One thing is certain: if you are homeschooling a special needs child, no single all in one, grade level, specific boxed curriculum will meet all of your needs. The ability to adapt curriculum is a perk of homeschooling; we get to provide a customized education where each child can thrive exactly where they are at. My children are above and below grade level in different subjects and is difficult for a school to accelerate and accommodate different needs at the same time.
I remember getting frustrated looking for a kindergarten program for my oldest. Everything I was finding seemed too easy for her. Fast forward to my 3rd child and I now know that I shouldn’t have been looking for Kindergarten curriculum because she was ready for 1st grade material at age 5. Another child has a late summer birthday and we discussed holding him back, but in so many academic areas he fits fine with grade level, until you get to writing, where he has a learning disability and fits in best 2 years behind. How can I find a program that meets all his needs?
In our homeschool, being able to adapt curriculum has become the norm. I enjoy the structure and easy preparation of using package curriculum, but it doesn’t meet all our needs. Finding a good fit for our out of the box kids does take some extra work but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. I’m going to share 5 of the ways that I adapt boxed curriculum work for me and my out of the box kids.
#1 Adapt the Curriculum as Written
Say you already purchased the box set, or someone gave it you to help you get started. With so much money already in the program it’s a shame to just get rid of it. We did this for Kindergarten for one kid. We had bought a set and by week 2 I was stressed out and he was in tears because it wasn’t a good fit. I stopped using the written lesson plans and adjusted the different parts to fit my child and we started again. We loved reading the stories together so we kept that, but the daily writing was too much, so we slowed it down and changed it out for a more appropriate workbook. And 3 years later, those tear-inducing worksheets have been great for extra practice for the next child even though he didn’t use the rest of the box curriculum they came from!
#2 Change the Pace, and Expectation
This spring I struggled about taking a summer break because all 3 kids were in the middle of their math books. One kid spent half of last year doing remediation before starting the current book. Another one switched programs mid-year. The third, finished his book early and actually is a third of the way in to the next grade level. In the end we mostly took a break with some basic skills practice. For one child I set the goal to finish by the end of summer so they can start the next book in the fall. For each child I had to adjust my expectations about the pace we were completing their work. It’s not about checking off the boxes, it’s about mastering the material. The pace at which mastery happens is the right pace for the child.
We use a literature based curriculum for our history, and often my kids want more than the scheduled amount of “couch-time” reading so we read extra, and twice now have finished our history early in the spring. Then we add in extra projects or books along the way to meet their interests. They are ready to go fast, so we do.
#3 Use part of a given program
It can be super frustrating when you love one part of a program but other parts are not a good fit. I often face this struggle when i’m choosing Language Arts programs. There are many skill sets included in the umbrella of language arts. It’s hard to be at the same level in all of them. And when you add learning disabilities to the mix it’s nearly impossible! I pick and choose different components from different programs. The first product we purchased from Sonlight was the Readers for the Language Arts program. With early readers, reading wasn’t working in our first boxed curriculum we purchased. The Sonlight readers made it easy to change out that one part of our program.
#4 Search for each subject instead One-size fits all
Instead of searching for a program that fits in every subject, I have found that a better choice is to search for each subject area. I look for Science, History, Literature, Social Studies, Language Arts and Math. Language Arts and Math I customize for each kid. The others I try to find programs I can use for everyone together. Choosing a single subject boxed curriculum I still get supplies and lessons plans to make my life easier. But I have the flexibility to adjust each subject in to meet the needs of our family. For my oldest that means outsourcing her Language Arts. She takes classes online for Writing, Grammar, and Literature.
#5 Create Your Own Program
The most time-consuming, yet rewarding, way to adapt curriculum to work for you is to make your own. Websites like Teacher Pay Teacher have many resources you can put together to meet your child’s needs. Set a goal and then find activities to help you get there. Last year I set the goal to help a student write better and learn to write paragraphs. We used a variety of worksheets and books from different sources to meet that goal.
When we first moved to the Midwest, our Science program was to explore the seasons. We moved from a tropical state, so we intentionally did activities to observe the changes and the weather. No formal plans, just discovery. Homeschool plans can also come from enrichment books. Write your own Story Book or Wreck This Journal can be a fun and out of the box way to sneak in some language arts skills.
There are a lot of ways to adapt boxed curriculum to work for our out of the box kids. It just takes some out of the box thinking on our part. Sarah Mackenzie says it best,
“If I’m teaching my child first and letting the curriculum serve me,
however, then we master each concept slowly and carefully before moving on,
and we actually learn a lot that way.”
May curriculum serve you and be your tools to teach your kids the way they learn best. May it lighten your load by giving you a framework to guide your children to learn and grow.