Keeping Curriculum as Servant

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Ten Days Rule CurriculumButton

Welcome back to Day 2 Of Ruling Your Curriculum. If you missed Day 1 of Rule Your Curriculum with a Plan, Go HERE….

Today, I have a special guest:  Debbie Strayer.  Today, Debbie is sharing her thoughts about Ruling Your Curriculum, rather Keeping it as Servant, Not Master…and some wonderful advice she received first hand from Dr. Ruth Beechick.  I know you will be blessed by this advice…and once you have finished reading and pondering Debbie’s advice, feel free to enter to win her book:  Gaining Confidence To Teach.

I will never forget the first conversation Dr. Ruth Beechick and I had about this topic.  I had only been homeschooling for a few years and as a former educator, I hadn’t really emerged from my teacher mentality.  I was still putting my son through phonics lessons, since they were intended for his grade level, even though he was a good reader.  He was bored and frustrated, as was I.

Read With Your Child

I talked to Dr. Beechick on the phone about my struggle.  She suggested I read with him and observe the words he couldn’t pronounce and teach him those phonics concepts.

I was astonished!  How radical!  Since we were struggling to keep good attitudes about school, I was willing to give it a try.


As I changed my approach, my son’s interest in reading revived.  He soon became excited about reading harder words and even longer stories.  Once I realized I wasn’t going to down with phonics lessons he didn’t need, his attitude about school changed as well.

Are you reading this, I can hear your thoughts….what about gaps? What if you miss teaching a sound or word structure?

I thought the same thing.


I was even concerned about it hindering his ability to spell.  So I went back to Ruth.

Her advice this time was just as profound.  Use copywork and dictation to set good models, then look at his misspellings when he writes to see what he doesn’t know and work on those words.

Now I was really walking on the wild side…no phonics and no formal spelling?  Where will it all end?


I had always felt that curriculum knew what it was doing and I must obey, but now my relationship with curriculum was finally at a peaceful place.  I would pull lessons on the words or sounds he missed, but otherwise we used copywork/dictation from a variety of books and unit studies we were doing. I used the charts in The Three R’s, by Dr. Beechick, to comfort myself that I was covering what was needed.  We continued to use curriculum in math, since he was comfortable with that and liked the challenge.  In the final analysis, our roles had been reversed.  I was no longer asking my curriculum what my child needed to know.  I was observing and gathering data myself through the natural process of reading and writing.  I had finally assumed my position of expert on my child and put curriculum in its place as my resource and helper.

Fit The Book To The child

There were other points in our homeschool journey where curriculum was a wonderful blessing.  When I didn’t have time to plan, it was already done for me, but it never held the same sway over me.  I could use it, modify it and even set it down.  Good thing, because when my daughter came along, she was a completely different type of learner with some learning struggles.  Had I not been ready to mold the curriculum to meet her needs, I might have thought the problem was her.

Dr. Beechick’s sagely advice to fit the book to the child, not the child to the book was wise and liberating.

Put Curriculum In it's place

It may be time to take a look at your relationship with curriculum.  You may find out that it has been holding you back, not holding your hand.

Please feel the liberty to put curriculum in it’s place

Debbie Strayer is a speaker and Author of The Trail Guide to Learning and other Resources found at GeoMatters!

Now, enter to win Debbie Strayer’s book:  Gaining Confidence To Teach (value’d at $12.95)

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  1. I will be doing our first ‘real’ year of homeschooling next year. I am not very comfortable in this role yet and would love to be more confident!

  2. I always enjoyed Dr. Ruth Beechick’s advice. Great gems of wisdom here!

  3. Thank you for the lovely post. I have a daughter who I too am “teaching” what she already knows and she is not enjoying it. I will take the time today to just observe.

  4. Patricia Christianson says:

    My son and daughter in love are planning to homeschool my grandson. Wouldn’t it be great to get them off to a strong start!

