The single biggest cause of homeschooling burnout is having chosen the wrong curriculum. For most homeschoolers, veterans and beginners alike, the illusion is that you will always have perfect days in which to teach, but the reality is that you’ll seldom have even one perfect homeschooling day. If your schooling centers on you as the teacher, it will simply slip through the cracks on days when other demands take over. Because schooling is the one flexible/negotiable part of the day (no one is watching), it often gets put on the back burner (for far too many days, for months on end), because today we can’t do it right, using what you thought was the ideal curriculum.
Now that school has begun again this fall—though so very different from a year ago for many or most families, mothers have been scrambling to make out their schedules, get last minute supplies, etc. This may have felt exhilarating—initially. Aha—a fresh start. But talk to those same moms one month from now and they are in tears, feeling guilty, and nothing is going according to plan. Hubby is thinking of trying to figure how to put the children back into some form public school because anything is better than the fiasco he sees going on day after day in his own home with his stressed-out wife and their inconsolable children. Maybe it is because they’ve got the wrong curriculum.
Haven’t seen the big picture
Moms, by and large, because they have never been down this path before (they graduated from nursing school, or business school…), inadvertently choose and purchase curriculums that are heavily mother-dependent. They purchase curriculum based on topics that they wish they had had in school, or books that look fabulous, or techniques that seem new and innovative and far superior to the way they were taught. The problem is not the content or style of the program, at all, but rather it is one of administration. Is this curriculum going to be easy to get through each day, especially when I’m preoccupied with little Johnny who just threw up, or on an emergency phone call, or have unexpected company? Then what happens? What happens when I’m up all night with another child and have to sleep IN in the morning? Let’s see—hmm—5 children times 2 “mom-isn’t-available-to-teach” hours per student equals ten wasted hours for the family that morning.
Because we have been in the movement for over 20 years as vendors, we have seen children who are now the grown products of this little daily nightmare, and it isn’t pretty.
Unit studies—the kick with a bite
In far too many cases, these idealistic theories about curriculum have been murdered by a few brutal facts—embarrassing facts. The children didn’t get thoroughly educated—not even as much as we were educated in inferior secular schools. Scores of excited moms who have never taught a child through all twelve grade levels tell me sentences like this: “This fall we are going to study [name some historical figure]—in fact, we’ll do a unit study on him [or her]!” The problem is that the mom doesn’t see the 12-year big picture that there are over 34,000 concepts to cover to even make your child aware of the most rudimentary components of the big wide world out there. Giving three months to one concept just will not cut it. While mom is fixated on her one euphoric idea of what she will teach, time is wasting; sand literally pours through the hourglass of childhood. What she is not aware of is that children can learn ten times faster than she can even dream up the topics, let alone provide a newly hunted down perfect book to teach it with.
Moms with extra time, huh?
Go ahead and buy all of the super-idealized curriculum you want. But this year try teaching it in the evenings or on the weekends when you get that one “supercharged-mommy-moment” a week, but for all the remainder of the time, for all those “barely-making-it” hours, get a curriculum that your children can do without you hovering it. Waltz onto their page on any day at any time that you want to teach them from your own academic passions—we always teach our passions best—but for all the other days, and the other hours, keep your children’s noses to the grindstone of an established curriculum that gets the job done without you.
Ask yourself a question: How much extra time did I have yesterday to write out lesson plans, or to thumb through a textbook to figure out what my child should be doing today? Was it three minutes? 30 seconds? Oops, just couldn’t get to it? Then what makes you think you’ll have that time tomorrow? If you must read a teacher’s edition to figure out what your child should do, you are already sunk before you start.
All the “not-so-hot” choices out there
Some love those big companies that sell you the huge textbook for every subject, so that your school curriculum can look just like the public school’s. You will quickly find that the sheer size of the books scares your kids off (they are a pain in the neck to haul around), and parents by the scores have already discovered that they are “drill and kill and over-kill” curriculums, despite the expensive packaging. They cost too much, weigh too much, take too much preparation out of your hide, and bore your children to tears with excessive unnecessary mental labor.
Then there are the super dense spiritual curriculums. The entire family reads this and that and does this project and that project on one character trait, together. Fine. Purchase those and teach one every week on your family’s holy day of rest and refreshment, or work through one for one evening a week to gather as a whole family to study. But for two to six hours a day every day of the week, they require too much of mama—and too much of everyone else. On most days, one can’t even find the whole family to study with, let alone do it. If you use one of these programs, you’re quick likely to burn out.
And then there is the sensational one book for this and one book for that—the eclectic approach. I hope you like shopping—because your children will read them and finish them on the way to the car. (I tried this one myself in the early years; after all, I was an accredited, experienced, professional Teacher.)
