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.