  5. Great post!

    Last year I bought a formal spelling curriculum and we used it for a few months, but then I read to just write the words down that the child spelled wrong and keep the list handy. We ended up deciding to do Latin and Greek roots and take a break from spelling. Recently we decided to take a break from Latin and Greek roots and I brought out the spelling program again…only to find that without ever studying any of it, my kids could spell all the words…well, I just gave them tests from different chapters and they spelled every word correctly…so I am selling that book on Amazon! lol.

  6. Jess McCarthy says:

    I’m at a place where I am losing my confidence as a homeschool mommy. I really want to stay on this path!

    • Oh, keep praying and pushing….and asking….and you’ll get there!!! If there is anything I can do to help or pray for you…please email me.

  7. Debbie Strayer is one of my top-10 homeschool authors. She has been instrumental in shaping how we educate our children, and we’ve never even met!

  8. I am always reevaluating our curriculum and how I am looking at our learning. I am discovering more and more as years go by that I do not like to be a slave to a specific curriculum but to teach my child the best way that fits them. And I am truly finding peace with this and my children are more at peace and enjoying learning. Unfortunately my husband cannot understand teaching and learning this way as his mindset is still set to public school teaching and learning styles so I am facing conflict with him. I would loooooove to read Dr. Beechick’s book to help me feel more confident in how I am teaching and in sharing with my husband what can benefit our children more. Thank you for this book review and recommendation, thank you.

    • I always have a pile of books that I’m working on deciding to use, keep or donate….I’m glad to hear you have found freedom and hope your husband will find that peace soon, too! Oh, and I hope I haven’t confused you…the book is from Debbie Strayer…

      • Rebecca you make me laugh, I have those same piles. We just switched our school room and my son’s bedroom so I was able to go through all those piles again and find things I have forgotten or things that we have moved away from and can donate that I was holding on to still. What a cleansing time and so refreshing.
        I am sorry for giving credit to the wrong person in my previous comment, how awful of me. I was trying to multi task while I had a sleeping boy and a laptop on my lap early this morning and still dealing with squinty eyes as I did not have my glasses in arms reach. It is Debbie Strayer that I meant to type. So sorry about that.
        Blessings to you today and for all that you are doing during today. Thank you for sharing with us here on your blog, what a blessing to us.

        • Wendi, those piles can be fun, right? I just donated a ton of clothes today. I love that I can give back and meeting other people who do, as well!No worries, I just wanted to make sure I had the right book in the post and had not confused you (or another reader!) Thank you for blessing me with your kind words!

  9. Thanks for the reminder. It is a difficult balance maintaining confidence as a home educator, coupled with how are children learn, it can be a daily struggle. The practical advise and inspiration is appreciated. I am excited about reading more in this series of posts. Thanks again.

    • Heather, it is a difficult balance…one thing I love about series like this and having guest posters…I learn so much! I believe in ruling my curriculum and having a plan and being flexible…but, gleaning wisdom from others…that’s where the real meat comes in for me sometimes!!! I think you’ll enjoy tomorrow’s post, too!!!

  10. Inspiring and timely for me! The book may be “just what the doctor ordered”!

  11. Deanna F says:

    This would be a great resource! : )

  12. Nikole Addy says:

    Great post! I am reading the Three R’s now and it is resonating with me.

  13. Ah! See, this is exactly why I NEVER stay within the bounds of our language arts lessons in the curriculum! He gets them…so I like to challenge him with harder words so I can pick up on the phonics he’s not getting–it was only going above and beyond our curriculum that I learned he was mixing up lowercase b and d with their sounds…but only when reading them!

    He’s already figured out digraph rules for ch, th, etc…because I don’t give him limits! We read British Literature chapter books together–he loves them!

    Good idea on the dictation…I will add that in. We already are doing copy work and extensive reading.

    Would love to win the book!

