Teaching - Math/LA & when do you consider switching?

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Teaching - Math/LA & when do you consider switching?

Unread post by TNLisa »

kellybell wrote:In a recent post I was of the camp of if it is "working" then you should stick with it, filling in any gaps that you see. Not everyone agreed.

I've got a general question for everyone:

When DO you consider changing something (a math program, a writing program, a total curriculum)? Do you change because you saw something that looks good? Do you change due to boredom (your boredom or dc's boredom)? Do you change when the tears flow (yours or dc's)? Do you change when the standardized test comes back with low numbers in a certain subject?

I'm interested in hearing others' philosophies...!

All in kindness,
I'll try to give a short answer.

We've been homeschooling for 2 years now. Initially I tried to mimic everything my son had been doing at his former school. It is a private Classical Christian school. I picked a couple of different things, but for the most part have been chained to their ways - and the classical model was my bible.

It wasn't until the beginning of this school year that I began to question things.
* It started with a desire to teach the history cycle "together" with my children. That began the process of researching and looking at other options.
* My daughter was being made to recite facts that she didn't understand.
* My son was reading all the time, but not really understanding what he was reading...everything was a list to be checked off.

My son (will be 7th grade) had done well in the "school" but I knew deep down inside that I wanted to do things differently for my daughter (will be 3rd grade). He'd done grammar since 1st grade - geez!

There are way too many things to write about in this post - but the main thing is that God worked in MY life to refine a lot of what I was thinking had to be taught...methods, curriculums...and I was missing what was important with my kids! He gently brought me to realize that it is their hearts I need to be most concerned about. The academics will be placed firmly on top of the foundation layed by HIM.

I'm not sure when, or how, but I discovered MFW. I was intrigued. Immediately I knew MFW was for us. As a result, we are switching to MFW, doing ECC in the Fall and planning to continue through highschool. And I'm selling EVERYTHING else at our local curriculum sale next weekend.

God has confirmed over and over again that we are being obedient by choosing to use MFW. It's worth the switch, and the investment. I love that it integrates everything. I love that it will be flexible for both kids. I love that God is the important stuff! I love the layout of the TM.

So to answer your question - when do I switch?
* When I see holes in the learning...
* frustration on my part and theirs from not having things gel together...
* and when I see that I need to be obedient to what God has revealed to me. In this case I was in bondage over using what a school uses - their "idea" of education - and I was missing the hearts of my kids. I pray that I will be diligent in using MFW and that God will bless our years of homeschool.

I hope I've made sense.
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When it doesn't work

Unread post by HSmommi2mine »

After 3 years of homeschooling I have recently changed a bunch of things.

* I changed our writing program because there were tears and he simply hated to write ANYTHING. I consider it a curriculum that is not working for us.

* We switched from our old history program to MFW as well. My first instinct was to say we switched out of boredom but I think it is deeper than that. Yes, we/ I was bored but the kids were not retaining information so it wasn't working. Even though my kids liked listening to our history book and coloring the pictures they were not learning.

* I have decided to go with "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Our math works beautifully for us.

Now that I have history and LA materials that are working I plan to stay focused on what we have unless I find it stops working at some point.

I know there are a ton of options out there and I know, if I need it, where to find the information. You can drive yourself crazy trying to find "the best" thing, curriculum hopping, but I think the better way for me is to give my kids a consistent education with what happens to be working.

Unread post by TurnOurHearts »

This past week was our first 'testing week.' My son did really well, from what I could tell (still waiting for results), in every area except spelling. Now, let me stop right there & tell you that we used the R&S Spelling by Sound & Structure Level 2, as recommended. We, both me & my son, have LOVED this spelling program! It has been just what he needed, it was right on level for him and we have had excellent results, in my opinion. But, the rubber hit the proverbial road for me on Wednesday of last week. This is the first time I considered checking out every spelling program out there!

But do I define my son's successes in 2nd grade by what I've observed all year, or by what the state's one test says? Because he can't spell "beautiful" in the 2nd grade, am I not doing enough?! I literally had to go through the process of reminding myself what our family goals are to get over this hump. Writing it out, I feel foolish! But we all know those "homeschool" attacks when we feel them.

If we are learning, growing, changing, developing, deepening - isn't that the point? The state of NC has a goal for each year. I am interested in what that is - I would be lying if I said I wasn't. But more important are the goals of my family - producing VIBRANT, FRUITFUL disciples is first on that list. Will they get what they need academically? Here is the answer the Lord gave me this week:

"But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well."

Simplistic? Maybe. But I believe these words.

