What to do when curriculum isn’t working

What to do when your curriculum just isn't working

This past December I announced one morning as part of school we were “doing history that day.”  Then my son burst into tears.

I about died inside because I LOVE history.  I have large portions of my blog devoted to my love of history.  I have no less than 5 pinterest boards for history.  I went to London on my honeymoon to go to all of the museums there, and LOVED it.

So when he said that I knew something wasn’t working, and it needed to change.

I calmed him down, and we talked about what he didn’t like about history and what wasn’t working.  I found out he didn’t like the notebooks we had for history.  It was fill in the blank.  He inherited my hatred for fill in the blank.  When I was a little bit older than him I would actually deliberately fill in wrong answers on those silly fill in the blank worksheets.  Especially if it had a word bank, those were the worst.  I felt my intelligence was insulted, and responded accordingly.

I can’t say it was a mature response.   I also can’t say my attitude has changed much from then.  It’s probably worse.  So, I understood his feelings.

We talked some more.  I asked if he liked the notebooks we used for science.  Then his face lit up and he raved about his science notebook.  We use the Apologia Junior Journals for science.  There are blank lines to write whatever you want.  There’s space to draw pictures.  Occasionally there are lapbook pieces to put together.  When we first got those books I wrote a glowing review of them.  Now, I’d heap even more praise on them because it TRULY works for our family.

As we talked I started thinking about our textbook.  It’s a textbook, it’s dry, and it’s not as interesting as what we used before, but what we used before doesn’t cover this time period, or American history.  I was stuck because I think this is the best way to cover the information.

Then I started praying and planning.  I have a new plan.

First, I’m scrapping the notebook I had first looked on as perfect.  It doesn’t fit our family, we’re not really fill in the blank people, we’re short answer.

Next, we’re going to look for more ways to act it out.  We already have battle simulations every time there’s a war.  Now, we’re going to draw what they wore.  That will be popular with all 3 kids.

I’m also looking for picture books to read.  I know of many picture books covering US history in the 20th century.  I’m going to make sure and check those out for us to read.  My kids remember picture books and bring them up on a routine basis, so this is a good plan.

I’m also finding movies for us to watch.  That’s how we covered the last 4 chapters of history.  We watched movies about the Gilded Age and discussed the events taking place.  Suddenly my crying son was happy and enjoying history.  It was happening in the way he related to.

Can we always scrap our plans and the way we’re learning?  No.  I can’t completely chunk the history text in this case.  We’re locked in with that for the year due to other factors.  I CAN change how I teach it and what he’s required to do.  Will that always be my response to pushback?  No, sometimes you have to muster on and learn to continue on.  But, this time changing our direction is the right thing to do.


And for the record, the picture is of my daughter sporting an eye patch after getting dirt in her eye.  She was emphasizing how horrible everyone treated her.  I took a picture to show how ridiculous she looked.  Oh, and after the reboot and going back to our roots I’m happy to say my boys quite enjoyed our last week of history.


  1. Have you tried story of the world? I often find my daughter sitting at the table long after school is over reading and retreading what we did hat day.

  2. I really enjoyed this post, and I have another example–but in the opposite direction!

    I sat down with my oldest this week to find out what she liked/didn’t like about school. We went a much more classical/unit study direction starting last year, and I kept hearing complaints about not liking school! So when we really talked through it, I discovered that she prefers the textbooks/student workbooks that we did several years ago! What?! She likes the more structured curriculum, and the reading/answering questions format. So, we’re going back to BJU Press next year with textbooks and student worktexts.

    That flexibility is probably the greatest thing about homeschooling!

    • That’s so funny! Even when I taught in public schools I wasn’t the best at sticking to structured learning, I guess it just doesn’t sit well on me.

  3. As a huge picture book advocate, I LOVE that you’re incorporating picture books. They really do help!

    What a blessing it is to be able to discuss with your son what’s working and not working — and then be able to change it as needed! Thanks for sharing!

    • Every now and then my husband tries to push our not using them as much, primarily in bedtime stories because he doesn’t enjoy them. We compromised, and now we read chapter books for bedtime stories and I used so many picture books in our school day, it’s crazy!

  4. Try some ESL teacher websites there are lots of fun activities with movement for taking dry textbook material and turning it into interactive games. The reason ESL teaching site have so much of it is because the students usually are coming off an 8+ hour day when the teachers get them so they have to work twice as hard to motivate the tired students. Also many ESL have VERY limited budgets and old to no materials so they have to be active to make up for it. It would be easy to adapt them to history.

    • I hadn’t even thought to look there. But would they be covering content areas as much? I thought ESL would be focusing more on the language and reading aspect.

  5. Great post! I really didn’t want to be “one of those moms” that changed curriculum every semester, but sometimes just have to change in order to keep the love of learning alive. We’re just in kindergaren but the phonics program I was using had both of us in tears. Once we switched, phonics was fun again!

    (Oh, and I LOVE Apologia. Their middle school science books finally gave me a love for (and understanding of) science and I determined right then that that’s what I wanted to use someday for my own children. 🙂

    • I had the same problem with our original phonics program. It was progressing too quickly for my kids, and it went from short 6 page stories to these sudden 50 page behemoths, and that just was not working. So we switched it up, and have been so happy!

      Apologia and MOH are the two I will never switch if I have anything to say about it. They’re both ones my kids have loved!

  6. We also use MOH, we’re on Vol II . I’m using it with my middle schooler & high schooler…I add living books to what we’re reading in MOH (Story of the World, Usborne, DK, Famous Men of The Middle Ages, History of the Middle Ages, etc) I also read a timely fiction book to them, right now, we’re reading the Son Of Charlemagne by B Willard. We also have enjoyed throwing a little Drive Thru History video in there as well. Our art projects are also tailored to what we’re studying in history….my hubs is the art teacher in our home. He and the kids just drew a Viking Ship from Draw & Write through History. I love history as well, my kids aren’t as excited about it as I am; however, MOH has made it more interesting and dare I say, enjoyable for them:). Love how flexible we can be with schooling, tailoring it to the needs of our kids.

Speak Your Mind


* Please enter the Biggest Number