    • Wow, That is IMPRESSIVE!!! I have two that mix up b and d….found a little trick for that (seems to work for us). Yes, dictation and copywork….I LOVE Debbie Strayer- (I think she has a hidden camera in my home!)

      • Well we have a trick too–holding up his hands with the thumbs each making a circle–thus making the b and d shape–to remember “bed”. If I can slow him down he will remember to do it and will ALWAYS get it right if he does…but he likes to go fast…

  14. I will be starting our first year of homeschooling in the fall and my biggest fear is that I will not be able to teach my oldest! I would love to get this book to learn how to teach my kids with confidence.

    • Tiffany, I remember…when we decided to homeschool our middle child…and the box of curriculum came…I was so incredibly brave….I PUT HER ON THE BUS! Seriously…then, after a week of being reminded about ‘why’ we decided to purchase that ‘box’….I quickly brought her back home..and soon after our oldest child came home, too. Now, all three are here. I wish I had known more about Debbie Strayer and many other Homeschool Writers and Pioneers…but, I am learning and I love sharing and encouraging others! Please, let me know if I can do anything to help you!

      • I am really just trying to figure out where to start! I don’t want a box curriculum but I a little overwhelmed with all the choices.

  15. Yet another wonderful post!! I have two children that I’m going through with in this. Its so great to remember that I the simplest things are oft times the best thing!

  16. Cassie Bartholomew says:

    It will help us get started 🙂

  17. I’m always stressing out over curriculum and I get hung up on making my 8 yr. old triplets all do the same thing when I know that they learn differently!!!

    • Kim, I struggle with that…with my three. It requires a lot for a Mom to have children…who all learn differently. I can’t imagine if they were all three the same age….but, I know that God has made you their mother for a purpose…only YOU are and can be their Mom and HE can provide you with what you need. I hope the remainder of this series helps you….reduces your stress and you are blessed by it.

  18. This would be a neat book to refrence to during the home school days.

  19. I would love to have this book. It could give me the boost I need.

  20. Rebecca W. says:

    Thank you for this post!!! I needed this, I have no confidence when it comes to teaching and I am completely ruled by my curriculum. Thank you!!!!! I am thirsting for more knowledge to be a better teacher to my children and I believe Debbie’s book will help me.

  21. I’m really nervous about teaching my girls. This book may help give me some peace.

  22. Jennifer says:

    I have been beginning to revamp our school days. I am tired of being a slave to our curriculum. Tired of mundane days. Kids are not learning, there is no joy to our school days. Same old, same old. Jumping around too much from curriculum to curriculum trying to find something that works and no real learning gets done. I love this post! Regaining confidence to branch out on my own. Thank you!

  23. Faith Hakes says:

    I need a good book to encourage me and refresh my desire to homeschool, this sounds like just the one. I get so disappointed in our progress and really would love to read a book that would help me deal with some of these recent trials in our homeschool.

  24. Would love to win this just for new sight into this wonderful journey! kevinkaylaarrowood123 at yahoo dot com

  25. This is a very encouraging post for me! After nine years of homeshcooling, I have really been seeking renewal, and God is delivering. There have been numerous times over the years when I got bogged down by curriculum schedules or a certain sequence that was laid out for me. We all do much better when I tweak and revamp things according to our needs and learning styles. I figure God meets us where we are with grace, so I can look at my children and do something like that for them. Dr. Beechick’s books are wonderful!

  26. Michelle S says:

    How fun! I just met Debbie yesterday at the Midwest Homeschool conf. We will be using her Paths of Exploration next year. I would love to win and read more of her homeschooling philosophy and advice! Thanks for the chance!

  27. This book sounds like exactly what I need to help me plan my next year of school!

  28. I am planning to start hs’ing this fall with my oldest with preK. More of a trial run for me than anything. 🙂 Need all the help I can get. Thanks for these articles!

  29. I’m always looking for insights and knowledge on how I can be a better homeschooling mom.