* We will change what we are doing when the learning, growing & deepening aren't consistent any longer. We all have days of tears & frustration. If we have several WEEKS of that, I'd be looking to change math or LA.

Sorry if this was information overload... :/ Hopefully the heart of it comes through.
MJ in IL
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Unread post by MJ in IL »


This is an interesting question and thread. I found MFW years ago at a conference; called my husband to see if we could swing the K prgram for my son; then bought. It was a bit of an impulse buy-based on my children's learning style differences and my desire to accomplish teaching to multiple levels...but I can certainly see God's hand in it.

I can unfortunately share well about when not to change curriculum...

When I am not getting a subject done because it is not as interesting as others (for me it's science.) In the past, I had switched curriculi several times to something more interesting (read: interesting to me) in hopes I would complete it more thoroughly. What I initially thought of as improving my curriculum choices, I realize was simply trying to mask my own lack of discipline. This has never been a useful purchase technique for us.

Impulse buys based simply on someone's rave reviews (on the web or IRL.) I have bought and resold more than couple of resources this way.

I have learned so much about my children's and my learning styles during this journey. I still love to look at other resources! When a subject is not going the way I would like, I have learned to wait and see if it is possible to change techniques, before droppping $$ for new resources.

In general, I have come to realize I need to stop, pray and then go over things with my husband. He is not very involved in the more traditional teaching part of school, nor really wants to be. However, he is well-versed in my personality and tendencies, as well as the childrens'. He seems to know when I am purchasing for one of the above reasons and helps me rethink my plan. I have come to realize that his wisdom in leading our homeschool may present itself in a way different than I may envision, but when I follow his advice, it works! hmmm...:)

Lastly, reviewing our goals for our children occasionally is necessary for me. Therefore, when I think I need to teach XYZ, I can look to what we hope to accomplish and see if that particular resource is necessary or better able in moving us towards that goal.
dd14 enjoying AHL; ds12 & ds10 in RtR & dd5 working through K!
have done K (2X), 1 (2X), ECC, CtG, & 1850MT
Julie in MN
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Unread post by Julie in MN »

Hmmm... good question.

I think I've changed history & Bible when I'm not teaching what I want to teach my kids. Or when I find something closer to what I want to teach my kids. Or there are topics I think are super-important, but what I'm using seems to be drifting away from them, so I have changed -- because I am okay with repeating important things in new ways. I may even use the new alongside the old for a while, just to be sure of the change. These subjects are important to me, as they reflect faith and worldview stances.

I have changed language arts because I've decided my child has already mastered something & I wanted to move on to something else. Or when I decide a program is not explaining the concepts well & my child is not getting it (one I remember asked ds to circle the adverbs before they had taught what an adverb was).

One time I changed math because, as I think you recently mentioned on another post, my dd saw a problem in a different format than she was used to & didn't recognize the problem at all -- red light alarm, she's filling in the blanks and not really understanding!

Rarely have I changed based on their preference, because I don't want to open that Pandora's box! I may slow down or even stop for a while & do something else for a break, but not give up altogether. I figure there are rough spots in all learning & we'd have the same issues with another program. Besides, sometimes the best stuff comes out of that. But occasionally I guess I do make a change if something isn't clicking, etc.

Well how's that for vague? Interesting to think about, tho...
Last edited by Julie in MN on Tue May 22, 2007 3:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs

Unread post by cbollin »

ooohhhh.... cool, philosophy of education. I love these kinds of things. But I wish Kelly and her kids were across the street so we could just hang out together. Watch out for the kid down the Cul de Sac who is riding his bike --- he comes into the story later.

This is a philosophy discussion, not an application discussion. So expect weird analogies from me with no real answers in it all. And no analogy is perfect. As a friend of mine used to always say “every analogy has its breakdown point.” But it may give some insight into how I approach the problem as it affects my family.

I have a different twist on this -- when I have had to switch occupational therapist. Nothing was working, and nothing was going to work. Changed the therapist and made significant process within 3 weeks. yikes --- talk about staying with something for too long.....

Sometimes “we” have to change an entire curriculum that doesn’t work based on big picture issues like Paige brought up.

Sometimes I wonder --- what if MFW stopped working for us? Eek, what would I do? Will the high school program work for all of my kids? Well, I do wonder about that stuff.

One of the easiest to decide changes for me was with handwriting --- it wasn’t working and had no potential to work (I had no instructions to teach cursive). Got something else because I couldn't find instructions to help overcome the issues. I had to do what worked for my kid. I looked around and lots of people were saying (use this). It was the right fit.

