Box Curriculum: Why We Ditched It and What Happened
I’ve been asked a number of times why I dropped the box curriculum I first started homeschooling with.
I used it for three years and apparently people want to know why we broke up.
Did I find out something about the box curriculum? (Yikes!)
Were my kids not getting a solid education from it?? (Every homeschool mom’s worst nightmare)
Should my readers avoid using it?!? (Tell us now!!!)
Hold Up, What is a Box Curriculum?
For all of those new to homeschooling, a box curriculum gets its name from the fact that all of your homeschool curriculum for the year comes in one box.
Popular box curriculums on the market would include Sonlight, My Father’s World, Abeka, Bob Jones University, and Book Shark.
So if you were to choose to go down this route for your school year, you would go to the box curriculum’s website, choose the grade you were shopping for, add that grade’s curriculum to cart, buy it, open the box when it arrives, and get teaching!
The alternative would be to search for each subject and order it individually from all different companies – and they would arrive in many different boxes and packages.
Why I Picked a Box Curriculum in the First Place
I don’t know about you, but starting to homeschool was a stressful and confusing experience. I had no idea whatsoever what I was doing.
I didn’t know what subjects I was supposed to teach.
I had no idea when concepts (like state capitals) were supposed to be taught throughout elementary school.
I was crazy stressed about teaching my kid to read well.
And I was really worried that there would be gaps in my kid’s education…because I’m not a professional teacher.
I begged a couple of homeschooling friends of mine to just tell me what they use – surely they were successful and I just had to follow in their footsteps. Well, my homeschooling friends told me it doesn’t work like that.
Apparently, “one size fits all” does not work when it comes to homeschooling.
What? Well, it certainly “works” in the public school I was brought up in.
Do you see why I was confused?
The “All in One” Box Curriculum To The Rescue!
Through a close friend, I stumbled onto a fantastic box curriculum that our homeschool fell in love with!
I was delirious with joy as I read that EVERYTHING was included in the box. All of the books for all the subjects!
There was ONE teacher’s manual that told me exactly what to do every day, and it was all put together by a group of professional teachers!
I felt so confident that I was not alone in this new homeschooling adventure. I had a plan and it was a good one!
As I started using the curriculum, I often wondered why in the world anyone would want to “piece their curriculum together.”
It sounded so stressful and uncertain. What if they forgot something or picked a “bad” curriculum?
The Pros of Using a Box Curriculum
1. Peace of Mind
When choosing a curriculum, the stress over whether or not you made the “right” decision can be overwhelming. Choosing a box curriculum made me feel like I was allowing the “professionals” to take care of things for me.
It was their plan and I was just following the steps to homeschool success!
2. One and Done
You make the curriculum decision one time – as opposed to making a decision about each subject.
This saves time and so many gray hairs.
Box curriculums are popular, so it’s easy to find groups of people that use the same thing.
Co-ops and Facebook groups are a great place to find support, camaraderie, and ideas among other homeschool moms using the exact same curriculum you are.
4. Subjects Often Linked Together
I LOVED this about our box curriculum!
Because the curriculum is designed by professional teachers, it is intended to “braid” concepts together across different subjects.
For example, when my daughter was learning about a certain region for world geography, we also learned about its animals and plants for science that week.
This feature of box curriculums is a great way to really drive home concepts and help kids to internalize information. When you piece the curriculum together yourself, it is much less likely that each subject will support the other.
Why I Ultimately Ditched My Box Curriculum and Struck Out on My Own
As you can see, I loved my box curriculum for years. I had no intention of using anything else!
I fully believed that I would use it through high school for all three of my kids.
But after three years passed, things started to shift and I realized that I needed to make a change.
1. I Was Ready
After homeschooling for 3 years, I had developed confidence in my abilities to teach my kids at home.
I understood what subjects I needed to teach, how my kids learned best, and what worked for my homeschool. Choosing all the subjects myself no longer sounded impossible or scary. I actually knew a lot about curriculum after spending so much time in the homeschool community.
2. I am a Homeschool Blogger
I picked up blogging during my 3rd year of homeschooling. Curriculum companies started reaching out to me left and right with free curriculum, discounts for my readers, and other opportunities.
I realized that I would not be very good at my job if all of my curriculum reviews were about the same box curriculum.
3. My Kids Do Not Learn the Same Way
My oldest daughter sailed through the first-grade year of our box curriculum, but I figured out pretty quickly that it was a terrible fit for my middle kid as she was going into first grade.
She learns completely differently, and I knew she would struggle significantly.
