How Reviewing Curriculum Works in Real Life

A bit back my sister-in-law asked me how doing reviews works with schooling the lad.   Doesn't it mean interrupted schooling?   How do I keep him moving forward when I have to stop one program and start another.  How do I make it work?  What if he doesn't like it?  How do you plan anything out if you don't know what you'll be reviewing?

I thought it would be good to answer some of those questions.

How Do I Make it work?
Well first off, I don't plan my year around review items, but I do play my review items around my year.   For instance this past year, my lad was using Kumon math pre-algebra, but they don't have the next level so I was wondering what to do for this coming year.  So I signed up for the Unlock Math review, thinking that if my lad liked it then I know what math I can use for him when it runs out.  Low and behold the lad liked Unlock math and surprisingly it took the place of his beloved Kumon!    We back tracked a bit to make sure we knew how the program worked and then just continued on from where Kumon had left off for him.   We'll be looking for a new program when Unlock finishes and just keep moving forward.

What if he doesn't like it?
The review will have it's expectations, normally to use it three days a week.   If he hates it, as in can't find anything that works for him, I'll cut that back to one-two lessons a week and I will take a day and work ahead so I know how future lessons work out.    The program will get a proper work out (usually takes three weeks for that hatred to settle in) and has me working it through the final three weeks (as most curricula we get six weeks to play with it).   The older my lad gets the more selective I am about what I take on as I know what simply doesn't work for him.

If it's only a moderate not sure if I like it... then we'll work with it, revamping what we need to do (usually involves more conversation or rabbit trails of videos to supplement).

What other moms say:
Kym:  Well, I do give her input when there are products we are eligible for. Doesn't mean we get what she really wants, or don't get something she really doesn't want. And it doesn't mean she actually likes the things we do get as much (or not) as she expected.  She agrees to be a good sport and use what we need to review for the entire review period. But then if she really doesn't like it and it's not a good fit, we do not continue.

Meg:  It depends on "why" he doesn't like it.  Sometimes, it's not a good fit, no matter what.  Those we do for 6 weeks and move on.  Sometimes kid doesn't like it because it's too hard -- we put it aside for later, when kiddo is more mature/advanced/ready for it. 

If he doesn't like it "just because", I try to find out why.  Is it not interesting to him? I have one that would do every history in the universe, but the universe will end if he has to do a foreign language. Sometimes, kid just isn't feeling it, and then I decide if we keep it because it fills a need or we can try something different.  There have been some where I've just flat out asked, "Do you have an issue with the program, or the subject?" especially with my high schoolers.  Because while I'm OK with trying a different approach, "Math" isn't a negotiable.

Lisa:  Then we do the MINIMUM of the requirements, and then ADAPT it if we can to make it work. If it's an online program, I just set the timer for work, or find out how many things he has to do to finish a lesson or unit.

Kirsten:  If he doesnt like it, I explore ways to make to product work for him and adapt it to his preferred learning style. First he has to use it as suggested for most all of the review period, though.
I also spend a lot of time writing down his impressions of the product so he knows how valuable his contribution is.
I also let him edit my review. Catches any typos allows him to add points important to him that I missed. Great for learning to write and also helps him to learn that just cause he did not like something doesn't mean that it won't end up being great for a different kid who learns in a different way. In a way I use this process to wear off some of those teenage absolutisms that he holds. As a rule I don't like equivocating but it never hurts to be able to put yourself in someone else's shoes.

How do you keep him moving forward if you use new
curriculum all the time?
I find that I don't use new curriculum all the time, based on how I do reviews we are rarely doing two reviews for similar materials at the same time.  So we might do a math program for a while, then we'll get a history program, or a science one.  Sometimes it will be something just for me.  :)   New curricula is not to be feared though... there are some really great programs out there that if I hadn't reviewed them we would have missed out on something fantastic.

What other mom's say:
JenniferI add review products as supplements to the curriculums we have already chosen.  Our core curriculum - language arts, math, science, and social studies - does not change.  Sometimes we get awesome products to review that add to those subjects.  Sometimes we review extra subjects like art. 

Carol:  We frequently look over a new curriculum and step into the lesson that matches where we were in our previous one: i.e. choosing to begin in lesson 15  in the new math book because that is where they cover fractions, or moving to chapter 5 in science because we've just covered everything in chapters 1-4. 

