What to Do When You Don’t Like the Curriculum

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Not crazy about the curricula at your child’s school? Life as MOM contributor Jessie Leigh has some great ideas about what you can do when that is the case.

School books

One of the things that goes along with choosing a public education is being at the mercy of the curriculum they choose. Are there ways to sometimes influence that decision? Sure. Being on the school board, working in the school, or even being very active within the PTO/PTA (those are the same thing– it just varies what they’re called from region to region) can help you have a little bit of a voice.

At the end of the day, though, as the parent? You don’t choose the curriculum. Sometimes it’s the district. Sometimes it’s the state. Sometimes it’s the federal government. Depending on what’s going on at any given time, different sectors have more say and pull. And, depending on the individual and situation, some of those influences are less desirable than others.

It is highly likely that, at some point in the course of your child’s education, you will come up against a curriculum that doesn’t sit well with you. Honestly? I’ve come up against a couple of them already and my oldest is only in third grade. It can be frustrating.

I find that people tend to do one of two things in this situation. They’re either completely oblivious to what’s happening in the classroom and blindly accept the curriculum or they complain bitterly over all the things wrong with it.

Honestly, those are the easy things to do.

Neither is often particularly productive, however. Accepting things without question is not in the best interests of our children; just because we choose a public education doesn’t mean we have no opinion about it. On the other hand, airing all your grievances might not mean squat– after all, the district likely spent a good long time choosing that curriculum and ordering all the supplies. The odds they’ll change on a dime and abandon it easily are slim.

I’d like to offer a few other ideas of what to do when you don’t like the curriculum.


Focus on the positives.

Every curriculum– every single one of them– has strengths. They might not be abundant and they might not be your top priorities, but it’s important that you acknowledge that they do exist. Has the monotonous math drilling proved effective for teaching basic facts? Is the new reading plan producing desired test results? These things do matter, even if they’re not critical to YOU. Take the time to look for the good parts.

Realize children learn in different ways.

Can I be honest with you? I hate Saxon Math. Hate it. I find it maddeningly boring and not at all representative of the application of math in real life. My oldest child, too, finds it tiresome. He much preferred the Everyday Math program which is loathed by parents and educators everywhere.

Here’s what he– and I– need to accept: children learn in different ways. It turns out that Everyday Math’s convoluted, spiraling style did not work for the majority of students. Saxon Math is much more straight-forward and most parents seem to like it. So, it’s what almost all of our classes use. And I’ve learned to be okay with that.

Bridge the gaps.

Our first grade reading program frustrated me, too. I was so disappointed with the books they had the children reading– no great stories or literature, just contrived little tales that sought to meet a specific linguistic goal. Yawn…

Rather than spend too much time getting angry about it, we spent abundant time in the library, introducing our children to lots of wonderful books. You needn’t feel limited to only exposing your kids to what the school teaches. Feel free to supplement! Creating a solid partnership is only going to help your children have an even more well-rounded education.

Remember– teachers matter more than curricula.

I’m known around here for pointing out that excellent teachers don’t cease being excellent teachers when given a sub-par curriculum to teach. They really don’t. Does it make their jobs harder? Sure. And that stinks. But it doesn’t change the fact that they’re fantastic at their jobs and can still find wonderful ways to apply the materials with our children. Focus more on finding a great teacher fit and less on worrying about the curriculum.

Have you come up against a curriculum you didn’t like? How did you handle it?

โ€“ A mother of three, including a 24 week preemie, JessieLeigh is a determined advocate for even the tiniest of babies. She can be found celebrating lifeโ€™s (sometimes unexpected) miracles and blessings at Parenting Miracles.

You can read all of Jessie Leigh’s posts for Life as MOM here.

Need resources to bridge the gap in your child’s learning?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. We are in this situation right now. The school is using Go Math. They use terms my husband and I have never seen and my husband has a bachelors in physiology and engineering. We have decided to accept the bad grade given in math. (In the long term what’s a D in math in 3rd grade anyway?) We will supplement this summer with a program for homeschoolers. Ironically enough we were looking at Saxon Math!

    • Saxon Math is VERY popular, among public schools and homeschools alike! ๐Ÿ™‚ I used Saxon Math myself back when I took Pre-Algebra in junior high. It definitely has a proven track record among educators. I just find the constant fact-drilling to be a bit mind-numbing. That said, some kids really benefit from that type of learning just to really master the basics.

    • I use Saxon for grades k to 3 because it’s so “hands on”. It was difficult to keep up with the grading after grade 4, so we moved to Teaching Textbooks, a self-grading computer curriculum. At least in terms of math facts, I appreciate the repetition in Saxon, but the workbook pages are a bit excessive, so we only do one per lesson instead of two.

  2. Jen S. says

    As a public educator, I completely agree and appreciate your honest thoughts on this! My daughter is only 10 months old, but when she is ready for school, I plan on getting involved and remembering all your suggestions. Thank you!

  3. Arianna says

    Hi Jessica, I checked out your post on your curriculum choices and I was wondering how you distribute the history books in the 6 years of elementary school (for ex. book 1 for K and 1st grade). Thank you.

  4. Ellen S. says

    I’m absolutely distraught over the math program our parochial school switched to this year. It’s compliant with common core and I’m not sure if it’s that or the publisher they chose, but I don’t like the methods at all. I’m sincerely considering supplementing my daughter’s math over the summer with Teaching Textbooks, but I’m not sure if that’s overkill.

    • I know nothing about Teaching Textbooks, but, as far as supplementing goes, I think it’s usually a good move, especially when you feel a curriculum is lacking or not a good fit. How much your daughter can handle and in what format is so individual, but I think working to reinforce key concepts over the summer might make both of you feel better about it. I’m sorry you’re facing such a disappointing program. ๐Ÿ™

  5. Janet says

    Great post! My kids love the very Everyday Math curriculum that many parents dislike. On the other hand, my youngest loathes Math Facts at a Glance that many of the parents in our school love โ€“ rote memorization of math facts via a computer program. Our school uses both so it seems to satisfy most of the parents that the kids get a balance of approaches. Like you we read all kinds of literature at home to supplement the school selections. I think they focus too much on more recent best sellers at the expense of the classics. We just finished Little Women and have started The Wizard of Oz. During the summer I put together about an hour a day worth of classwork to slow the summer slide focusing on very hands on activities.

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