the real world.

I have believed for awhile that all subjects (though less with math) fold nicely into history topics. I’ve talked about this before…science folds nicely into history by studying the science and scientists of the time period we’re exploring…as does art and music. And once I thought about it, I realized that language arts really is a part of every subject, if I have them reading and writing about what they are studying. So, with that in mind I knew I wanted to build something where it’s all integrated and revolves around the main history topic we are studying at the time.

So then I asked myself: “What exactly do you want them DOING regularly?”

And I realized that
the actual academic subjects were secondary in my mind to the experiences I wanted them to have.

My old child development training, ever present in the back of my mind: It’s the PROCESS, not the product.

So I made a list….In regard to their learning, I want them to regularly:

  • Read something
  • Write something
  • Watch something
  • Listen to something
  • Play something
  • Create something

After thinking on it for awhile, I realized that this would enable them to experience everything with all their senses and hit all learning styles. Of course, it’s possible that learning styles are a myth, as this article discusses.

But that article also says that we should “pluralize” our teaching, by teaching different ways to ALL kids. So I figure my idea works well with this in mind! 🙂  Apparently all children should have all these experiences: tactile, auditory, visual, etc…because ALL kids, regardless of their primary learning style (if they do exist), benefit from the diversity of experiences.  Good thing because I never could fully pin down my kids’ learning styles.

So here’s my big epiphany:

I realized that this list–  Read something (books, articles…), Write something (journaling, blogging, essay writing, poetry, creative writing….), Watch something (documentaries, educational programs, short educational YouTube videos…), Listen to something (music from the time period we’re studying, podcasts on an educational topic, audiobooks and stories, reading out loud…), Play something (educational board games, dice games, card games, online games…), Create something (art projects, science experiments, stop motion animation, photography…)  could be my framework, instead of structuring everything around the subjects of history, science, language arts, etc etc.

I can still keep the traditional subjects in mind when designing activities, and I should, but that stuff really only matters to me, the adult. The kids couldn’t care less what academic subjects they are experiencing, they only care about what they have to DO.

I have come to realize that what I’m looking at creating is a more child-centered approach.

Side note: I don’t feel like what I’m talking about is unschooling. I feel like unschooling is a somewhat different thing, involving trusting that your kids will get what they need, education-wise, without your interference. I don’t agree with this philosophy entirely, and still stay quite involved in my kids learning, as I don’t feel they have the ability to know enough to get a balanced education without some experienced help from an adult. They don’t know what they don’t know. 

I guess you could call this–
Experience based learning vs. Subject based learning
Meaning, I am basing their education around their actual experiences, instead of basing it on hitting specific subjects. The subjects are secondary.

So, with all this in mind….this is going to be an interesting year! I have a lot of great ideas and plans for this coming school year, using these stations as my framework. I will write another post specifically on how this is going to work, when I finish sorting it all out.

Homeschool Stations, www.HomeschoolRealm.comBut the gist of it is this:

The kids will work their way through stations throughout the week, with some stations required every day and some only on specific days. I will provide options at each station, so they will still be following their own interests, and have choices. The actual material covered for each station will come from the historical theme we are studying that month. And these themes are being chosen by the kiddos.

I asked my kids recently what time period they’d like to start with in the new school year, showing them the options in our Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, and they both immediately said “Prehistoric”. So we are starting with the broad theme of Prehistoric Times. And each week we’ll go through the prehistoric section of our Usborne Encycopedia and pick what specific details we’ll be learning about.

With this in mind, I’ll fill each station with activities and materials that fit within the specific subject we are on. At least as much as possible. Similar to a unit study, but with the activities being the prime framework instead of the school subject.

I’m excited to get started!! More details and pics to come!!

POST NOTE: Check out my complete article on “experience-based learning” that I wrote later, once I had more time to hash it out and try it out.

Also come join our very active Facebook group: Homeschooling with Experience-Based Learning!

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  1. I love this! My kids are atill young so I haven’t felt the pressure to be as strict with them but we do something similar. I, the person not just the homeschool mama, need to structure to narrow my focus and help me organize. My kids, at this point, need lots of options to decide how and what they want to learn AND they need plenty of opportunities to try new things.
    So we do something similar except from the geography/science side. We study the continents (their animals, ecology, geography, history, people-specifically scientists, artists and indigent populations). I’m tired of history focusing so much on western philosophies when there’s an entire world out there!
    Anyway, this comment is way too long at this point but…have fun and congratulations on trying something new with your kids!

    1. Thanks! I agree about western history. We do world history here too. 🙂 And I’m sick of history books always being all about the atrocities and wars. I’m trying to find more info about average life of regular people….harder to find!

  2. OMG! I am so very glad to finally find some homeschoolers that are going “freestlye”! Of course I thought I had some fantastic new plan by doing it! LOL! My kids love it!!! Especially the eldest! He just loves reading about anything scientific! Plants, animals, earth, space… eats it up!!! The middle guy likes to know how things work… he’s not so much a fan of journaling at this point but he is 6… not many 6 yr old boys would be too interested in that! There is nothing like the real world to educate our children! Daddy is very hands-on, always working on something… it is such a great way for them to learn! I am excited for them as they get older… you never know what is in store!

    1. Yup! It does feel like everyone uses a curriculum, doesn’t it?

      So how do you guys do things? I’m always curious to hear how things are done in other homes!

  3. Wow- I am tired of Saxon and my 7th grader doesn’t like Master Math online- I might give Math Mammoth a try!
    I also like to switch it up and just make sure we are doing something and it’s enriching her life, but math, well, you just gotta do it.
    Here’s what we have planned this year, and I just now got all my books. Next week will be the big start although it feel late. I guess we ‘unschool’ because my husband doesn’t think there is enough visible work generated.

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