The weather is getting warmer, it feels like summer is just a stone’s throw away - but you may be looking ahead in your homeschool curriculum and realize there is a lot more to cover and you’re not sure how you will get through it all.
If there is only one tip we could give you, it would be to relax and be gentle with yourself. Life happens. It’s been a remarkably challenging year.
The beauty of homeschool is that you can adapt to life’s surprises. And a major benefit to homeschooling is that you and your child are on your own schedule and you’re always moving toward mastery - regardless of the day, month, or year.
If everyone is feeling exhausted and burned out from the homeschool curriculum, putting increased pressure on you or your children to “hurry up” can too often create negativity and resistance. Not what you envisioned for your homeschooling life and not an ideal environment for engaging your child in learning.
Remember, there is no imaginary ‘finish line.’ It doesn’t exist. Think about what makes the most sense for your family and your children and create a plan on how to wrap up the school year strong.
Below we’ve outlined 10 Tips for what to do if you’re starting to feel like you won’t be able to finish the curriculum in time for the end of the year. As a bonus, you can also grab a FREE PDF on fun ways to celebrate the end of your homeschooling year!
Tip #1: Prioritize the Skills You Have Left
Take a moment and look over what skills and lessons you have left. Go through your curriculum and look at all the lessons you haven’t gotten to yet. If it helps, write down the remaining skills so you can review them more easily and see how they may fit together. Prioritize the most important skills & concepts for your child. Take some time to see what you want your child to walk away from the school year knowing and what you want them to be exposed to. If your child is a kindergartner, download our free checklist for kindergarten skills. You can use this as a guide to gauge which skills are the priority.
Many homeschool curriculum end the year already beginning to work on skills that will show up for the next year or the next level. They may introduce a topic as an exposure unit but it’s not required for mastery during this grade level. Looking ahead to see what is left will help you not feel pressure to get it all in.
Tip #2: Skip Lessons
One more time: It is totally okay to skip lessons. You are not a bad mom. You are not failing your child. Most curriculum companies include more than you need to make sure you get plenty of value. In many cases it would be impossible to do it all. Even in traditional schools teachers and students rarely complete the entire curriculum. Look at your list of skills you have left and decide which ones can be skipped or held until next year.
Tip #3: Combine Lessons
Look at the list of lessons you have left to teach for the year and see if there are any skills that make sense to combine. Maybe there are two skills or concepts that go together really naturally or really beautifully. Put them together and knock out two things. Right now, it’s about exposing your child to material and information. And the most important value you are teaching them is how and where to get information when they need it, as well as how to think and reason.
Tip #4: Do fewer problems
Another tip is to do fewer problems on a problem set or lesson if you feel like your child is starting to get the hang of it. By doing this, you can move ahead more quickly. This allows you to fit in a few lessons a day instead of spending a long time on each one. If a lesson has you complete 10 problems to practice a skill or concept, think about completing only 5-8 problems.
Tip #5: Spend less time on lessons
It’s so important to pay attention to your child and their skills and strengths. There may be some lessons or concepts that your child picks up really quickly and therefore doesn’t need a full week of learning around it because it “clicked” right away. Don’t feel tied to follow the exact scope that the curriculum lays out for you, if you know your child understands the skill and is ready to move ahead.
Tip #6: Align Your Stopping Place With Next Year
Look ahead to next year's curriculum or the next leveled book in your curriculum. Oftentimes publishers or curriculum authors begin the next year reviewing material that was covered at the end of the previous year to set your child up for success. On top of this, they also expect children to forget information over the summer. This is called summer learning loss. When our brains stop practicing a skill we tend to forget it.
Usually the first month of a curriculum is designed to review the final concepts and the most important concepts from the year before. So take a look to see if where you’re stopping right now will line up appropriately with where you will start in the fall with your next curriculum or with the next level in your curriculum.
Tip #7: Choose A Few Lessons to Teach Over the Summer
You can always incorporate missed concepts or lessons over the summer in a much more relaxed way so it doesn’t feel so much like school. This may mean setting up just a few days a week where you are doing a lesson or making the lessons much shorter. You can use movies, books, or field trips to teach specific concepts or expand on concepts without having to sit at the kitchen table and pull out workbooks to do school.
You can also carry out summer lessons in a non-traditional way such as building them into games, activities, or play. Teaching lessons through games and activities is the heart of what we do at Thoughtful Play. We have a fun and relaxed Summer Curriculum designed to engage children ages 4-6 and sneak in additional practice on skills they’ve learned during the year.
Tip #8: Keep Math and Reading Skills Fresh Over the Summer
It’s a great idea to continue doing some math and reading activities over the summer to encourage practice and retention of the foundational skills they’ve learned. This is an important step to prevent summer learning loss. Regularly practicing and engaging with words and letters, as well as number facts and fluency, will set them up for success in the coming year and will help you jump feet first into the next level of a curriculum.
Tip #9: Embed learning into play
One of our favorite ways to sneak math and reading skills into the summer is to incorporate them into games and activities that you already play with your child. This may be tag or hide-and-seek or hopscotch. It could also be imaginative play time, board games and card games, or soccer and baseball. Put a spin on the game by incorporating numbers, letters, reading, or writing to help them engage with those concepts in an interactive, fun, and meaningful way.
Tip #10: Reimagine Your School Year Calendar
Remember, you have permission to adjust your concept of what your school year looks like and what that means for you. Your school year does not need to begin in September and end in May. You can take a break when your family is feeling exhausted and burned out. Take several weeks off, then pick back up again when it’s too hot to be outside and you’re ready to settle indoors for a bit. It’s entirely up to you.
Keep in mind that traditional schools are starting to adopt a similar approach of doing school year-round, but taking more frequent extended breaks throughout. This helps prevent learning loss and also recognizes that our current school year calendar is a bit outdated. It’s absolutely okay to take periodic breaks to let everyone relax and recharge. These breaks do not need to follow the traditional model. So go easy on yourself. Know that it’s completely up to you what your homeschooling journey looks like.
Ultimately, stop when you’re ready to stop. If you didn’t get to it, you didn’t get to it. And that’s okay.
Instilling a love of learning is the most important gift you can give to your child. Try to remember to take the pressure off of yourself and the pressure off of your child by rushing to finish your homeschool curriculum by a certain date. Learning is ongoing and is around us all the time - indoors or outdoors - wherever we go. If you can adopt the idea that there is no race that you’re actually running, it’s easier to realize that you're exactly where you’re supposed to be and you can easily help your child develop a love of learning.
If you’re interested in learning how we teach through play, activities, and hands-on learning rather than using workbooks or worksheets to do school, check out our Kindergarten Curriculum. Our homeschool curriculum does not include workbooks. The focus is on learning by doing with a whole lot of kinesthetic and multi sensory activities and games!
Click Here for a FREE PDF on ways you can celebrate the end of your homeschool year!
Enjoy and Play On,
Katie Eichman, M.Ed.