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Tips If You Fall Behind: Homeschooling Schedules

It is a familiar homeschooling ritual. It is the beginning of summer; the previous academic year has scarcely ended when we begin the preparatory process for the following year. We plan our scope and sequence, choose classes, sort out our resources, and purchase our books. We work out a weekly schedule; if we are using an online curriculum provider like Homeschool Connections, we register for classes. The more organized among us may even nail down a daily schedule. But then…

Life Happens

There are automobile problems. People get sick. Home improvement projects get in the way. Family issues crop up. Any number of situations can intrude to throw a wrench in your beautifully laid plans. Homeschoolers can be more susceptible to these kinds of disruptions than public schooled children. If my children are away each day for school, it doesn’t affect their schooling if a pipe bursts in the laundry room—they are gone at school. Even if the pipe isn’t fixed by the next day, they still get up and go to school like usual. But if you have five kids at home and a pipe bursts, your homeschooling is put on hold while the crisis is addressed. Since school happens in the home, a disruption in the home means school is disrupted.

These disruptions can sometimes last days or weeks. You discover dangerous mold in your home and a multi-day remediation is needed, during which time you have to stay in a hotel. Your spouse suffers a serious injury and needs constant assistance during his period of recovery. One of your children has a chronic medial condition that makes it difficult to plan around and causes them to miss substantial amounts of schooling. Before you know it, you find your tidy little schedule is in ruins, and your children are falling days or weeks behind where you’d hoped they’d be.

Life happens and what will be will be. However, there are positive strategies for getting back on track when you get behind in your homeschooling. While these things are never easy, there are a few tactics you can put into place. The following will lighten up the stress and keep your kids on the right track…

1. Right Perspective

First and foremost, make sure you have the right perspective. While homeschoolers generally follow the public school model of an academic year that lasts from Fall to Summer, there’s no reason we need be bound by that model. In public school, a certain amount of content is assigned to each grade level; if the content is not mastered during the year, the student is “behind.” It is easy to unconsciously appropriate this thinking to our homeschool, where we view our students as “behind” if they don’t wrap something up by June 1. But the beauty of homeschooling is that we are master of the schedule. The pace of instruction can be customized to fit our needs. In other words, to paraphrase Gandalf, “A homeschooler is never late. Nor is he early. He does school precisely when he means to.”

While this mindset won’t fix your busted furnace or pay your medical bills, it will help lighten the load of stress you may be carrying when you feel like you are falling behind in school on top of everything else going on.

2. Trimming 

Trimming coursework is when you take a look at your children’s schedule and suspend classes that aren’t deemed “essential.” What is deemed essential will vary depending on your specific situation (including courses that may be mandated by your state). A good rule of thumb is that coursework is essential if it is a “use it or lose it” subject. These tend to be subjects where content is introduced in a rigorously sequential manner, each lesson laying building blocks that are necessary to understand future lessons. Concepts are mastered by consistent practice, such that if practice is omitted for too long, the student will actually forget the content.

Mathematics and foreign language are two examples. In these subjects, practice must be maintained or the student will not only be hindered moving forward, but will likely forget what they already learned. A student who just stops Algebra for a year cannot simply pick it back up without spending time refreshing old concepts. These sorts of course should be prioritized. Courses that do not can be paused. There’s no harm in taking a break from literature; a child can pick a book up and start reading in May as easy as they can in February.

3. Stretching

While trimming is suspending non-essential coursework. stretching is when you spread coursework out over a longer time in order to lessen the load weekly. This is when you say, “Well, I’d hoped to end school by May 15, but we are going to have to run until June 15.” Or, “I’d hoped to be out of Saxon 5 by Christmas, but we’ll probably be working in it till Spring.” You take your existing schedule and stretch it out, for example, reducing your homeschooling from five days a week to three, or from six hours a day to four. You make up for this by carrying the subject (or the whole academic year) longer than you initially planned.

4. Ask for Help

We always recommend getting plugged into a local homeschooling community, even if only online. Everyone needs help now and then, and in those moments a Catholic homeschool community can be of great help. This can be as simple as finding another family your children can study with for the afternoon while you attend to adult cares. It can mean paying your friend’s college-age daughter to tutor a few afternoons a week. It can mean working out an arrangement with another family to drive your kids to co-op. Obviously other families can’t replace you, but their help can make a tremendous difference.

5. Online Classes

These periods of crisis might be an ideal time to lean into online classes more heavily. Online classes can connect your child with knowledgeable instructors, structured curricula, and an online peer group. You may want to especially consider the pre-recorded “asynchronous” classes for maximum flexibility.

Homeschool Connections asynchronous option is called Unlimited Access. Unlimited Access gives you access to Homeschool Connections’ library of 450+ online courses for all subjects ranging from grades 3-12. If you’re not sure, you can sign up for a 7-day trial ($1) to check everything out. If you like it, you can maintain access to the entire catalog for $34.97 a month. We also have pricing for an entire year, as well as options for individual classes. Imagine what a benefit this could be in a tough situation! Click here to learn more about Homeschool Connections’ Unlimited Access.

6. Just Stop

Finally, don’t be afraid to just stop. That’s right, just hit the brakes. If you’ve put in your best effort and things still aren’t working, there’s no shame in stopping for a time. It’s alright to tell your kids in April, “Summer break starts early this year.” They certainly won’t complain!

Nobody’s life unfolds perfectly according to plan, and if you get to the point where you feel like you must take a break, then realize that breaking is the best option at that point. It is perfectly fine to admit that life as caused you to retreat.  But that’s okay, because you will rest, you will regroup, you will recover, and you’ll be back on the field another day.

It’s never fun when life fouls up our plans. In these moments, as always, do what you can, and leave the rest to God.

If you’d like to continue this conversation, we invite you to join us in our Catholic Homeschool Connections Community.

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Resources to help you in your Catholic homeschool…

Catholic Homeschool Classes Online

Homeschooling Saints Podcast

Good Counsel Careers

The Catholic Homeschool Conference

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