How to Get Through More Content When You're "Behind"
Monday, 26 April 2021

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When I taught fifth grade in a Christian school, we rarely finished a textbook in a year. Teachers deal with interruptions all the time: two-hour delays, wasps in the classroom, special assemblies, lice checks, field trips, behavior issues, holiday parties, and vomit, to name a few. And then there's the pace. Some students need more assistance and review than others. Teachers do what they can, but when the school year is done, it is done.

This year our homeschool was slowed down by a month of strep throat, followed soon after three weeks of helping me get back on my feet (literally) after my back went out. Then we had the holidays followed by a bout of COVID. Oh yes, and my husband had to go to the hospital and miss a week of work because he got strep in his toe. I kid you not. Life happens. I'm sure you have crazy stories too.

It's good to cover as much of the material as you can, but what do you do when it takes 100 days to get through 75 lessons? Do you just stop wherever you are when you hit 180 days? Here are some practical tips for helping students in upper elementary or secondary grades get through more of the curriculum with the time you have left.



Skip some assignments.

If your child needs the basics, skip the extra projects, crafts, and activities. If your child understands the content well, focus on the creative writing or the experiment instead of the regular lesson. Adjust the amount of review to meet your child's needs. You should be able to finish more lessons if you cut out some assignments. But remember, the hands-on learning and application of skills are in those ex-tra lessons. Be sure to pick and choose what works for you.

Since we focused on writing in English, I have been cutting out the writing projects in literature and only assigning about half of the history essays. The textbook authors have included a wide variety of resources. The edition of physical science that we're using this year includes 42 labs! The authors never intended for students to do every single thing. Just know that you will be missing some opportu-nities to develop critical thinking if you cut too much too often.

Set a reasonable schedule.

Our current goal is to get showers, Bible reading, and breakfast by 9 am in our house. My high schooler works for about one hour each day in each of the following subjects: English/literature, sci-ence, history, math, and Spanish. He can complete his Bible class in about a half-hour. When I add in a half-hour for lunch, that means he should ideally be wrapping up by mid-afternoon each day. The amount of time per subject will be lower for younger children, but my 6th grader finishes his eight subjects in about the same amount of time each day.

Train your child to focus and work during the time allotted for each subject. If he finishes one lesson and still has time left, he can start the next one. For example, my son tries to at least start a second lesson in algebra each day. When the time is up, he can put that subject away for the day. Let your child move his body for a few minutes, get a drink, or grab a snack. He can pick up tomorrow where he left off.

You might want to set a timer at first until your child gets used to the routine. I use alarms on my phone for school bells when we need to get back on track. This keeps our school days productive but not too long. We usually want to dedicate time to make significant progress and save time for other important pursuits like instrument practice, hobbies, and family time. If you're really behind, you may need to suspend some extra-curricular activities while you focus on getting school back in order.

Combine some lessons.

The first lessons in a chapter will be the easiest. You may be able to combine a couple of those lessons if you want to move along. Parent-led mamas, did you know that you can assign just the evens or the odds in math class? When there's an easy, short lesson, get started on the next one and reduce the amount of seatwork for both lessons.

When we finish up some classes for the year, we often use that time to double up on other subjects. It looks like English/lit, algebra, and Bible will be done first this year. When they are finished, we can do two lessons each of Spanish, science, and history daily.

Assign additional work.

I usually confine our homeschooling to a typical public-school timetable. However, when we want to move through the curriculum more quickly, assigning some additional work can move things along. Reading the literature selection the night before can be enjoyable, and it shortens the lesson during school the next day. Science labs are terrific for weekends. Research and writing assignments could be moved to the evenings. Consider adding a short study period (using the study skills you've taught him) to your child's schedule to complete a little more of each lesson or to start an extra lesson in one subject every day.

Use alternative assessments.

Many subjects have a chapter review page that helps your child prepare for the test. If your child demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the content, skip the test. You can use the chapter review if you need to have a grade.

Survey the chapters you don't finish.

If you just can't get to the last couple of chapters in science or heritage studies at the end of the year, try this trick from one of our video course teachers. Instead of completing the work, go straight to the test and tell your child it's a scavenger hunt. Don't grade it. Just have him look through the chapter to find the answers. This will give your child an overview of the most important information from the chapter.

Employ "Emergency Mode."

There are times when we're just trying to survive it all. At the end of a year, I have done things I would never recommend as normal practice. My son finished a literature book by just reading the last few selections (no written work, quizzes, or tests). You could choose to do videos only in one subject for a short time or bookwork only. The modification will depend on the course. Math and reading are obviously best suited to bookwork, but you could choose videos or bookwork for science and heritage studies. Again, this is not good for your child long-term, but it might help you get through a difficult season.

Consider year-round schooling.

Even though I am making adjustments like those listed above, we will still be doing school in June this year. Since I don't want school to be push, push, push all the time, I may schedule a field trip to boost morale, a family vacation, a friend day, or time off from school to accomplish other things.

Diligence is necessary to accomplish what we set out to do, but rest and refreshment are also im-portant. I usually start school pretty early in August to avoid getting into this situation, so this summer will look a lot like year-round schooling. A few well-planned breaks will help us be more productive each time we get back to the books.

Finally…

When life happens, even veteran homeschoolers can get "behind" in courses. I am not encouraging you to do as little as you can. Instead, I am suggesting ways you can get through as much of the cur-riculum as possible. Make sure you slow down when your child needs it. Then shorten, combine, and skip the parts of lessons that aren't as necessary so that you can get through more material.

And finally, find out how much you are required to complete. Some states require 80% completion of the content listed on your individualized home instruction plan, while others do not check completion at all. Contact the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA.org) to find the specific legal re-quirements for homeschooling where you live. If you need further assistance, feel free to contact one of our experienced homeschool consultants at www.homeschoolhelp.com/map.

Meet the Author


Jennifer Lont - HomeWorks by Precept Consultant
www.homeworksbyprecept.com/Jennifer-Lont