Have you ever noticed that life and homeschool curriculum just don’t always see eye-to-eye? The days are either too short or they somehow get too full. How can you possibly get every subject done and all the extras, too? If you’re overwhelmed with life events, if you’re transitioning to a new curriculum, if you’re just getting into homeschooling, or if you’re spending way too much time each day just getting through curriculum, it may be time to consider modifying your curriculum to make it simpler for you and your children.
This doesn’t need to be another daunting task for you to accomplish. Modifying your BJU Press curriculum doesn’t usually mean rewriting it or finding additional resources to add to your day. Modifying either your parent-led or video course curriculum usually means deciding which resources provide the most value to your family and focusing on those. Our writers never intended for students to answer every question and complete every activity. Each book has more than you need for the completion of the course. An important learning principle is that successful education doesn’t mean doing all the things all the time. Successful learning comes when you do the things you have time to do effectively. We will look at ways to modify the program so it works better for you, but first, here are some things to consider before making those modifications.
Considerations about Modifying Curriculum
Getting comfortable with a new routine takes time.
If this is your first time using BJU Press materials or if you’re just transitioning to homeschooling, remember that it takes time to adjust to a new routine and a new resource. BJU Press may have a very different approach from what you’re used to, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t modify your curriculum, but perhaps your modifications should be temporary. As you become more familiar with the material, you may find that you don’t need the modifications or that you need to make different ones.
Modify your curriculum, not your state’s expectations.
If you live in a state with homeschool requirements, make sure your modifications don’t affect your ability to meet state expectations. So if you’re cutting out days or weeks of lessons, make sure you can still finish 180 days of work, or however many days your state requires. If you’re required to complete a high school lab, avoid cutting out lab activities.
Get to know the program.
Our courses are packed with resources, which may be a little overwhelming at first. Most courses include an entire academic year’s worth of work, with additional resources and support materials for special teaching circumstances. The sheer size of the program alone can be a lot to take in and understand. Because different subjects need to be approached differently, each subject may use different tools and strategies. Your experience will go more smoothly if you can take time to learn the layout and format of each subject.
Be aware of learning styles and preferences.
Learning styles aren’t the end all, be all that many tend to think they are, but they can help give you direction when making choices on modifying your curriculum. For instance, if your child doesn’t learn well by just reading, a modification that focuses heavily on reading material won’t be helpful for them.
Here are some simple ways to change your BJU Press curriculum so it works better for you.
1. Modifying Curriculum by Stripping Content
The easiest, most efficient—and most extreme—way of making your BJU Press materials less intense is to reduce everything to just the reading or the videos. Don’t assign any activities, don’t do any review questions, don’t do tests. Strip everything down to just reading the text or watching the videos or you teaching the material.
If your student editions have reading sections that cover the lesson material (science, heritage studies, reading, literature, high school math, and high school English), then your children read it themselves and are done. With courses that don’t have independent learning content (elementary math, elementary English, spelling, handwriting, and vocabulary) in the student edition, you teach whatever you need to teach for the lesson and that’s it. If you use video courses, your children can either watch the lesson or read it, depending on their preference.
This method is most helpful and has the least number of setbacks when you’re beginning the year. The lessons at the beginning of each grade level for each subject are designed to help students transition back into the learning routine after a long break, so they largely focus on review content (math, English, and handwriting) or review principles (science, heritage studies, reading, literature, and vocabulary). Starting by just reading the material will help your children get into the flow and become familiar with our program and how it works without being overwhelmed by work.
However, this method should only be temporary. Your children will need to work with the material beyond just reading it, especially when content becomes more complex.
2. Picking Questions
Again, students don’t need to answer every question they encounter. At some point, answering every question is just busy work. Different questions have different functions, and there are multiple kinds of each question.
Science, Heritage Studies, Reading, and Literature
In these courses, you’ll find questions that help you, as a parent, answer a few questions of your own.
- Did my child read the material? (Recall)
- Did my child understand what he or she was reading? (Comprehension)
- Can my child use what he or she read to answer other questions? (Critical thinking)
In each BJU Press book with these kinds of questions, the first few questions will focus on recall, the middle few will focus on understanding, and the last few, which are often marked with a star or are labeled as critical thinking, will focus on application. A child who can intelligently answer a critical thinking or comprehension question has definitely read the assignment. What’s more, if your children can comprehend what they read, they can usually use and apply it, too.
When modifying your materials by picking questions, ask yourself what your goal is for each assignment? What’s your goal for today? Is it sufficient to just read the material, or do you need your children to spend time thinking about it? Simple reading questions are fairly easy to answer, while critical-thinking questions can take time and effort to think through and compose an answer to. You can make the program a lot less overwhelming by assigning fewer critical-thinking questions or by just assigning one critical-thinking question. Just note that, for mental development, your children should still answer those as often as possible.
Math, English, Spelling, and Handwriting
For these courses, questions and assignments focus on application and review. The goal is consistent practice, not drill and kill. Children need to cement new concepts they just learned, and they need to go back over older concepts as well. If there are 20 new math problems and 10 review problems, your children don’t need to do all 30. 10 or even 5 of the new problems may be plenty, and then only 5 review problems.
3. Picking Activities
Just like with questions, students don’t need to do every activity. Courses with separate activity books include activities that serve different purposes, but you can view some of these activities as supplements. Some activities may take longer or may be more intensive than you might expect. For example, the elementary and high school level heritage studies courses include activities that require additional reading besides the assignment in the student edition. These activities introduce children to reading from, interacting with, and understanding the language of primary and secondary source documents. It is a vital skill for historians and social scientists to be able to read, comprehend, and identify primary and secondary sources, like the Constitution of the United States or a biography about the Founding Fathers. But it still takes time for children to read and study those documents.
Similarly, hands-on science activities and labs are crucial for children to understand what they’re learning and to create and test their own hypotheses. But these activities and labs can take a lot of time to prepare, conduct, and record. If you try to do the two or three labs per chapter, you won’t have time for much else. That’s why you get to choose which ones you do based on the time you have available, your child’s learning needs, and your goals for learning.
4. Modifying Curriculum by Testing out of Chapters
If you’re transitioning mid-semester, either between curriculum or from public or private school to homeschool, you’re may wonder where your child should begin. We don’t offer placement tests and comparing scope and sequences is never an exact science. You shouldn’t have to start from the beginning, though, so you can let your children attempt to test out of chapters until they encounter new material. The best way to do this would be to use the cumulative reviews as a test. That way, if they don’t pass, they can still take the actual chapter test and the completed review becomes a study guide.
If you’d like to learn more about the features of our textbooks and resources and how they work, take a look at these posts: