catholic homeschool mom

Seven Tips if Your Child Falls Behind in Homeschooling

As a homeschooling parent, you may feel like being behind is a fact of life some days. I don’t mean developmentally behind, but behind in your course plan. Your son was supposed to be on Chapter 25 by this time of year, but he’s only made it to Chapter 19. You had planned for your daughter to work on Latin past participles by now, but she is bogged down in indefinite pronouns. And then there were the four novels to go through with your children this semester, but it’s become clear that they’ll be lucky to finish the second one.

There can be many reasons for this. Illness and life events can sometimes muscle out school responsibilities. Planned assignments take longer than anticipated. Teens struggle to stay on schedule. The reasons are legion! In this article, we’ll discuss what to do if your teen falls behind in his or her daily schedule.

1. Utilize Breaks

Most homeschooling families have generous breaks structured into their school year. Catholic families may have even more due to the liturgical calendar. In addition to spring break and winter break, there will be additional time off for Holy Days, such as Ash Wednesday or All Saints Day. Then, of course, there is summer break.

In general, I do not advocate filling breaks with work. After all, that defeats the purpose of a break. However, if your child is chronically behind, the break is an excellent time to slow things down, examine what’s going wrong, and course-correct. Perhaps your child will want to use some of the breaks to catch up on coursework so he or she can finish the school year on time. Or, in more desperate dases, graduate on time.

Whether or not break time is used for catching up on school work, it is an ideal time to reassess your plan for the future.

2. Use Homeschool Connections’ Unlimited Access

One of your greatest resources if your child falls behind is Homeschool Connections’ Unlimted Access library of over 450 recorded courses (asynchronous). Because of its great flexibility, Unlimited Access is ideal for people in a time crunch. Most HSC recorded classes are “click n’ go.” That is, they require little planning on the part of the parents.  Visit our website to learn more about Unlimited Access; also, take a look at our article on the benefits of incorporating recorded courses into your homeschool.

With asynchronous courses, you can move at your desired pace. Plus, courses are available 24/7/365.

3. Block Scheduling

Your child’s problem may be that they are simply working with too many subjects. If you need to free up time, try block scheduling. This is where you use a rotating schedule where you spend more time each day on fewer subjects. For example, suppose your son has seven one-hour classes: math, literature, Spanish, geography, music, history, and civics. He is doing all seven of these courses daily, but has been falling behind in math and Spanish, but especially in math. You might want to do a block schedule where instead of seven one-hour classes five days a week, he spends Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays doing math for three hours and then spends the remaining four hours on his other subjects minus Spanish. Then, on Tuesday and Thursday, he spends three hours on Spanish and the remaining four hours on his other subjects minus math.

This gives the student much more time on any given day to devote to the subject he is struggling with. Because he is taking five classes instead of seven, it may be more manageable.

Another version of block scheduling is to focus on three or four subjects at a time, finishing each one more quickly and then moving on to the next. For example, using Unlimited Access, my son completed 28 weeks of high school biology in just eight weeks. Then, he moved on to another subject. For him, hyperfocusing on just a few subjects at a time worked best.

4. Make a Written Plan

I always maintained a written plan for my children’s homeschool schedules. At the beginning of the semester, I would create a chart listing all the subjects and map out what needed to be done weekly and daily. The plan would also lay out how many lessons the child had to complete each week or day to stay on track to finish on time.

If your child is falling behind, you should consider doing something similar. First, talk with your child to find out exactly where they are behind and why. You want to know particulars, e.g., “Looks like we’d planned for you to be in Chapter 26 in science, but you’re only in Chapter 21, so we need to make up five lessons in the next four weeks.”

Once you realize what kind of backlog you are dealing with, devise a plan with your child to address it. Write it down, perhaps as a checklist, where tasks can be crossed off as they are completed to maintain momentum. Besides helping you stay organized, there is some interesting science behind the idea that writing goals down is key to fulfilling them.

Once you have your plan in place, follow up with your child weekly to monitor their progress and adjust if needed.

5. Revisit Your Scope and Sequence

A scope is the depth and breadth of content to be taught, and a sequence is the order in which the content is to be taught. In other words, a scope and sequence are a plan for what and when to teach specific subjects and courses.

Most homeschooling parents looking for scope and sequence are essentially trying to figure out which classes they will teach in which years and how these are woven together in the big-picture tapestry of their high schooler’s education. It is to ask questions like “How much math do we need to get through before graduation?” “What semester will we cover U.S. government?” “Will my student’s curriculum focus on Humanities, STEM, or both?”

Habitual problems with keeping up may indicate that your scope and sequence are too cluttered or need revision. If you would like help in creating a scope and sequence, Homeschool Connections has some very helpful resources to design your own, along with samples.

6. Are They Really Behind?

Before you assume that your child is backed up, you might want to step back and ask if he or she is even really behind. Homeschooling is all about customizing educational opportunities to fit your family’s vision. Before you start adjusting scopes and sequences or putting your child to work through summer break, you probably want to ask yourself, “Is my child even truly behind? According to what standard?” Upon reflection, we may discover that our standards are pretty arbitrary.

For example, your son may be behind in his grammar workbook—the book has fifty lessons he was supposed to finish by May 15, but it’s May 1, and he’s only to lesson 33. That’s behind, right? Maybe, but maybe not. Ask yourself, “Behind according to what?” If he wants to finish the book by May. But why does he need to finish the book by May 15? Is May 15 just an arbitrary deadline that you set because that’s when you’d like to wrap up homeschooling? If so, why not just extend the homeschool year simply be extended by two weeks?

Or, conversely, just let him be done on May 15, no matter where he is in the book. If your goal was to have your son study two semesters of grammar—and if he did—then who cares whether he finishes the book? When May 15 comes, call it a day, whether he’s finished the book or not.

As someone whose husband works in public education, I can tell you that they rarely “finish the book” in site-based schools. In fact, most public schools consider a course completed if 75% to 80% of the textbook is covered.

Obviously, there will be times when certain content simply has to be covered, such as in math or foreign language, where the student cannot advance until certain concepts have been mastered. The point is not that your schedule doesn’t matter—it certainly does—but that you should reflect on the rationale behind your schedule before you get worked up about deviations from it.

7. Relax and Don’t Stress

Finally, whatever is going on, relax. When things don’t go as planned, we tend to feel like we have failed. Seeing our child struggle with a subject may even cause us to question our decision to homeschool. Don’t! It’s normal for children to get behind, and it doesn’t necessarily say anything about your own aptitude.

The critical thing to remember is that emotions are contagious. If you act like it’s a big deal, your child is behind, then they will act like it’s a big deal. They are likely already stressed from the backlog, so it will only compound the problem if you act stressed. So, relax!

If your child falls behind before you do anything, take a day off entirely—go to the beach, take a day trip to the countryside, or just lay around the house and do nothing. Clear your mind and let them mentally step back from their work before you start discussing interventions.


Also, if you think you need professional help, consider getting a homeschooling accountability mentor to guide you in crafting a homeschooling regimen suitable for your family. When one of my own children fell so behind, I wasn’t sure if he’d graduate on time, an accountability mentor helped us get it together and get back on track!

If you’d like to continue the discussion or share how your homeschool tips, I invite you to join me and other parents at our Catholic Homeschool Connections Community or our Facebook group.

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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