Like all worthy human endeavors, the art of homeschooling is dynamic and multifaceted. Every child, home, family, educational choice, and process is unique—bringing both beauty and challenge! So, it can be helpful to keep in mind that, while formulas promising success are tempting, human nurturing and education can never be a one-size-fits-all strategy.

Choosing curriculum is a multifaceted investment

No aspect of homeschooling demonstrates this more clearly than the decision-making process for curriculum—especially for our high schoolers. Because high school is preparing students for their next step—from college to trade school to the military to employment or entrepreneurship, or even a gap year—the choice of curriculum carries significant stakes.

Recognizing this, many parents often invest countless hours researching, reviewing, and evaluating options, then discussing possibilities with other parents, their teen, and experts as they search for just the right curriculum. The process can be an enormous investment of time, energy, and money.

Once we make the decision, a new kind of emotional investment begins as we imagine the benefits, plan our schedules, and choreograph their transcripts and college prep plans.

What if you suspect your curriculum isn’t quite right?

And after all this investment, it can be difficult to accept that sometimes a curriculum choice is simply not working. Initially we may try to make it fit, make it work, or make our teen adapt. We might even be tempted to blame our kids for the failure because it worked so well on paper, or in other families, or in our imagination. We might think, “My teen just needs to focus more, or get up earlier, or prepare more, or do it in another room, or with me or . . . ” And, perhaps, one or more of these options truly will make all the difference.

But how can you know when you need to adjust*—or even abandon—your curriculum? Consider the following signs and options as you evaluate your current programs with your teen.

* As you consider adjusting the curriculum, here are helpful explanations and samples of the parameters for transcripts and course credits.  

Signs that you need to adjust or abandon your curriculum: 

1. Your teen is just not learning. You’ve used the curriculum, you’re several months into the school year, and it’s still not clicking. 

Adjustment ideas:

  • Is your teen ready? Learning readiness is essential for success. Sometimes teens just need more time to mature emotionally or cognitively for a curriculum to be effective. Maybe putting it aside for now and returning to it later will allow the development that makes things click!
  • Consider your teen’s life circumstances and surroundings. Are there extra stresses or distractions that are rendering the curriculum too difficult right now? As a homeschool parent, you’re free to customize the timing and pacing of your student’s education.
  • Do you have the time or ability to adapt the curriculum to better fit your teen’s capabilities, learning preferences, or capacity? For instance, can you adjust quantity or approach of assignments? Can you change the evaluations from written to oral—or from test to essay? Since the goal is learning, you and your teen get to collaborate on the best way to get there.

2. Your teen keeps procrastinating—they just can’t seem to get the work done.

Adjustment ideas:

  • Consider what your teen’s procrastination means. Is the curriculum too difficult or confusing? Do they need new study strategies? Is procrastination a common struggle, or just with this curriculum? Are they ready for the content (see Sign #1)? It’s natural for most people to avoid things we can’t understand or accomplish.
  • Does the curriculum connect with your teen? Ask them to help you understand their reluctance. After receiving their honest input, can you help them make the connections, getting to that “ah-ha” moment . . . or is it just a bad fit?

3. You really don’t like it. (Yes! You are important too!)

Adjustment ideas:

  • Keep in mind that our attitudes are contagious: our feelings about the curriculum affect our kids’ learning experience. Have you found yourself dreading teaching it? Are you repelled or overwhelmed by the content? Can you identify what’s not working and adjust it to fit your style or your values?
  • Consider your freedom to find a curriculum that works with your lifestyle, personality, and time constraints. However, if your teen loves the same curriculum you dread, perhaps they are ready to take on greater independence in learning so you can step back.

If you can’t adjust it, perhaps it’s time to abandon it.

Because switching curriculum midyear is challenging and has consequences, you’ll want to make sure to allow time for good planning—especially in high school, for two big reasons. First, different curriculum publishers often approach subjects differently in content and order. Second, time is limited as your teen prepares for year-end evaluations, SATs, and application deadlines for college, employers, trade schools, or the military. So, when possible, it’s ideal to adjust rather than abandon the curriculum.

A work of art

When the famed artist Rembrandt was asked why so many of his paintings appear only half-finished, he reportedly said, “A work of art is complete when, in it, the artist has realized his intention.”

The art of homeschooling through high school requires a carefully choreographed plan with your teen and creativity with your curriculum choices. Thankfully, you have tools and options that change and enrich color and depth as you complete this work of art called “home education.” So, how is your curriculum realizing your family intentions?