Other times it is not as easy of a decision.
Sometimes we get stuck. That’s when I look and ask these kinds of questions:
* Is this just a “planned” bump in the road, or maybe a stop sign or traffic signal?
* Or it is that the road is under construction and it isn’t going anywhere. Or is it a dead end? Have I possibly entered the wrong highway?

With our math change, it was not a bump in the road. It was a dead end. Maybe I should say it was a Cul de Sac. Because we could go around and around in circles and still feel like we were moving forward, but we were not making long term progress.

If I want to get done with my trip, I need a different street. Remember I vaguely mentioned the little boy down the street? He has his training wheels and he is out there on his bike. It’s working for him, but it will not always work for him. He can play pretend that he is practicing for the Indy 500 this weekend, but he can’t compete against Danica. His mom can sit back on the front porch and say, “I’m so glad he has training wheels. It’s working and it is easy.”

I realized that staying with the same math program after 6 years was a dis-service to my child’s education. It was working (so I thought). But it was as if she never took the training wheels off, and never left the cul de sac. Too much false security. Perhaps I should have spent more time getting past the tears and fears.

So – make sure that if something seems to be working, you have a way to take away the training wheels or autopilot at the right time.

When teaching phonics and some other language arts/math subjects, we hit many “planned” road bumps. With a road bump, you slow down and get over it and go on. The trip continues. No real reason to go get a new car or to get on a different street. So sometimes there are tears. Sometimes we just dry off the tears, other times not. What if the problem is that it is nothing more than a traffic light in your child’s school work? You stop, you wait it out, you move on while ignoring the tears as much as possible. You give them a tissue box and hug them, but you are "just there" with them to get through it. (every analogy does break apart at some point.)

With general language arts, I was on the wrong highway. I was using things that worked and was making progress. But --- we were trying to go to a different ending point.

Ok – analogy explanation time: Some of you will get this and others will need to get a Road Atlas and follow along.

Pretend I’m going from St. Louis to Indianapolis. I need to be on I-70 not I-55. Well, for a brief time, these roads are the same. I-55 will keep working for me, but not get me to Indy. It will get me to Chicago. I don’t wanna go to Chicago. But if I don’t get moved over at the right time when I-55 and I-70 split off -- getting to Indy will involve longer hours and more tears. Depending when I leave I-55, it might involve a lot of back tracking.

Anyway… it is that last kind of trip that I agree with the spirit of what Lucy had said on another post. Sometimes, even if it is working, it may not be right. I certainly found that to be true with our Math (and original choice of language arts).

Anyway…. It’s all philosophical and hard to describe the application. Time for fresh air today.

Like I said --- no real application. Sometimes you have to change things. No analogy is perfect when it comes to all of this. If things are working, you don't always change --- but sometimes things work and it still isn't where you want to be.

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Unread post by niki »

Here's my 2 cents...

I have to admit I have experienced making changes because of boredom (mine) and changes because of tears (mine and my dc).

We've hs'd for 4 years, and oh my have I grown. My relationship with the Lord deepened and I have seen that in my kids too. I think what I've learned is my excitement is contagious to my kids. I have to keep myself in check because whatever I am "feeling" about a certain subject quickly comes out in my kids.

What have we changed...(don't laugh) only math - ever year it's been a different program, all for the reasons mentioned above. Thankfully this fall I'm taking the MFW plunge and doing Singapore!

I think I'm just rambling now...so I agree so much with Turnourhearts...that we really need to "seek 1st the Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well."

Praise God for His plan. We need not dwell, but keep our vision Kingdom focused! How I need to be reminded of this throughout the year, especially convention season!!! We've been so satisfied what MFW recommends. It doesn't overload me or my kids, and I'm so grateful!

Strong Tower Academy
DD 6th DS 5th DD 3rd
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Unread post by 4Truth »

I haven't read the other responses yet, but I'll tell you that I used to change math curriculum for all the wrong reasons.

Now I've come to understand that with consistency and time, usually the problems work themselves out. But sometimes we just have to plunder through the rough spots. Sometimes in the past, we gave up too easily because something was "hard". However, that's not real life. We can't give up because something is "hard." There would be no missionaries or educated doctors or .... homeschooling parents .... if that were the case. LOL.

What I've learned to do when we hit a rough spot is to educate MYSELF. Figure out how to get around it. Figure out how to teach it a different way. If I can understand it, then I can teach it.

