A classic post from the WTMBoard "Words from an Experienced Homeschooler," originally by Mary Stoughton:
"The subject of curriculum selection is a favorite of mine. I have 6 children, 4 still at home being home schooled. My first-born, C, was easy to please. I could put anything I wanted in front of him and he would plug away at it everyday without complaint. My daughter, on the other hand, was less enthusiastic, yet she possessed more ability academically.
At the core of my educational philosophy was that the child enjoy his/her study. The enthusiasm of the student for his/her academic work would most assuredly produce a creative and bright child, I though. C's and A's passion was reading and still is for them both, so I chose a curriculum that had a literature base (great books). Yet unlike C, A would appear so weary with the great books study, I became concerned.
When I searched the internet for a better fit for A, I discovered TRISMS and believed it would give her a personalized course of study, which could very well "fit" her learning style. The previous curriculum was centered on the great books, but the student was strictly led in their course of study. I was excited that A would be given more freedom to explore with TRISMS. Yet, she did not like the work of research and she continued in her lethargy about studying.
She quit TRISMS after 15 lessons. Next, I put her with a local tutor of great books. She really loved the social interaction with the tutor and students. But her laziness in writing and truly applying herself to her work continued. She did not apply herself to her essays; they were slapped together and called good enough. I hired an English teacher to critique her work, with the intention that she would encourage A to be more attentive to her writing. A continued to produce shoddy work. The sad thing is, at 20 she is still an unskilled writer and I truly believe it is because I placated and stroked her to the point of impotence. She has the potential, but not the discipline.
After watching my third child, M, go through the same complaints about TRISMS (the research), I have come to realize it is not the fault of the curriculum, but the student. No matter what I put before A she did not apply herself to anything that was a challenge to her. And research writing was a creative challenge. I was seeing the same proclivity in M, and I yet again made the same mistake and let him quit after 15 lessons. Hey, hell-o, Mary! Do you see some kind of pattern here? Geeesh, finally . . . I did. M is returning to TRISMS. I was under the delusion that I could just let M teach himself. If he was not enjoying the process then it was my fault in some way, that I had not found the right fit for him. M has not reached the maturity of some students you read about in the homeschool magazines and books to direct his own education . . . neither was A.
My suggestion to you is to research the quality of the curriculum.
"Is the curriculum well-organized academically?" Does it encompass the scope of thought, invention, and rhetoric of the best minds throughout the ages? Does it cover the rise and fall of civilizations and nations? Will it give your student the big picture of the timeline of events, so they can pick out patterns, where we learn from others' mistakes and glories?
"Gauge its desired outcome." Does the curriculum offer a sound writing program? Communication is the key to influence. And writing is its vehicle. To become a proficient writer takes struggle for some, but the outcome is well worth the toil. Will your child be challenged to develop the potential within? Each student is packaged with strengths and weaknesses. Will the curriculum enlarge the strengths and challenge the weaknesses?
Make your decision based on what you think will help your child grow into a creative and thinking adult. If you are looking for the right "fit," you might find yourself going from curriculum to curriculum, and having no time to finish anything or produce in your student anything of worth. As your student's tutor and mother, you must decide what curriculum will best satisfy YOUR educational philosophy. Then stick by your guns with your back straight, because there will come a day you will be challenged by the moanings and the groanings of the wearied child. Without this resolve and confidence, you will be tossed around on the waves of emotion emanating from your young student who is reluctant to discipline herself or himself. You must set the standard, not your student.
If you jump around with curriculum, as I did with A and M, you will be wasting precious time. I spoke to Ruth Beechick after one of her lectures. I was weary with the reading curriculum I was using for my children. I could find all kinds of fault with the program. I asked her what in her opinion was the best reading curriculum. What she said would have been a guiding light had I "heard" her. "The best curriculum is the one you use." What she meant by "use" was not the one I had . . . oh yes, you have THE best of the best, and can go away happy that I had "found" the priceless treasure that everybody else was searching for and I can be confident that I had left no stone unturned. NO, she meant the best curricula is the one you utilize and finish.
Think of this: What skill or character is not forged in the fire? My best resolves have developed through a struggle between who I am today and who I might become.