Every day on social media, I see some variation of the same theme. Moms are in a panic because they presume they wasted money on the “wrong curriculum.”
“My son, Johnny, is 11 years old. He hates math. I bought Saxon, and he hated it. Then we tried Teaching Textbooks, but he hated that too. Then we got Math-U-See. I thought the videos would really help him, but he hated it. I’m thinking about something completely online. Or maybe we’ll just do unschooling. Or maybe I’m a bad parent and I should give up homeschooling and send him back to public school. I don’t want my Johnny to grow up, become unemployed and homeless, because I bought the wrong curriculum. I just couldn’t forgive myself if Johnny was living in a cardboard box in a dark alley, all because I didn’t buy the correct math program. Please help me!”
Okay, take a deep breath. The fact is, there is no magic curriculum that will fix the issue you are having with Johnny. Really, if you do logic here, there are only a few reasonable explanations for what you are experiencing.
- Johnny just hates math.
This is the most likely scenario. There is no amount of money you can throw at this problem to magically fix it. It is possible that Johnny’s brain will continue to develop, and at a certain point in the future, math will begin to make sense for him. That happens with many students. At that point, you will be very happy to experience the change and see sudden bursts of enthusiasm as the pieces start to fit together for him.
- Johnny has a learning disability.
There are testing options available if you suspect that there may be a cognitive reason Johnny doesn’t do well academically. On occasion, you will learn of a specific learning impediment and hopefully some practical solutions. This isn’t the norm, but it happens.
- Johnny is lazy and likes to complain.
I know it is impossible that you could have given birth to a child like this, and I don’t mean to insult you, so I’ll just direct the focus to the Wayne household. Some of my children just like to complain about schoolwork. “Why do I have to do this anyway? What good does this do? I’ll never use this in real life! There are plenty of more important things I could be doing than studying math! It doesn’t make sense. I don’t get it” … and on and on. It’s not that they don’t or can’t understand what they are studying, or they don’t know why it is important; they just don’t want to put the work in. That’s human nature. It’s part of all of us. We inherited it from Adam and Eve and it’s called a sinful nature.
- You bought a bad math program (or at least one that wasn’t right for your child).
Again, very rarely, it happens that you may have bought a program that doesn’t explain the concepts well. Or maybe the teaching method goes against your child’s learning style. But there are limits to this. I’d recommend reading some curriculum reviews from www.CathyDuffy.com. Try to assess your child’s learning styles (auditory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic, etc.) and then find a program that fits your child. My wife and I were both homeschooled, but we are VERY different. My wife LOVED Saxon Math. I hated it! I think Saxon is cruel and unusual punishment. I would have loved Steve Demme’s Math-U-See approach as a student. It makes sense to me (very hands-on and concept based, rather than abstract with lots of repetition). There isn’t a right or wrong here; there is a difference. These programs take opposite approaches and work for different students.
I’m using the illustration of math in this article, but obviously the principles apply to any academic subject.
In Defense of Boredom
I want you to get the best curriculum you can find for your child. But every child and every family are different. No other family is like yours, and no other child is like yours. So, when you post on Facebook, asking for the best math program, you are going to get 100 comments offering 230 curriculum options. How does this help you know what it is best for your child? For the most part, it doesn’t. You can buy all 230, and your child can STILL hate math. Your child’s disdain for math may have nothing to do with the curriculum or your teaching style. It may mean your child just likes to complain, or he will just never be a math person. The former problem you can work on (character issues), and the latter isn’t really a problem. It’s fine not to like math. They don’t have to like it! They just need to do it.
There are things in life that you and I, as adults, don’t like doing. And that’s okay. We just knuckle down and do it anyway. Your children need to learn to embrace a certain amount of tedium, boredom and repetition. It will prepare them for life.
I’m all for making learning fun. If you can make a lesson fun, by all means, go for it. But some things in life just aren’t fun. We had a serious plumbing issue with our septic system last month. It lasted for about two weeks (because I’m not a plumber and I don’t know what I’m doing). I won’t describe it to you, but just think septic drains, and use your imagination. NOT FUN! Not everything in life must be an amusement park. If you’ve tested for learning disabilities, and you’ve changed your curriculum a time or two, you are probably down to either character issues, or a child who just doesn’t like a particular subject.
These problems are common to all of us as homeschoolers. Most homeschooling authors and leaders don’t want to admit that their children complain and whine like everyone else’s, but they do. There are no perfect homeschooling families, and there is no perfect curriculum. Almost all the major Christian publishers have adequate to good materials and you really can’t make a bad choice. I don’t care which one you pick; if your child wants to learn, they will learn with that program. They will graduate and be just fine in life. Hopefully you find that curriculum that makes your child jump up and down in delight at the thought of doing it. But if you don’t, that’s okay. They’ll still learn, and they’ll be fine. And you are the best parent for investing in them and giving of yourself for their betterment … even if they don’t appreciate it at the moment. Best wishes to you for a successful, and occasionally boring, homeschooling year.
Israel Wayne is a homeschooled graduate, and father of eleven children (all homeschooled). He lives in SW Michigan with his wife, Brook (also homeschooled). He is an author and conference speaker, and Director of Family Renewal. www.FamilyRenewal.org. Israel is author of the book, Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask.