It’s nice when life is orderly— when C follows B which came right after A. But we all know that the ideal is not often reality. Our best laid homeschool plans become wishful thinking, and by March or April we fear that we may still be doing school in June!
I expect that you will probably relate to this quote from Escaping the Time-Scarcity Trap.
once we adopt a mindset of “time scarcity” (i.e. we feel over-busy, overwhelmed, or just plain behind), it induces a kind of shortsightedness that “makes us less insightful, less forward-thinking, less controlled.” In other words, the actual hours you have available to do your work could remain the same, but just feeling behind is enough to disrupt your productivity.
I’m sure you have experienced that frantic feeling before. You may feel it now in relation to homeschooling. You wake up each morning echoing a negative message in your head:
- We are so behind!
- How can we catch up?
- I don’t know where to start in order to get back on track.
And the more behind you feel, the more behind you get because you are short-tempered and rushed. And everyone around you picks up on the irritation and sense of urgency.
Let’s talk about being behind.
Feeling Behind in Homeschool
What causes these feelings of being behind in homeschool?
Most often it’s because the curriculum we purchased is laid out in a convenient 32 -36 week system. And according to our calculations, it’s week 18 but we are still working back on the grid from week 11. Those diagrams in the front of the book that are meant to help us organize our homeschool year become our task master.
The Solution to Being Behind
1. You are in control of your schedule. So you can’t really be behind.
Simply adjust your schedule! Those outlines in curriculum guides are largely arbitrary. Make your own arbitrary schedule. It will be just as good as the one that came with the curriculum. Really.
Take a look at this article from The Atlantic —Repeating the Eighth Grade. In it, a teen decides that repeating the 8th grade was a good idea. Here is what he says:
What made me change my mind was realizing that I could take a year and focus less on grades and more on learning new things. There was something appealing about learning just to learn rather than learning to get a grade.
Isn’t this precisely why we homeschool —to learn instead of focusing on grades (both A, B, C grades and 4th, 5th, 6th grades). While the choice to repeat 8th grade is a huge one for a teen in public school, it’s much simpler for us homeschoolers. We don’t even have to call it repeating. We simply slow down and take the education at the pace that is most appropriate.
2. Realize that forward progress is adequate.
In the elementary years, there really is no canon of material a child needs to know except the three Rs. Focus on math, reading, and writing and fill in with fun extras from science, history, and the arts.
Yes, I said history, science and the arts are extras. I don’t say that because they are not important. I say that because you can study those in many different ways and still be doing “enough.” Jump from time period to time period if you want. Skip topics that don’t resonate with your children. Let delight directed learning lead the way.
Caveats: Yes, there are skills that build one upon the other such as math. And if you don’t know how to multiply, algebra will be impossible. So, yes in a sense you can be behind in concepts if it’s 9th grade and time to earn a credit for something a child doesn’t have the skill base.
But that’s about being behind in skills not behind in lessons in a book. The lessons in the book do not matter one bit except how they get you to mastery of the skills. So you can skip ahead in the book, breeze through a chapter, power through a concept when a child is finally ready, or hunker down on a tough area. All are okay. You do not have to follow the one lesson per week outline in the curriculum guide. You can skip lessons that the child understands already. You can move faster through easy ones and slow down on harder ones.
3. You can even declare curriculum bankruptcy.
It may feel drastic, but it’s not. It’s okay to put that material on the shelf never to complete at all. If everyone is burned out on a topic, a curriculum, a method, or a subject, you can shelve it. Literally put it on a shelf and forget about it. There is no curriculum police that comes to see if you completed all the lessons.
Remember that almost no course —whether public school, private school, elementary grades or college level — ever completes the textbook in entirety. The teachers skip and bounce, get bogged down occasionally, and then stop abruptly when the semester runs out. If they can do it, so can you!
I know. I’m a box checker. I am task oriented, and I don’t like to stop doing something until I have a sense of completion. But sometimes the best thing you can do to protect your child’s love of learning and your own sanity is to admit that finishing the curriculum is not going to happen by May. Adjust your expectations, move at a different pace, or abandon it altogether. All three options are valid and will help you savor summer break without guilt or pressure.
Prairie Girl @ It's A Prairie Full Life says
So that’s what we call it! I’ve done that, completely abandoned curriculum… Usually with a feeling of shame since I’m so type A. But sometimes it’s just not clicking, either with me or with the kids. Thank you for this.
Jimmie Lanley says
Abandon it without shame!! It’s okay!
I love that every time your posts show up in my inbox I am never disappointed. I had a major meltdown today with this very issue. I call these type of things, nuggets from God. Thank you.
Love this! When I first started I felt like this most years. I was a slave to the curriculum. As time has gone on I have felt more at peace about skipping over parts of the curriculum or chunking it all together if need be. Thanks so much for sharing this, for all those new to homeschooling! 🙂
Michelle Cannon says
Want to tell my kids’ neurologist all this? *lol* I tried, but he didn’t get it. He didn’t understand why I “haven’t held them back” for being dyslexic (not being behind, but actually being dyslexic). He didn’t understand mastery or learning at one’s own pace in EACH subject as opposed to doing all subjects on one grade level. Bleh. People.
Erin - The Usual Mayhem says
Michelle, that seems to be a common mindset! My daughter and her good friend are the same age, and both dyslexic. We homeschool and her friend is in the public system, where it’s a matter of policy to hold them back for dyslexia. The friend is bright but feels like a dummy because she wasn’t given a chance to shine in subjects where she excelled. Sad.
Great post, Jimmie! I needed to read this today.
Michelle Cannon says
That’s sad, Erin. I can’t even imagine. Children with dyslexia aren’t stupid. In quite, they’re usually quite talented and skilled in the arts. Again I say – People. Bleh. 😉
We’ve been really struggling to find our rhythm this year. So I did just that, put most of my curriculum on the shelf. Now we are finishing up the year with worksheets, unit studies and the products I get to review as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew this year. It’s a lot of variety, but I’m finding some things that will work for us next year.
Since my dad passed away Dec. 1st, we needed to spend daily time with my mom, so we slowly fell behind in our planned out schedule. You just lifted 1000 lbs. of burden and guilt off of my shoulders!!! What a relief to hear this. I feel so much more relieved now and can finally take a breath and say, “Hey, we have this!!!” Thank you so much. I will be following your blog!
Brenda Miller says
We have just come to the conclusion that the reason we homeschool is not so we can do school at home, but so we can work at our child’s pace. If we are not done by Memorial Day, so what? We have decided to do a 4-day homeschool week with one day a week at a more relaxed pace. We are just going to keep going and when we are ready to move to the next step, we will. So, if she is doing advanced reading, right on target with social studies and others and a little behind in science, it doesn’t matter. We have decided to not freak out so much, things are coming together and it will be better to be relaxed rather than freaking out. We will go by our standards, not the curriculum.
I can’t tell you how appropriate this was for me today. We’ve been doing next to nothing for 2 weeks while we’ve been dealing with sick kiddoes, and I was feeling pressured to complete more work than we’re capable of. Thanks for the freedom to rest in doing what I can, and not stressing about it!
Lisa nelson says
I. In a really good place this year – and part of the reason is that I have allowed myself to breathe, find other ways of doing things.
I love when you say you are never behind. So many people need to hear this message. Thanks so much for sharing!
This is truly a hit for me. We have been struggling this year with scheduling and routine. My oldest have dyslexia and it’s a challenge because I am still learning about it. I was feeling like a failure and trying to rekindle homeschooling again. Thanks for this post. I am on my way trying to get things organized.
I needed this reminder…especially in this last “push” transition from the long winter into spring! While classrooms in ps gear up for spring testing, I am giving us permission to breathe and look at all we have accomplished this year and move at our own pace.
Ugochinyere Egbe says
Thank you very much for your write up on feeling behind. I am a home school mom from Nigeria. This is our second year homeschooling. I have my kids in grades 8,7,4 and K5 respectfully.
The feeling of being behind is familiar. It’s actually out of frustration and wanting to throw in the towel at the end of this school year that I started researching and found your blog. PLease, feel free to send me updates from your blogs
Meanwhile , i am going to ponder all that I have read today.
God bless you.
This is my first year homeschooling. My son is technically in 7th grade, but we are adapting with a lot of 5-6th grade work to allow for his needs and learning style. I also work full time, outside the home, so this is very encouraging!
The term “behind” has always bugged me. Behind? Behind who? A very important reason we homeschool is so that my children can each learn at a pace and in a way that is right for them. Comparing children by using terms such as “behind” does nothing but make the child and the parent feel like they are failing. Most curriculums are geared to having students learn certain concepts at certain times, but these are based on standards implemented by people who do not know your child, and we should not feel pressured to have our children mastering these on someone else’s timetable. I like to remind myself that we all have the rest of our lives to learn, and if my child has not mastered a certain concept by a certain time, the world isn’t going to stop turning!
Michelle Morgan says
I have been getting better about this. Our school year this year is CRAZY! We are support raising for long term missions and are doing a lot of traveling. We school year round anyway without a set end date for the year, so that helps. Then I got pregnant too. We are figuring our “school year” is going to be at least 1 1/2 years long. Morning sickness, travel, inviting a new baby into our family after 9 years, and moving to a new country will all be mixed into school. I have learned over the years that flexibility is so important. We have already changed 2 of our programs and dropped one to lighten the load. No guilt at all, just relief 🙂
Diana pucci says
I rarely feel behind in homeschooling because the most important reason to do it is to give the gift of time, something no public or private school can do.