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When the Curriculum Doesn’t Fit

I very rarely order clothes online. I have friends who take advantage of timely sales and rack up purchase points. For some reason, my online outfit orders are always a little too short, a little too tight, or not quite the right color.

The blessing is that if it doesn’t work, it’s as simple as sending it back for an exchange or asking for a refund.

When we buy the latest kitchen gadget and find that it takes longer to program it than it does to cook the food on the stove, we simply return it.

What if it’s your curriculum that’s a little too confusing, a little too difficult or not quite the right grade level?

Do we simply chalk up the first six weeks of the semester to a failed purchase, or is there a way to turn something that’s not quite right into a workable option for the rest of the semester?

When the Curriculum Doesn't Fit

If you’ve ever purchased curriculum thinking it was going to solve all your student’s challenges with a particular subject, you aren’t alone. I think all of us have at one time or another put blind faith into the latest teaching methods, newest author, or the new co-op director’s favorite company. It’s easy to be easily swayed when you’re looking for something fresh and new.

I remember one school year at the Orr house where a certain someone who shall remain nameless was struggling with history. We’d tried a few different companies, but this particular year, I’d invested a small fortune in what I was certain would be the perfect fit.

It was going to change the way we learned about history. We jumped in with both feet. We totally immersed ourselves in the activities, stories, and videos…and he couldn’t stand it.

Not only did he not like the curriculum, he didn’t like any of the readers, and none of the activities. They just didn’t grasp his interest. I was lost. “What do I do now?” I thought to myself.

You might find yourself in a similar circumstance in the future. Don’t lose heart.

Here are some options to think about if you need to switch curriculum mid-semester.

Why isn’t it working?

One of the biggest questions you should ask is why the curriculum isn’t working.

Is it not grade appropriate? You might have to look at a lower grade level if the material is too difficult. If it’s not quite challenging enough, consider adding in support materials and assignments that will challenge your student academically.

I suggest you also look at whether or not the curriculum is written well.

Is it confusing to the child based on the way he learns best? Some students thrive with a written schedule while others prefer to move at their own pace and not be rushed.

Most curriculum in the upper grades is written so that middle school and high school students can direct themselves through the coursework. If it’s difficult to follow, that will be frustrating for your student.

Did they not fully understand the groundwork laid by previous years in the subject? It’s always fine to stop and review when needed.

I certainly don’t remember everything from high school, so I don’t expect my children to remember everything without review either. Consider stopping for a week or so to review before moving on.

How do I fix it?

When dealing with materials that aren’t working, you have a couple of options.

First, you can call the company and ask if they will take the materials back. Explain that your student is struggling with it and you’d like to request a refund. Not every supplier will honor a return, but most are willing to work with you.

Second, ask if they have any recommendations for ways to solve the problem you are having. There is a very good chance that you aren’t the first one to have had that problem. Perhaps they have an alternate schedule or additional resources you can incorporate.

Finally, you can speed up or slow down the schedule. Adding the incentive of finishing early or having a little extra time could help your student relax enough to absorb the knowledge he needs for mastery of the subject.

We didn’t finish history that year in record-breaking time, but we did finish.

I ended up calling the company and asking if I could have a refund. They graciously accommodated and we took our time doing small unit studies, time period by time period.

What he wanted was time with me. There wasn’t a curriculum in the world that could replace the time we spent together that year. I’ve still got his timeline as a reminder that not every plan is perfect.

Not every course is foolproof, but figuring it out together is priceless.


Kay Orr
Kay Orr

Kay Orr is a Jesus follower, wife of over 25 years to Chris, a MomStrong mom to five, and Founder and CEO of Love of Logistics. She believes we are all warriors in a battle to guard our children in a world that demands their every attention.