Enhanced – read by the author
Learning Naturally by Kay Chance

Stop Playing Twister!

How to Teach Your Child, Not the Curriculum

Spin the wheel. Right foot, left foot, right hand, or left hand. Blue, green, red, or yellow.

Whatever the wheel says, you have to do it. That’s the game of Twister.

But in order to do what the wheel says, you have to bend and reach, stretch and twist. Eventually everyone falls except for one… the kid with the most flexibility or balance or who just happened to not have to twist as much as the others. There’s only one winner, though—unless of course, they all fall in a big heap.

Sometimes when we teach our kids it becomes a game of Twister. We think, “But we have to follow the rules!” Whether it’s the curriculum telling us what to do, the state standards, the experts, a friend, a family member, or even our own expectations.

Here’s what we need to remember: We teach the child, not the curriculum. I think this quote says it so well:

“For some children and for some of the time, certain books will happen to be just right. But if you find yourself struggling to mold your child to a book, try reversing priorities. It’s the child you are teaching, not the book. Bend the book, or find another; make the studies fit the child.”—Dr. Ruth Beechick, You Can Teach Your Child Successfully

But how do we make the studies fit the child? First, be a student of your students.

Observe how your children learn best. Do you have kids who love to listen to audiobooks? Who can remember everything they hear? Or do you have children who need to see something to truly understand it? Maybe you have one who has to get physically involved in the learning process?

Ask yourself what kind of “smart” your children are. The theory of multiple intelligences by Dr. Howard Gardner is described (and simplified) by Dr. Kathy Koch in her book Eight Great Smarts. Word, logic, picture, music, body, nature, people, and self-smart are all different ways kids learn and process ideas. You can capitalize on how your particular children are smart.

Watch for those topics your kids get excited about and when they seem to have the most fun. We all learn better when we are actually interested in what we’re learning. And we all want to do those things we find fun. We want our kids to love learning and give them the tools to continue learning long after we’ve finished homeschooling. Curiosity, wonder, and joy are incredible motivators!

Keep these things in mind as you look through the following ideas to “twist” the book, curriculum, or whatever method or resource you’re using instead of your child! This is just a starting point. Ask your kids—they often have the BEST ideas. Remember the saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” You’ll want to pick and choose and mix it up.

leaves and pine cones

Learning Information & Adapting Assignments

Try family-style learning. Unit studies are perfect for getting all of your kids together to learn. If you can’t do it all the time, adding a fun unit around the holidays or based on a current interest of your children can keep them excited about learning.

Make a game out of it. Concentration, jeopardy, and trivia-style games are easy to create about almost anything you are studying. Pre-made card and board games are also perfect for exploring different topics, practicing math, and strengthening critical thinking and logic skills.

Do an experiment, demonstration, or hands-on project. If your children are kinesthetic learners, they need to be doing… not just reading about subjects. But ALL kids learn better when they involve their different senses in the learning process. The more different ways they interact with the material, the better!

Watch a video about the subject. From full-length documentaries to short videos to live cam feeds, children can both see and hear about topics they are studying.

Use a different teaching approach or method. You may have an overall approach (for example, Charlotte Mason), but it’s okay to borrow from another philosophy if it’s not working for a specific subject!

Change the environment. Sometimes a little change can refresh the energy and joy in your homeschool. Is the weather perfect outside? Pack up and do some picnic-style learning at a park or even your own backyard. Is it cold outside? Build a fire and do lessons in the living room (with plenty of s’mores breaks). Enjoy a read-aloud at a local ice cream place.

Slow down or set it aside for a time. Sometimes children just need more time to get a concept. Let’s use math as an example. Which is more important—finishing the math book or understanding math? So slow down and make sure they get concepts before moving on to the next just to keep an artificial timeline.

Since certain subjects like math are developmentally-based, it’s okay to set an assignment or topic aside for a while and focus somewhere else.

“Don’t let any of these resources become the rule book. You teach the child, not the curriculum.”

Dig deeper when your children show an interest in a particular topic. Go down that rabbit hole! Some of the most memorable moments of homeschooling are when you let it happen naturally, based on those things your kids are curious about!

Here are some more easy ways to adapt an assignment in your curriculum:

• Do a shorter version of the assignment or work on it over multiple days
• Answer orally instead of writing answers
• Watch a movie or listen to the audiobook instead of reading the book
• Type instead of write
• Change the topic of a writing assignment
• Put the information in a song

Skip it. Remember you are the teacher so YOU decide how much and what your children need.

leaves and pine cones

Assessing Learning

Testing isn’t the only way to find out what a student has learned!

If your curriculum provides tests, remember there are other ways to assess your children’s understanding of the material—and often it is a better assessment. Some students experience test anxiety that keeps them from really showing you what they know. Others know how to take tests by looking for clues. Still more will cram for them and promptly forget the information.

Here are some ways students can demonstrate what they know in a way that’s both engaging and even fun.

• Create a video or multimedia presentation
• Write a poem, story, or “children’s book” instead of a traditional paper
• Put together a play (or skit) about the topic and perform it for family
• Draw a picture
• Make a poster
• Give a demonstration
• Build a diorama
• Draw a detailed map
• Create a graphic novel/cartoon about the topic
• Explain or teach the topic to someone else

Most of us choose to homeschool because we want to educate our children differently. And yet in our insecurity and fear of not doing enough, we often end up relying on the books, curriculum, and other resources we’ve heard are “the best.”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using those things. They are an incredible blessing! There’s no need to reinvent the wheel as the saying goes. But don’t let any of these resources become the rule book. You teach the child, not the curriculum.

Kay signature typography
Kay Chance standing in front of green foliage and smiling

ay Chance homeschooled her children for fifteen years. While teaching them, she discovered a passion for writing and developing curriculum resources. She loves sharing natural learning methods and creative lesson ideas with other homeschooling parents. Kay is the co-executive editor of Homeschooling Today magazine and the author of the older extensions for the Trail Guide to Learning series. She makes her home in Texas with her husband Brian.