I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

The Simple Antidote for Curriculum Guilt

One mom's simple antidote for curriculum guilt

"I'm getting rid of this stack...that whole shelf's worth...and everything in those two big boxes over there," my friend said emphatically one day.

"Why so?" I asked. "I thought you loved that curriculum. And this one? You just bought this last year didn't you?"

"Yep. But it's got to go. It's just been sitting here untouched, collecting dust, taunting me every time I look in this direction. The thing is, I bought it because I heard that it was a good program. I got a great deal on it and thought I'd just tuck it away until I needed it. But the truth is, I love what we're using right now. I feel like I've finally found what works for us. And yet despite feeling great about what I've chosen, every time I pass by this shelf, I feel like a loser because I'm not using any of these 'good' things...like I've squandered my money, like I'm not doing enough, like maybe I'm failing my kids. Who needs that kind of guilt?"

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And I understood.
I've walked mile after mile in those same shoes of guilt and would not wish that on anyone. (Need I remind her of my depressing dance with Tapestry of Grace?)

So with one shrug of her shoulders, she began boxing up a whole slew of unused curriculum. She admitted that all of the resources were good; they just weren't good for her for right now (and maybe never would be).

I knew my friend was not being wasteful. She was just recognizing what her homeschool was and what it was not. She was lightening her load and realizing that sometimes less really is so much more. In being brave enough to admit that she probably would never get around to using any of those good things, she was creating space for stuff she would use and fully embracing the curriculum that seemed to feel great for her family.

Our annual state convention is just around the corner and with it comes an opportunity to unload some outgrown or unwanted curriculum items. She and I both plan on passing along some good stuff to other mommas who would get much more use out of them than we ever have. 

In truth, parting with books of any kind has never really been easy for me. I tend to have deep, abiding relationships with my books. But, there comes a point in some relationships when one has to recognize the bond has turned -- that it's become toxic and must be jettisoned...and quick. 

I used to be quite the curriculum hoarder. Like my friend, I always held onto everything in hopes of some elusive "someday." As a newbie homeschooler, I was in the discovery phase, the "trying out" phase, the "What curriculum are you using because maybe I should be using it too?" phase of curriculum choices. And so I flopped around trying to figure out what kind of homeschooler I was and what materials I could lean into. 

And that's OK. Trial and error have always been the hallmark of every worthwhile discovery, including homeschooling. So, I kept flip-flopping from this good program to that good program until I finally landed on the great that really worked for us. But by that time, I had amassed quite a collection of good-but-not-good-for-me items. All that "extra" began to feel like an anchor dragging me under threatening to drown me in the guilt of shoulda-coulda-woulda.  

I imagine that was exactly how my friend had begun to feel when she started aborting books that day. She had discovered that curriculum shelves can quickly feel like Pinterest-style pressure if we allow them to. Shelves can curate lots of awesome, displaying the Cathy Duffy-approved perfection for anyone who passes by. But like all those contrived and digitally-enhanced photographs on Pinterest, unused curriculum can remind us of our inabilities and our lack--of what our kids are potentially missing out on. 

As simple as it sounds, when faced with the "extra" of extra curriculum, you can really only make one of three decisions. You can try to stuff one more thing into your already congested day by cracking open that "good" curriculum in order to get your money's worth out of it. You can let it sit there on the shelf, collecting dust, reminding you of the "awesome" you are not doing. Or you can just go all Kon Marie on that bad boy and get rid of it. I choose the latter.

I don't need the extra baggage. I don't need the guilt. My days are already too complicated as it is. I'd much rather embrace my one or two great choices wholeheartedly than feel pulled in a million different directions by shelves full of good.

So, if you too are feeling the weight of unused curriculum because you're clinging to the notion that you might use it someday, do yourself a favor-- admit that someday might never come and let it go. Box it up. Empty the shelf. And move on.

No more extra curriculum. No more curriculum guilt.


  1. I love this. Very encouraging. Speaking of the annual homeschool conference around the corner I wanted to let you know I saw you speak for the first time last year. Ever since then I have been following your blog and have been so inspired and encouraged. You are so real. Thank you for writing. Keep on keeping on!

    1. Thanks for following along, Kyla, and for the encouragement. Maybe we'll be able to officially meet in a few weeks at this year's convention.

  2. My problem is that, although I am a second generation homeschooler, I'm still newbie as the teacher and gatherer of resources. And yet... I still look at the shelf and think of the boxes in the basement, and it weighs me down and saps my energy (along with the tons of other STUFF being stored that is also sapping my energy. Homeschool stuff is not the biggest one). But I kinda hate to get rid of it because I AM still in the trying and learning newbie stage. My oldest is only 6 and I already feel this way. Plus, I love a lot of how my Mom homeschools, and one of my aunts, and they are the ones who have passed on most of this great stuff to me. So I feel like I can save the "stuff for later" and see if I'll use it or not, but the "stuff for now" is a mountain in my mind and on my shoulders and I'm not sure if I can clear it out or not, because I haven't had much experience yet! Any advice, encouragement, pep talk?

  3. I think most of my guilt comes from being content with the curriculum that was given to me for free and NOT buying/trying the "good" ones! Also, now that I have a high schooler the guilt has TRIPLED because, doggone it, college is at stake. Time to pray, settle, and move forward! :)

  4. I have been homeschooling for 14 + years and I have purchased and sold some of the same curriculum 3 times! I buy it and it doesn't work so I sell it on Homeschool Classifieds to recoup some of my cost and buy something different. But a few years later (or sometimes sooner) I will want to try it again and sometimes it actually works the second time around! But I don't regret selling of it. I don't have the room in my home to keep lots of stuff.

    Advice for Sabriena, would be to tell you mom and aunt thanks so much for the stuff but you would like permission to sell it because it's so overwhelming for you and the money will help to buy new stuff. What you don't need to tell them is that maybe sometime in the future you will end up buying the same thing, but this is YOUR journey. It would be nice if you could hold onto the stuff as a sort of library. Think of it as a huge amount of resources at your fingertips to try. One problem homeschoolers have is thinking they have to fall into one category or one currculum. This is why I am not a fan of the big boxed curriculum or buying your curriculum all from one place like Sonlight or Heart of Dakota. It really limits you and for me causes stress. I like trying different things and I also don't like paying big money for a curriclum and that is what I am stuck with for the whole year! You get a fabulous box day, but than you have 180 days of carrying out that curriculum and it can get a bit boring sometimes. I recommend buying guides and using library books for some of those big curriculum like Sonlight, Heart of Dakota and My Father's world.

    1. Nancy Ann,

      Thank you so much for this comment! I appreciate your advice, and sharing your experience. It totally makes sense, and relieves the guilt of even THINKING about getting rid of some of this stuff. You're right. Maybe I will use it further down the road, but if I'm not using it now, I can just re-buy it rather than store it. It helps to hear that you have sold and repurchased the same things throughout your journey and have had no regrets over doing so. I also like the thought of keeping some of it as a library of things to try, but without pressure to do so. :-) Thank you!

    2. Yes, excellent advice. Thank you for weighing in, Nancy. Buying guides and using the library is a must for my budget. I rarely buy books new. I have an enormous home library, but almost all of it has been purchase for a quarter at tag sales.