Don’t Cheat On Your Favorite Curricula

I try to do homeschooling on the cheap. Certainly, it is not always possible, but my husband and I always think long and hard before plunking down a wad of cash for a fancy boxed set of anything related to education.

Through the years, people have recommended all sorts of programs that will supposedly provide me with all the tools I need to educate all my kids in said subject ’til death do us part. A student workbook and textbook, plus special grip pencils, instructional DVDs, a 3 part teacher’s manual, a CD-ROM of printables,  plus color-coded labels and tabs for your lesson plans. I feel like I’m watching a PBS pledge drive when this thing is being presented to me. And if I act now, I get the matching tote bag! Of course, purchasing such a miracle curricula rivals the cost of a semester at private school.

And for what? Weeks of eager anticipation as we read the manuals and organize our materials.Yes, this is it! Finally, our kids will completely grasp a new concept from the very beginning with minimal input on our parts! Oh, it’s all so clear and well laid out. Even a fool could teach their kids with this method. They’ve really thought of everything!!  Meanwhile, our kids run their hands over the crisp, new books thinking this might be the very book that makes grammar/math/ geography tolerable. There are color pictures on every page, and manipulatives and video clips! Wow, this will be fun!

Then bang, October. It’s that month you start to wonder, what was I thinking? They always did so well with the old program, why did I switch them to this new one? You start digging out last spring’s curricula catalogues, and reminisce over the curriculum you could’ve bought. You’d always been so happy with that curricula. They didn’t have confusing color coded tabs that didn’t make sense and set you back a week after you realized you’d missed that whole unit on decimals.

By October, the kids’ books are scribbled on, the manipulatives have been absconded by the 3-year-old, or by you so the baby doesn’t eat them and the older kids just make fart noises and laugh at the teacher on the DVD clips. And the printer is always out of paper, due to last-minute art projects, so no supplemental printables either.

This is what you just paid hundreds of dollars for. And then your husband comes home from work and doesn’t understand why you start crying when he asks “How’s the new program working out?”.  Because you know you can’t ask him for more money to buy more stuff to replace the curriculum you so desperately needed back in June. Don’t you remember telling him about the tote bag?

Maybe this isn’t you, maybe you bought that fancy expensive program and it worked out great for child number one. It was the best thing ever! You sang that program’s praises  at every homeschool activity,  manned the company’s table at the local curriculum fair and wrote a great review of their product on your blog. Yessireebob, it was one God-send of a program! Then, boom, child number two.

Child number two hides in the linen closet when the books come out, has dared scribble in the teacher’s manual out of frustration and refuses to do the finger play and accompanying lap book activities! This child dares to question the perfect program! Doesn’t he/she know it’s the perfect program? It worked so well with child number one, you reason child number two must have a learning disorder and try to slow down the pace or do a different finger play, or even try to incorporate whole body movement, and still no progress and lots of resistance. You eventually realize it’s the program or your child and, reluctantly, you choose the child.

Despite careful shopping, I still occasionally make rash decisions I ultimately regret (When did I ever think I’d do that unit on classical music appreciation???) but thankfully, my favorite curricula, doesn’t hold it against me. It’s always there, waiting for me, ready to pick up right where we left off.  Don’t let other, newer and younger, curricula tempt you from the good thing you have going on. That fancy program may be beautiful on the outside, but chances are, it’ll  just leave you poorer and heartbroken.



  1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! We all seem to learn this lesson the hard way when tempted by “beautiful curricula” at a homeschool conference. I switched C from Saxon Math to an “easier” more streamlined “independent” math curricula b/c he was good at Math and I thought it would free up time. I’ve been paying for it all year.

  2. How did you know about the classical music appreciation course!? Bought the guide and about a million CDs last year…still trying to believe we’re going to do it, somehow, sometime.

    Well in the past two years we’ve managed to listen to approximately 1.25 of the 18 or so CDs. Something is better than nothing, right!?

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