The truth is that siblings often have different learning styles, so expecting them to all fall in line with the same curriculum is most likely not going to work the way you want it to.
4. My Box Curriculum was Not “All in One”
My particular curriculum was an “all in one” for Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st grade. By 2nd grade, you had to choose what spelling, language arts, and math program you wanted to add on.
That basically meant that I was paying for an “enrichment box curriculum” and shopping for all the core subjects myself. My kids started to not like certain things like art and music. Eventually, I realized I was paying hundreds of dollars for History and Bible (the two subjects we all really liked in the box curriculum), which was ridiculous.
5. I Felt Like the Box was Controlling Me
Yes, I was feeling “boxed-in” to use a bit of a pun.
As the years of using a boxed curriculum passed by, I started to feel beholden to the teacher’s manual. My type A personality felt that I had to stay on schedule and “check every box” or my homeschool day was a failure.
I also started to feel frustrated with not being able to pick what we were learning about. My kids may be interested in all things animals and biology, but that’s not what the box curriculum is teaching this year.
How We Survived Without a Box Curriculum – 1 Year Later
We have wrapped up our first year without a box curriculum, and I can tell you with confidence that we loved it!
A world of curriculum opened up to me and I wanted to buy everything! I really enjoyed shopping for all the different subjects and finding things I knew were best suited for my kids.
I loved the freedom and flexibility of our new schedule. I felt so much more relaxed and calm as a homeschool parent. We were free to focus on the core subjects (reading, writing, math, and Bible) and then spend an hour+ together on the enrichment subject of the day (science, history, art, music, or P.E.).
Not to mention, the cost was significantly lower!
I have already bought new curriculum for next year and we are excited to get going!
And Another Quick Update
We are about to go into our 6th year of homeschooling, and I continue to love piecing together our curriculum.
Planning out my year is a joyful experience and I usually can’t wait for the current year to end…so that we can start with the new curriculum!
My kids also love that we are always using new curriculum, so our school days stay fresh. Not the same thing year after year.
I can’t imagine ever going back to a straight box curriculum.
So Are Box Curriculums Right for Any Homeschool?
If you are you…
- New to homeschooling
- Terrified of failing
- Overwhelmed with curriculum choices
- Unsure of just about every step of getting started with homeschooling
- Way too busy to spend a ton of time curriculum shopping
Then you are probably a great fit for a box curriculum!
Yes, I still recommend box curriculums, even though we personally no longer use them.
A veteran homeschooling friend of mine heard I was going to use a box curriculum for my first year of homeschooling and she said, “Well, whatever you need to get your feet wet with homeschooling.”
I was so super offended! But, man she was right.
I needed the box curriculum to give me the confidence to even move forward with homeschooling. It was the boost I absolutely required to give me structure and support in my days.
In truth, I don’t know if I would have survived my beginning years of homeschooling without it!
So if a box curriculum makes you feel more comfortable homeschooling, then go buy one!
But if you feel like you’ve outgrown your box curriculum and you’re curious to see what else is out there – don’t be afraid to try something new!
Do you use a box curriculum? Have you used one in the past?
Drop your thoughts in the comments!
Yrs ago when we home schooled (24yrs – 3 children) we used a Curriculum through church school that tested your child and sent you books. Many times I found that the book they sent didn’t fit my child’s way of learning yet, they insisted you do each pages of the book. Write answers to all the questions. It was a real drag. After 3 yrs I wrote my own curriculum, different for each child. I really like the Charlotte Mason method, use real books. We did use a text book for Math. Also, picked a scope and sequence to try to avoid gaps. Used books that fit each child’s learning style.
Yes, Linda! You just have to do what fits your kid and their learning style – not necessarily what the curriculum says to do. It just takes time to get to that comfort level.
We will be starting our 2nd year of homeschooling our 7th grader. I’ve chose to step away from boxed curriculum 🙂
This is my first year piecing everything together… I’m a little bit nervous that I went a little heavy on the language arts part… But I figure it has good resale value if I end up not using all of it. I had used book shark the last two years… But I didn’t love their science so I dropped their science… And then I didn’t really love the language arts piece I didn’t feel like it was very thorough and so I dropped that piece this year and Added IEW. Next year I’m piecing everything together and I’m really excited!
As a first time homeschooler, I’m curious as to which box curriculum you used in the beginning of your homeschool years! I did end up choosing on myself, but would love to know which one worked best for you in your journey!
Kerri, I have used My Father’s World for K, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. You can read my full review of it here.