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.

6 Simple Ways to Make Traditional Curriculum More Delightful

Boy and school workbook

Boxed sets of curriculum often get a bad rap in homeschooling circles. Because of their one-size-fits-all approach to learning, they are seen as rigid and uninspiring. Veteran homeschool moms will say that the assignments often lack value and become place-fillers and busywork; that the textbooks are dry; and that the course loads are laden with the unnecessary burdens of a traditional classroom.

Moms who've been homeschooling for any length of time tend to shy away from boxed sets because they much prefer to create a tailor-made education for their child--one that will nurture curiosity, develop individual gifts, and present material in an engaging and interactive way.


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And while all of those criticisms are mostly true, I'd argue that boxed curriculum sets have their place and are, at times, a much-needed leg of the full homeschooling journey. 

Let me explain. For some moms, a boxed set provides a sense of security. New homeschool moms, especially, don't want to have to invent every wheel on Day 1. They appreciate knowing that someone else has already done the heavy lifting of lesson planning for them and find comfort in knowing that all the educational bases will be covered despite their inexperience. 

6 Simple Ways to Make Traditional Curriculum More Delightful #homeschool #homeschoolhelp #homeeducation

They are often a bit nervous and afraid at the beginning. That's to be expected. New is always a little bit scary. But those pesky homeschool fears can be lessened when a mom feels like she has a solid scaffolding holding up the whole thing. For some, a traditional scope-and-sequence, textbooks, workbooks, and detailed teacher's guides can be just the thing to build teacher-confidence. They act like helpful training wheels, steadying a mom at the beginning of the journey, keeping her upright and moving forward. 

And that's something every veteran homeschool mom should encourage, not condemn.

Like training wheels, however, traditional curricula can eventually hinder a person's progress if used for too long. That's not to say that a boxed set has to be abandoned completely, but that any mom who wishes to have longevity in homeschooling has to learn to do one of three things with her boxed set:

  1. Become immune to the rolled eyes, whiny voices, and frustrated tears of unengaged children.
  2. Slowly replace elements of the set with other more delight-directed curricula, subject by subject. 
  3. Learn to modify the set, making small tweaks here and there to fit the needs and delights of her child. 

While modification might sound like more trouble than it's worth, it is perhaps the easiest of the three options. Here are six simple tweaks you can give to a traditional curriculum in order to make it more delightful for you and your kids. 

stack of homeschool textbooks

Math Problems

Most math programs provide dozens upon dozens of review problems in order that a child can practice a skill until he masters it. But, if mastery is the goal, and your child masters the skill by problem #5, don't feel obligated to have him complete the entire page. Instead, encourage him to solve only the even-numbered or odd-numbered problems. If there are several sections on the page, each featuring a different skill (long division, fractions, linear measurement, etc.), insist that he complete the first three problems in each section. 

The key to remember is this: Don't beat a dead horse. When the skill is mastered, move on!

Writing Topics

Grammar curriculums will often assign writing topics. For instance, your fourth grader might be asked to write a paper about a bird of his choice. But what if he doesn't like birds?! The point of writing a paper in grammar/writing class is to develop the skills of expository and/or creative writing. Does it matter what topic is chosen? It shouldn't. As long as the paper meets the pre-established criteria of the assignment (Write a compare/contrast essay...write a research paper with footnotes...write a paragraph with a clear thesis statement...), the topic choice can and should be left up to the child. He'll be more willing to write if he's allowed to write about something that interests him. 

BJU Press Physical Science

Content Reading

Unless you plan to give your child a quiz or test on a particular section of information in a textbook, it's not necessary to always restrict a child's learning to only the material found in that book. For instance, if today's assignment includes reading a few dry paragraphs about the life of George Washington in a history text, skip the paragraphs and read a fun biography or even a captivating picture book about him instead. Better yet, take a field trip or snuggle on the couch to watch a documentary together. You can always hop back into the textbook tomorrow.

In other words, while you may have ordered a boxed curriculum because you don't have the time or desire to go off the educational grid every day, perhaps you can veer from the beaten path every once in a while. The simple change of pace will reap big dividends in the overall atmosphere of your school year.

Review Questions

Just because a blank space has been provided in the workbook for a child to write the answer to a review question does not mean that the answer has to be written in that blank space. What if instead, you permitted your child to answer the questions orally? Or you allowed him to create a presentation, special project, or notebook page detailing the information that he learned from the material? The point of any review question should always be to review the material. So if filling in blanks makes your child itch, set the blanks aside and try reviewing in a way that makes the process less tedious for him. 

boy reading a book in a home library

Leveled Readers

A classroom teacher relies on the ease and efficiency of leveled readers when trying to teach and practice reading skills with an entire room of students. It would be absolute anarchy to allow twenty students to choose their own books to read out loud during reading class. Leveled readers ensure that the entire class can read the exact same story at the exact same time. The teacher can ask comprehension questions and review vocabulary words, knowing that every student will be able to contribute to the conversation. Leveled readers are necessary for a classroom. But they serve no real purpose in a homeschool where, generally speaking, only one child is at a particular reading level at any given time.