Kym:   Again, I consider where we are and what we need to do when I fill in those VIF forms. Because there's not much point in devoting six weeks of valuable high school time on chemistry if she is working on marine biology this year. We fit review products/new curriculum into what we're already doing, sometimes combining what we've got with the new thing, sometimes taking a break from the old to try the new.

Katie For things like math, grammar, and writing, I find the chapter or unit where it would make the most logical sense for her to begin. Sometimes that means she skips the first half of a book because we have already covered the concepts. For subjects like history and science we jump around a lot. She may study ancient history for a few weeks and then American history. We look at time-lines frequently so that she can understand when things happened. For science I just keep track of what she has learned.

When she was in middle school I would look at state standards and write down anything that she had not learned at that point. Then I would make sure to cover those concepts throughout the year. Now that she is in high school it is a little different. I keep track of the courses she has worked on. Like right now she has a quarter of Biology finished and a semester of Chemistry finished. We stopped Biology to review Marine Biology. Now we have to decide if we are going to finish Biology and come back to Marine Biology or if we will stick with Marine Biology and finish her regular Biology course later. In the end she will finish them all, so as long as she is learning it is fine with me. 

How do you plan if you don't know what you'll be reviewing?

Quite frankly, I don't plan everything out and I don't do my schedule for the year.  I also play around with what my lad is into.  For instance this year for language arts I was set to have him work with the pirate's guide, and the lad expressed interest in a book from Raincoast called Writing Radar which is a book where the author talks about how to write a book, from where to find the inspiration to the need for good grammar.  He's interested, he's learning, it's GOOD.

What other moms say:
Christy: Plan schplan. Just kidding! We avoid reviews that will derail us in areas like math. If it's just a supplement, I might consider it. Otherwise, we avoid them. We accept products that will enhance our studies, not interrupt them. That said, sometimes a subject takes over. For example, when my son reviewed Compuscholar, he fell in love with computer programming. He is working as hard as he can to get through it before the subscription expires, so a few other things get put on the back burner or slowed down a little so he can get through it.      Also, however, we remain flexible in general. Of course, in our lifestyles, flexible is the name of the game. We school year-round so that whatever interrupts our lives--family, opportunities, hikes, travel, new friends, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, video release, new CD production, concerts, reviews--doesn't freak out the government and the in-laws because we get "behind" in math.   The kids are aged 2-20. So far so amazing!

Christy S:  I plan as if we won't be reviewing anything. I'm a planner. I have to know. So it is all planned out and we supplement with crew stuff or add it in if we feel it is worth the time. Again, I've become very selective in high school. My daughter also has some issues where she can't use online programs, so we avoid those. And math. It is such an anxiety trigger that I don't review math anymore. We go with what works and that's it. I do keep a list of possible electives and subjects I might need curriculum for, and keep that in mind when completing VIFs. Sometimes we switch electives for a review. Just change which semester or year she takes a particular elective.


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  1. This is a great article! I learned a lot that will help us in the coming year. All the reviews were starting to get a bit overwhelming for the kids and it is really helpful to see how other families integrate product reviews into their homeschool! That said, the opportunities and enrichment that comes with the Homeschool Review Crew are priceless, not to mention the friends you make along the way. Thank you!

    1. oh yay!!! I so love being helpful! There are some wonderful folk on the crew, it's good to be a part of the community eh?

  2. Great information. I've been asked a lot of the same questions.

    1. yeah? Do you answer them in a similar way or ???

  3. Great article!! Some really practical helps for anyone thinking about joining the Crew - and I bet it won't be too long until they are taking applications!

    1. shouldn't be too much longer yet. :)

  4. I found that most of what I reviewed, we loved and kept using in our schooling!

    1. i find it's a mixed bag. some I like but then we get on to other stuff and forget about it. Others become part of our schooling.

  5. What a good round-up of information that answers questions a lot of folks have about reviews. It makes for a lifestyle of learning, though, where things can always be used and modified to fit the needs of the users. Once in a long while, we do stumble across something that doesn't work at all but that is few and far between. We use the good parts and toss out the bones, so to speak.

    1. I think that's the only way you can really do it keep the good get rid of the rest


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