Knowing my child and how she learns/understands/communicates is important, too. Just because *I* communicate one way, or the book communicates one way, doesn't mean my child understands that communication. Ruth Beechick's book You Can Teach Your Child Successfully 4th-8th grade (or something like that) has taught me a lot. Notice I said it's taught ME a lot. THEN I can go teach my daughter.

I've realized that I'm not afraid of testing in order to find out where the gaps are so that I can go back and teach those weak areas a different way. Testing can be a great tool. Testing helps me to be a better teacher and mother.

So no, I used to be very quick to ditch a math curriculum, but not anymore. That's how my oldest dd got behind.

For me (now), the answer is not give up or make a quick change... the answer is to find out why we need a change, and it may be something as simple as using a white board with different colored markers rather than boring paper and pencil, or grabbing some game chips or cuisenaire rods or toothpicks or coins to work the problems, or finding out some cool tricks to use with a one hundred chart or number line. But I won't change a whole math curriculum again unless we've tried everything I can possibly think of and consulted how-to books and my network of hs'ing friends, but it still isn't working. And if it goes that far, then there's probably a different problem that needs addressed (learning disability, obedience issues, attitude, etc.)

ETA: I thought you were talking specifically about math, so that's how I responded. But generally speaking, the same is true across the board. LA is a different because while I've finally gotten "settled" on every other subject, I'm still trying to work out the bugs in language arts, and that's partly because there are so many different skills encompassed in language arts. I really should just give in and follow the simplicity of the Hazell's recommendations. ;o)
Donna, with two MFW graduates and the "baby" in 11th grade! %| Using MFW since 2004.
Julie L.
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Unread post by Julie L. »

This is my .02 cents worth. Well, listening to Hazell's Cd's really helped me 'see' why we educate and how it should be done in a challenging, yet simplistic manner. I would much rather take the 'easy' road of doing the math I grew up with, and the familiar of the way I did LA- that is what I grew up with and did well in so obviously that is how I want to teach. BUT now I 'see' that truly the naming of words called Grammar with all the worksheets at a younger age are really pointless (this I know because I did well in that subject, but had to review with my 2nd Gr what an adverb was?:)) So I like being let off the hook without the added frustration of trying pointlessly to explain these concepts to dc at a young age.
The subject of Math has been hard for me because I like familiarity! Who doesn't? But after talking it over with Dh and figuring out our goals in this area. WE want dc who are thinkers, can figure out everyday problems, and know how to apply their Math- So we are going with Singapore no matter what. (if we end up needing to spend a week on a lesson or go back a level we will do that until dc gets it.) I've been just asking questions about after going through this process if it will be in vain if we go on to another non-thinking American Math. But even then I think Singapore will get them grounded in the everyday calculation problems helping them to learn to think differently if they have to. I think with simplicity and repetition is understanding.

Julie in SC
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Unread post by 4Truth »

Wow, I just read through the thread and there are a lot of great thoughts here! Sounds like each of us have been on a journey.

Crystal, we just got back from Chicago a few days ago and I'm EXHAUSTED! (Literally!)

But that was actually a great analogy... after driving for 5 hours on a 9-hour trip, the 4yo started asking if we were going home now. Uh, no, backtracking because we're tired and still have a long road ahead of us would be such a waste of time and energy, wouldn't it? But you see, it was the little child who asked if we could turn around and go home, because she couldn't see the end goal and had no concept of what it would take to get there, or what backtracking would mean. I think sometimes we parents are like that in our homeschool journey. We're a bit like the Israelites in the desert, I guess.

Anyway, I just wanted to throw out a couple more seasons of when NOT to change curriculum (or any other "big" decision, for that matter):

- during the throes of morning sickness while hanging over the toilet or curled up on the couch;

- during recovery from childbirth when sleep is seriously lacking and brains are not functioning;

- during PMS;

- any other time that our hormones are not in the right place and/or we've not had enough sleep.

These are road bumps that might be screaming slow down, take a break, or do school spread out on the living room floor, but they don't mean come to a screeching halt and change everything. We may FEEL like that's what it means, but our feelings do pass. Especially with prayer and time.... and sleep.

God is good.
Donna, with two MFW graduates and the "baby" in 11th grade! %| Using MFW since 2004.
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Unread post by Ariasarias »

thank you for this thread. It has been very helpful to me as I ponder what to do for next year.
Nicole, wife to Claudio since 1996, and mom to dd (2000), dd (2003), dd (2005), and ds (2009).
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Unread post by qfbrenda »

I have switched curriculum when
* I didn't like the amount of time something took,
* the way it taught concepts, or
* when just bringing out a particular book led to a child's breakdown.

I have also switched for less valid reasons and regretted it.

