3 Things to Consider Before You Change Homeschool Curriculum: How to Avoid My $200 Mistake

I have admitted before that I am a homeschool curriculum junkie. I love bright, shiny new curriculum. I love to pick it out. I love to buy it. I love to open it all up and smell the new books.  (I know some of you can relate.) But there is a problem with my love of homeschool curriculum.

In the past, my desire to try every new, awesome looking curricula under the sun has led to problems keeping the kids on track in certain subjects as well as the spending of quite a bit of excess money. Thanks to the opportunities I’ve had to review curricula, I occasionally try out new curricula without cost now. But I still have to be careful. Often there are good reasons not to change our current curriculum. And it’s still tempting to pay for brand new resources that caught my eye instead of considering whether or not I should just continue to use what I have.

Perhaps the biggest wake-up call in my quest to buy the newest, shiniest, most awesome (and best smelling) curriculum was my $200+ waste when we decided to try out a new math curriculum some years ago.

Things to consider when changing homeschool curriculum
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I went to a homeschool convention with a friend. I had no intention of purchasing a math curriculum while we were there. I wasn’t thrilled with our math, but that was mostly because I’m not thrilled with math on a good day. But I hadn’t done any research and had no plans to change. Until I followed my friend to a vendor booth selling a popular homeschool math curriculum. (I’m not even going to name the curriculum because the real problem here wasn’t that the curriculum is bad. The real problem was that I hadn’t stopped to consider any of the things I’m going to tell you to consider.) I sidled up to her where she stood talking with the vendor.
My friend had been researching this math curriculum, and she knew exactly what she was looking for and had planned on making this purchase. I, on the other hand, stood entranced by brand new clean textbooks, cool looking manipulatives, and teaching videos. By the time we left the booth, I was walking away with over $200 in curriculum and supplies. Oh, yes, my friend. I bought all new curriculum for all four children- one of whom wasn’t even past preschool at the time!
I’d love to say I took the curriculum home and we loved it and it was the best $200 investment we ever made. In fact all four children are probably planning to enroll in some math related field in college because they are now such capable math scholars. I’d love to say that…but I can’t. The fact is that we struggled through the curriculum for almost a year and gave up. One child possibly could have done okay with it, but with the others it was a complete flop.
The problem in my story wasn’t the math curriculum. It’s a very well-respected curriculum, and I know many people who have used and loved it- including the friend with me at the convention that day. The problem was that I hadn’t stopped to consider some important things before making the leap. So here they are- the three important things to stop and consider before you make that leap and change homeschool curriculum.

Do you need a change?

This may seem obvious. Of course we need a change. Otherwise I wouldn’t be looking at curriculum, right? But, no. Too many times I’ve caught myself looking at new curricula and planning in my head how we could get this and use this and do this only to be pulled up short by simply considering whether or not we really need to make a change.
If I wasn’t already considering the need for a change before I saw the new curriculum, chances are I don’t need a change; but I’m attracted by my “bright shiny object” syndrome. If we really need a new curriculum, I’ve probably already recognized a problem and begun to think about how to make a change before I ran into a new curriculum. Often this consideration alone can stop me short and make me click the website closed or move on past the vendor booth.

Have you done your research?

Sometimes it is obvious that what you’re doing isn’t working. One of my homeschooling mantras is: The great thing about homeschooling is that we can be flexible. And sometimes you’ve identified a problem and a need to make changes. That’s a good start. But the second important thing to consider is whether or not you’ve done your research.
In the case of our math curriculum, it is true that math was a rocky area for us. We had a curriculum that was okay but that I couldn’t see using long term. This dissatisfaction was one thing that drew me over to the math vendor booth. The problem is that I never stopped to consider this second point. I had not researched this curriculum at all. Sure, my friend had. And, sure I’d heard her and many other parents tell me it was great. But I hadn’t held a physical book in my hand until that day. I hadn’t even scanned sample pages on the website. I hadn’t read a single detailed review.
I’ve learned to never buy any new curriculum at first look. Now if I’m going to make a change, I do some thorough research. If I can find a way to look at the physical product, I do. Otherwise I look at samples, demonstration videos, detailed reviews. If I had taken time to research our math curriculum, I probably would not have purchased it. It wasn’t a good fit for the learning styles of my kids, and when I saw it play out in day to day usage, I realized this.

Why do you want to make a change?

This consideration may seem to have an obvious answer. In fact if you’ve breezed through consideration #1, you’ll want to quickly assert that you’re making a change because you need a change. But, with this consideration, I try to dig a little bit deeper. This is one you need to answer honestly. Do you really feel as if you need to make a curriculum change because your current curriculum isn’t working well for your family? Or are drawn to make a change because your friend said this new curriculum was amazing? Because all good homeschooling families use…? Because the vendors were good sales people at the homeschool convention?
It was pretty obvious in the case of our math curriculum if I had even stopped to think before whipping out the debit card. I was buying this curriculum for all of the wrong reasons. All of a sudden change was necessary, and, not only did we just have to make this change, I had to do it NOW. I was buying the curriculum because my friend was super excited about it. She had shared all of the great things she had read about the curriculum and how friends in her co-op thought it was the next best thing to sliced bread. Not only that, but the vendors were very well-educated about their product. And, I’ve already confessed how great it looked (and smelled). My reasons for change weren’t very good ones.
Things to consider when changing homeschool curriculum
I won’t say that I never made another rash curriculum purchase. But I do know that wasting over $200 on math curriculum at the homeschool convention that year taught me to pause and consider. I learned to wait and never purchase at first glance. I learned to do my research and think carefully about how well the curriculum would work for our family. And I learned that it’s important to pick curriculum based not on what is great for everyone else but on what we truly need.
I hope, with these considerations, that you can learn those things without spending $200, my friend.

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