Another option is the hands-on, build everything you read about (pyramids under the kitchen table) approach. This method absorbs far too much time spent on “pyramids”—single subjects—(which a child can readily understand just by looking at a few pictures), to the exclusion of time that could have been spent on other equally important concepts/subjects. Life isn’t just endless time on your hands. Time spent under the table is time lost practicing a new scale on an instrument.
Some busy families try the “read-every-book-in-sight” curriculum. Just read. Tons of homeschooling families pride themselves on what good readers their children have become. They congratulate themselves on having exceptional readers—which they mistakenly think then makes them exempt from producing anything else. The only problem is, they just don’t know that all homeschooling families produce good readers. This is commonplace, with few exceptions. They can’t see it, because they live in only their own house. Moreover, reading is not the whole picture. What if your car only had a motor, no steering wheel, no brakes, no seats? Math is important, writing is important, physics is important, spelling is important, each of them requiring very little reading and a great deal of doing. The first time your child hears about atoms and molecules and has only read history books, he or she is apt to say “Huh?” or worse yet, start feeling the “Huh?” going on inside himself or herself everywhere he or she turns. A general education requires gaining basic familiarity with thousands of diverse concepts.
Grading your children’s work—whatever for?
If you want to grade all your children’s work, go ahead, have at it. But they won’t grow, if you do their evaluation. Weeks worth of stacked papers that mom will someday get around to grading trains your child in absolutely nothing. When your children get back all your delayed grading with your meticulous and conscientious red marks, they will mindlessly throw those same papers into the trash. Sound familiar? If they grade their own as soon as they finish a page, they will be invested in it themselves, to their own surprise. It is that simple. Correcting one’s work is where all the growth takes place. Do you really have this much extra time? Would you not rather read a good book, or take a walk with your child?
A long ride
Go ahead, buy whatever curriculum you want, or insist upon having, but also, this year, try buying the ACE. curriculum to use as your daily work horse. You can’t see the full extent of it all now, but you’ll ride to the schooling-pasture and back to the barn every day for two to six hours a day for 12 years with this schooling business—so you’ve gotta have a dependable horse to get you there and back, unless you want a circus at your house every day, if you didn’t spend two hours last night prepping for some other scenario.
Even if your child is only exposed to this sequential, consecutive, line upon line, precept upon precept material and skips half of the fill-in-the-blanks, or merely answers the questions aloud, or even just hears them read to him by an older sibling on sick days, or isn’t multi-sensing every concept, he will be light years ahead of the child who hasn’t. He will have at least encountered all of these thousands of concepts. Four pace booklets a day, four concepts per booklet, 5 days a week, 36 weeks a year, for twelve years, yields 34,560 concepts. Ta-dah !!!! Did you catch that? This is all done for you. You didn’t have to even get out of your easy chair. This year, try teaching whatever else you want on top of that—but not in place of it. Countless very burned out families have switched to A.C.E. after trying everything else they had in mind, and the smiles have returned. There have been no regrets!
We recommend ACE for these 12 very tight and succinct reasons:
- It is taught using thin booklets: easy to haul on errands.
- It is comprehensive; nothing will fall through the cracks.
- It is spiritual: you won’t produce an intelligent drunk.
- It is engaging, uplifting and keeps their interest both academically and spiritually: children end up loving God through their subjects.
- It is self-taught, not mommy dependent: it actually happens every day, regardless of the chaos mom is embroiled in at the moment.
- It is self-corrected: the student has instant feedback.
- It is the curriculum for tear reduction; momma doesn’t burn out—she actually likes her children, gets dinner on the table, and wants to continue homeschooling next year.
- It is priced at the low end of curriculums: you don’t have to rob a bank or incur debt to buy it. The entire year costs less than one month’s tuition at any private Christian school . It is so inexpensive, the grandparents can purchase it for you. You won’t grow bitter halfway through the year because you sank 2 grand into a curriculum and now you hate the stuff but can’t possibly switch because you mortgaged the house to get it.
- It trains outstanding character, woven into the full page text of every subject—not tacked on as a token at the end of the entire day just to make it look spiritual.
- Employers love to hire ACE graduates for any type of work, because they have found year after year that these students’ cheerful work ethic is second to none.
- It is has been used in 135 countries; it currently educates well over 3 million children. It is tried and true. Children using it actually graduate—they score high on standardized tests—they get scholarships at colleges.
- ACE is guilt free; school happens.
Have your children read history and biography and how-to books voraciously in the evenings. Train them in domestic skills. Teach them how to earn and save a dollar. And turn off the TV and videos and stop the endless “goes nowhere” recreational fantasy reading, and you can produce super children.