Overall, I'm in the "if it ain't broke..." camp. Rarely do I read someone saying that they have stuck with X program for years and regretted it. But over and over I see posts (not here... on another board) saying something like, "My child is 11-12-13 yrs old and we've used ~10 different math programs over the years... we're just not making progress!" And I want to say back to them, "Just pick a reputable program that you and your children don't absolutely hate, and stick with it! And do it every school day!" LOL

There are times to switch, but I think with the huge number of curriculum choices available, homeschoolers are tempted to switch more often than they ought. Don't just change because what you're doing was great until you read about the latest new thing. ;)

wife for 12 yrs, mom to 5 boys so far! 10 yrs, 8 yrs, 5.9 yrs, 3 yrs, and 7 months old

Using ECC and bits of pieces from Sonlight Core 5, K, and prek
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Unread post by Lucy »

Hey Everyone,

Wow what a thread. Little did I know that my comments on the other thread would lead to this. Thanks Kelly for starting it.

I wanted to share just a bit of our journey. Let me say that I DO NOT change curriculum quickly. I was with the same math curriculum before moving to Singapore for 6 years. When I found MFW 5 years ago I asked God (well I sort of told God but I have been open always to His leading) to please let the looking stop here.

Let me preface this by say that in the fall of 2002 I had started with another big packaged curriculum and 6 weeks into it I found myself crying out to God asking Him what was going wrong in our homeschool. It was almost an audible voice, "It is your curriculum." It was sucking the life out of us. It was then that I discovered MFW and began my journey with them. For the most part I have simply, over time, come to trust MFW, but I never go into it blindly, always checking it out and trying to figure out why this is a good way to go. I struggle as you all do.

I am mostly in the stick with what is working and am not for changing things from year to year too much. In fact I really do not like change at all.

My math program worked fine for my son but it did not challenge him. Was he getting it, was he excelling, yes, but I was moved to take a look at something different because in the long run I thought it may be better for him. It was a very hard decision for me to move and to be honest I was scared to death I would mess him up. Again, I am mostly in the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" crowd, but I have learned to never say never.

As we have all experienced, sometimes the curriculum that seems to work for everyone else's kid just doesn't work for one or all of yours. I think I have had to find a balance between what is worth all the hard work and what's just not working.

This next year we will have our first child enter high school. You would think after using MFW for 5 years this would be a no brainer, but I still had to look, think, and pray along with my hubby. We have chosen MFW because we really do think it is the best for our daughter and meets our goals for her. But poor David Hazell had to prove himself to me all over again. I am a hard one to sell at times. I seem to always scream, convince me again! Thankfully he likes the challenge.

Enjoying the journey together,

wife to Lee and mom to Twila 18 (girl) and Noel 16(boy). Happy MFW user since 2002.

Unread post by cbollin »

qfbrenda wrote:Rarely do I read someone saying that they have stuck with X program for years and regretted it. .
Well, I'm one of those. So maybe I need to tell that part of the story so that others can benefit from that process as well instead of a bunch of philosophical ideas.

I fall into that category. I stayed with a math program that I thought "ain't broke" and I do regret not changing something about it sooner.

I also stayed with a grammar worksheet program that I thought "it ain't broke" and I definitely regret not changing something sooner.

Here is the big reason that I did that. I was Prideful in my choice. *I* reserched. *I* decided. *I* am willing to "stick it out".

Perhaps that it is the reason in cyber space you don't read more often that someone regretted it. How often are we willing to admit mistakes that involve pride? I was very proud of my choice to do XYZ math and LMNOP Grammar long before it was popular around my local town or before I entered cyber space. I was so prideful that I even went as far to tell myself "it ain't broke. And I'm not changing just because Lucy on the mfw board changed or because david hazell says Singapore is so darn good."

ouch --- it's true. I dug my heels in against it. I was prideful and stuck it out telling myself I was "content".

So put me in these camps:

If it is truly working, you probably have no reason to be looking for anything else. That is how I feel about MFW. 4 years, no regrets. It brings a peace that passes understanding.

If you are lying to yourself and it is broken in spite of the appearances of being fixed (like a pencil that is taped together), check your pride and change.

If it is broken, change :)

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Unread post by 4Truth »

qfbrenda wrote:Just don't change because what you're doing was great until you read about the latest new thing. ;)
Ah, yes. Herein lies the source of my discontentment so very often in the past. Even now I sometimes get tempted, even though I *know* that what we're already doing truly does provide all that we need.
Donna, with two MFW graduates and the "baby" in 11th grade! %| Using MFW since 2004.
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