Saturday, February 2, 2013

It's THAT time of year!

It always feels like a little restlessness, maybe even some boredom, starts slipping into our homeschool about this time of year. The cold weather plays a huge factor, although this year we have had several unseasonably warm days (and I've loved it!). 

For me, there's a HUGE holiday let-down...when the craziness of the holidays is gone and our days slow down.  Ours lasts a little longer than some because my oldest son's birthday is in January.

At times, it seems like the days start blending together. Same old, same old. Routine is good, but (honestly?) it's a little boring. 

Like many other homeschool moms, my attention starts to drift toward the next school year. New, shiny books and materials. Curriculum changes. Evaluating our year to see what worked and didn't. Preparing for the new year. NEW, EXCITING, FUN stuff!! 

This year has been no different. I started thinking about next school year sometime last week when I decided to give up on Rod & Staff English. I LOVE the program, but unfortunately my kids do not. It's a source of frustration in our house. To be honest, even I have been avoiding grammar all together just so our days aren't turned upside down.

We successfully used R&S with my oldest for three years. He didn't like it but he did very well and didn't complain (loud enough, I guess...). It works! I know it does. I hate to give it up but it's time.

So I began to panic a little. I've never used anything else for grammar. I had NO idea what was out there, what would fit with my boys (who have completely different learning styles), what I would enjoy teaching (because let's just get real here...if Mom doesn't like it, it doesn't get done).

As I began thinking about what new material we need for next year, I did something a little different. I evaluated myself and my ability to find materials that fit our family. How am I going about looking for new materials and how successful am I?  I found that I've been incredibly blessed. Ha! Everything we love just *happened* into my line of vision and straight into my lap. Everything we haven't seems now that maybe I forced upon us because of recommendations, reviews, or simply *I* just wanted it.

Don't misunderstand. Recommendations and reviews are good, very good and very useful. :) I simply have found a few other ways beyond just those two that have helped me.

So I made a little list of the things I was doing when I found those items that fit our family perfectly.
  • Pray. Seems obvious, right? Apparently not for me. :)  Looking back on the curricula that currently fit our family, I can honestly see the times when I asked for guidance, even if the prayer was simply "Grr...I have NO idea what (or which) I should get!!! You decide!!" This is my best tool when trying to find that perfect fit.  Thankfully God already knows what will's just a matter of getting my own thoughts and desires out of the way, and actually listening to what He is saying.  Unfortunately, I can also clearly remember the times when I just wanted something because it seemed great to me...only to find out after the purchase that it just wasn't what we needed.

  • Read. I've read MILLIONS of reviews. OK, maybe not millions but I have read many, many, many reviews well into the night...on many occasions. I bet you can relate. I am in no way saying reading reviews isn't important but you have to go further.
    • Read homeschool mom blogs. There are so many curricula options out there...and it can be overwhelming. In my relatively young homeschooling experience, all homeschool moms LOVE talking about their curricula. What's working...what's not. Read not only how they *like* it, but read the weekly reports to see how it works in their home.  How are they using it? How much time is involved?  Is it open and go or does it take a little more prep work? Does it work well in small or large families? You'll quickly see if it's something you can actually implement in your own home.
    • Actually READ the material. Most companies have awesome free samples. Request them and spend time going through the material on your own. (Kind of obvious but I've bought before without even actually seeing the material for myself.)  If a homeschool mom friend has something you've been thinking about, ask to borrow it for a couple of days. Look it over. Ask her how it works in her homeschool.

  • Wait. Don't buy the first or second or third thing you find. Can I be honest? I've been looking and looking for a writing curriculum for what seems like forever. Maybe it's only just a few years though. I tried a few things, knowing it wasn't exactly what we needed, but out of a desperation to be DONE with it. I wanted to be teaching not searching. I bought a book last year, took one look at it, didn't really understand the concept, deemed it a bad fit, shelved it, and moved on. Tried something else that didn't work, and pretty much gave up ever finding something. Then, as I was cleaning out the school closet last week, I found that book. I determined to read it again. I prayed. "Oh God, if this is THE ONE, pretty please make it obvious. If it isn't, I need that to be obvious as well." I have to admit, I am so GLAD that I didn't get rid of that book. I didn't exactly *wait* I suppose, but thankfully I did feel the need to hold on to it. I can honestly say this will fit our family. I know it because it's the same way I felt about everything else that has fit us so well. If I hadn't held on to that book, I'd still be searching....and frustrated.

  • Quit. Yep. Give up. I have tried SO hard to get a particular curriculum to work for us. SO hard!! I wanted it. It was cool and popular and fun and everyone else was using it with such great success!!!  I just needed to MAKE it work for us!  When I finally admitted defeat and chose to give up cramming it into our family mold, I opened up the opportunity to find the a better, more comfortable fit. Something that actually worked for our family.

  • Change. Be willing to try a totally different approach. Be open to different learning styles. If you're stuck in a rut, pull yourself out and move in a different direction. People change, kids change, families change. It makes sense that, when something stops working for us, we need a change. When I find something that works, I want to stick with forever Even if I see breakdown, I seriously don't want to let it go!!! It worked once before. It will work again...right?! Sometimes we just need to recognize it's time for a change...and give it up.
There are so many different methods to finding the perfect curriculum for your family. These are just a few of the things I have found that work for me (when I actually remember to apply them). I have had good success so if you're stuck in a rut, maybe one or a few of my ideas will work for you.

I'm excited to share *what's new* in our homeschool very soon!

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