One of the most difficult things for a homeschool parent (especially as a blogger) to do is to admit that what she thought was the One Curriculum To Rule Them All, the one resource that would alter the course of her homeschool forever – – was not the right choice. As some of you may know from my social media posts, this year got off to a great start but then we hit some huge roadblocks. Those roadblocks and tough moments ultimately led my family to our ‘big curriculum switch’.
Middle School Challenges
One of the trickiest things this year has been navigating two kids who are into their middle school years, with their own needs and desires and goals and yes – their own moody days.
I love the ages my kids are right now, I love that we get to dig in to really great discussions and that they’re beginning to feel capable of taking on more ownership and more independence.
This transition has not been smooth, and is more like tightrope walking.
Over a pit of angry alligators.
Who are swimming in a pit of lava.
We don’t just go overnight from “mom leads the way” to “kids take over the lead”. It takes a lot of see-sawing back and forth, finding your balance only for something to tip you a bit more one way and then you’re rebalancing all over again. Some days my kids both really need me, and some days they put up their hand and say “I got this”.
The Day That Started The Change
My son and I had a “toe to toe knock down” argument a few weeks into this school year. He gave me some really well considered, rational reasons why he should or should not have to do some particular things (the BIG one was he wanted no part of schooling alongside his sister, that was his hill and he was digging in til the end). He wants to be challenged, and he wants to have a clear checklist of whats expected, and he wants to work solo.
I’d had a vision of each child doing their own individual work, with a lovely morning basket time where we worked on shared subjects together. It all seemed so perfect in my head. My son however, wanted no part of it.
How did I react? Well. Let’s just say there was an epic-sized tantrum thrown that day, complete with yelling, tears, and slamming doors. It, however, was NOT my child who threw said tantrum. I caught myself, walked away, sat outside crying into my tea for a few moments, and then took a deep breath. I thought about his questions, and his requests – and found myself saying, “why not?”
So, that was the impetus, the start of this great big curriculum change. Other factors were at play as well – I caught a cold that felt like The Plague, it lasted for weeks. Then I suffered a broken toe, which immobilized me for a few days. In between there were other small events. It all culminated in me feeling really unhappy with the year and with me realizing that what BOTH of my kids were working on was not working.
Just Because It Didn’t Work Doesn’t Mean I Hate It
Before I say what we’re switching my kids INTO, I’d like to take a moment here to really state something clearly. I am not changing from Build Your Library and Oak Meadow because of flaws or faults in those curricula. I think that Build Your Library offers something truly amazing to the secular homeschooling community. Emily Cook has created a rich, lovely curriculum and we had no real issues with it as it was written.
As for Oak Meadow, I think it’s so cohesively designed, truly all in one, packed full of so many amazing things – and changing my daughter’s curriculum had nothing to do with Oak Meadow itself. It simply wasn’t the right fit at this time. While I made what I thought was a carefully considered, well thought out decision, I made a mistake placing her where I placed her and underestimated how hard it would be for me to facilitate that much project based work. From the initial decision making process, to getting it ready to start the year, even down to the decision that it wasn’t going to work for my family – – the folks at Oak Meadow were supportive and encouraging and amazing.
Inspired by the Latin Centered Curriculum
In the winter of 2017, I read a (very long, so very long) conversation in a comment thread, between someone active in the Charlotte Mason community and someone influential in the Classical Ed community, about the book Consider This by Karen Glass. And not one to enjoy feeling left out of the loop, I then decided I actually wanted to read the book to see what the fuss was all about. While I’m neither an academic in the area of Charlotte Mason OR classical education, I was fascinated by Karen Glass’ book. I’ve always been inspired by the classical education philosophy, and felt like it often complemented many aspects of the Charlotte Mason method.
From there, I moved on to reading Climbing Parnassus. That book definitely lit a little spark inside of me, and when I asked for book recommendations on “what to read when you’re inspired by Climbing Parnassus but need some guidance”, I was pointed towards The Latin Centered Curriculum. That was it. I was hooked.
That was a big changing point for me last winter. I was really inspired, I felt like I knew what I wanted to do in the 2018-2019 school year, and I laid out what I thought was a wonderful plan.
My Yearly ‘Spring Fever’ Reared Its Head
Then spring came. There is something about springtime that sends me down a little Waldorf rabbit hole. Every – single – year. Maybe it’s all the world coming back to life, getting outside to feel warm air, getting the creative juices flowing after a long northern Ontario winter. Maybe it’s the hopefulness of springtime and the energy in the air. Whatever it is, it makes me want to do Waldorf-inspired schooling, and every year I get bit by the bug and go throwing all my carefully made plans up into the air and changing all the things. It was in the spring that I stumbled across Oak Meadow and decided instead of the original, LCC-inspired plan, I was going to go all in with Oak Meadow.
Looking back, I probably made a mistake. In fact, I definitely made a mistake.
Luckily, one of the most powerful tools we have as home educators is the ability to stop, assess, and make changes. I normally get really anxious if we have to make big changes at this point in a school year. I don’t like change, I don’t like admitting defeat, I don’t like it at all. However, when I sat down and looked at our calendar I realized if I’m going to make a change – now’s the time. We have a LOT of school year left to work with.
A Big Curriculum Switch BACK To My Original Plan
So what are we switching TO? Well, I pulled out the Latin Centered Curriculum again and I found my planning notebook from last winter. Reading through my notes and my hopes and goals felt like coming home. So, I’m going to stick with that original plan. It’s going to look like a few ‘core’ subjects that we do every day – focusing on Latin, Math, and Composition. And on top of those, we’ll have subjects we do once or twice a week – things like classical studies, poetry, Shakespeare, etc. It’s going to allow us time to dig in to the important subjects, but not rush through them. It will allow my kids a lot of free time that they can use for their own reading and activities and creating things.
Most importantly, both kids will be working from similar materials in a similar method. I have agreed with my son that he doesn’t have to work WITH his sister in very many subject, but even with the two kids working on their own individual resources, this is already making it so much easier on me. Until I streamlined and put them both into this style, I hadn’t realized how deeply exhausting it had been for me to bounce from one child using BYL and needing support in that, to another child using Oak Meadow and needing a different kind of support in that.
A Curriculum Change Can Be Scary
Change has been scary, upheaval has been anxiety-inducing, and it was really difficult to now say “Yeah about that, it’s not working”. I struggled with this decision, and it was very humbling as a blogger and as a parent, to admit that we went the wrong way.
Ultimately, however, my only responsibility is to my kids and their education. I do not serve a curriculum, I do not serve a company, I don’t even serve you, my dear readers. I only have an obligation to my kids, to my family, and to my household happiness. Making this change has allowed me to refocus and move forward. Onwards and upwards!