The stories found in leveled readers are uninteresting with flat characters and dull plots. They will rarely nurture a love for reading. If possible, steer clear of the assigned curriculum readers and allow your child to read real living books instead. (Here's a great list of books to get you started!)

Book Reports, Quizzes, and Tests

Like leveled readers, book reports, quizzes, and tests are designed for classroom use and are not necessary for a homeschool, at least not at the elementary level. They are an unfold-and-inflate way for one teacher to prove the mastery or lack thereof of a large number of students to a school board or a group of parents. They are assessment tools, nothing more. They don't actually teach anything or add to the learning in any way.

I'll not go into the long-story about why book reports, quizzes, and tests are a drain on a homeschool because I've already done so here, here, and here. I'll only say this: If education is the goal of your homeschool, then omit these three items from your daily docket. In some cases, especially spelling, you'll actually salvage seven whole weeks of school and can use that time to actually teach new things!

(Typical spelling programs teach spelling with a five-day cycle. The first four days are spent learning new spelling words and the fifth day is spent taking a test to assess how well those words were learned. Since there are 36 weeks in the average school year, 36 class periods are spent assessing spelling, not learning to spell. That means, that 7 whole weeks (36 divided by 5 = 7.2) of spelling class are wasted each year.)

mom and teen homeschooling

Ideas from Other Moms

A few weeks ago, when mulling over the idea of curriculum modification, I took to social media to find out how other moms tweak their traditional programs in order to make them more delightful. And here's what a few of them had to say:

"I add artwork. One, we were reading a book about the history of the flag and it went all the way back to why we have flags. So with each section, I let them pick a flag from the illustrations to draw. Then they had to tell me the history of the flag they choose." ~Kathy K.

"We incorporate food and baking! Being in the kitchen solidifies fine motor skills, can supplement math, science/chemistry, and also ties into whatever subject you are learning about." ~Luka S.

"We use a science textbook as the spine each year, but then supplement with hands-on experiments, manipulatives, games, and YouTube videos." ~Natalie M. from the U.K.

"We love keeping chronological history notebooks. We add pages from all different subject areas as we study: famous scientists, artists, mathematicians, and leaders. We even add in brochures from related field trips we take. Every time we flip through to add something, it’s like a mini-review!" ~anonymous

"Hit the high points only (i.e. an overview) of a textbook chapter and let the children choose one or two people, places, events, things to learn more about in whatever way works best for your family." ~Jane K. from Central Texas

"I like throwing in YouTube videos. They are super easy to search by topic and my kids enjoy hearing someone else talk as well as getting to see the topic in action." ~Laura H.

"Skip projects and crafts that are boring to your child and have him/her choose a project to do that still pertains to and solidifies the topic." ~Felisha D.

"Early in my homeschooling journey, a friend introduced me to [the idea of] purposely checking for applicable field trips. They greatly impacted my children's learning. We toured a working cotton gin, a historical courthouse, visited a Holocaust museum, the Alamo, and so many other places." ~ Terri W. from Texas

"We supplement with library books and if it is history or science, use an internet linked encyclopedia for extension activities (Usborne has some we like!)." ~Susanne R.

homeschool phonics lesson

A Final Word

Despite what some homeschoolers might believe, boxed curriculums have their place. When used well, they can actually create a perfect foundation for learning. The key to having success with a boxed set, however, is to hold it loosely. Don't ever let a curriculum bully you or push you around. You are the teacher of your homeschool. You get to decide which curriculum components are worth doing and which should be ditched. It is your home. It is your school. If you are to fill your days with delight, you'd do well to use a traditional curriculum as a guide, not a dogma. 


  1. Thank you for sharing this! This is my first year homeschooling my kindergartener and 4th grader. We purchased an Abeka curriculum for both levels. It’s is an amazing tool and I’m so thankful for all the details it includes, however, in only week 3, I’m learning there are a few things I can be more flexible with! Penmanship and spelling are important to me but the daily lessons are a bit much so I’m learning how to take a step back and change things for MY children. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us newbies!! ❤️

    1. It sounds like you are doing a great job of making the curriculum work for your family! Glad you're here. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Amazing blog!! I loved the curriculum and I would love to follow it.