I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

5 Tips for Finishing Strong When You Feel Behind

Written by Jessica.

Unless you homeschool year round, you're probably heading into the last month of the school year. Maybe you feel relieved. Perhaps you feel nostalgic and want to soak up every last minute because your kids won’t ever be these ages and these grades again. Or maybe you feel a teensy bit anxious because you are behind and are not sure that you can get through all the material you have left in the remaining few weeks of school.

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Falling behind in homeschooling can happen to any of us. It can be the result of major things like moving, having a baby, completing an adoption, or an unexpected serious health issue. It can be the result of smaller things like repeated sicknesses, getting a new pet, a household emergency, or the job change of a spouse. Sometimes, it’s just because of the reality of everyday life. There are many reasons that any parent can fall behind in homeschooling.

If “behind” is where you find yourself right now, here are a few ideas to help you catch up and make the most of the remaining months of the school year:

Eliminate repetition

In curriculum that spirals, where concepts are presented a little further in depth at each grade level, you can easily identify repetitious content. This is often the case in subjects like math or grammar. For example, in the math curriculum that we use, the first chapter or two lightly reviews some of last year’s concepts, while the last couple of chapters introduce new concepts that will be taught again in the following grade.

I do like to use the first chapters as a way of gently easing back into school in the fall, but I never mind if we don’t get to the last chapters in June because I know those concepts will be covered in greater depth in the following grade.

Likewise, the math curriculum we use has a lot of built-in review: both in the daily lessons themselves and at the end of each chapter in the form of chapter reviews and cumulative review. At some grade levels, there is even a whole last chapter designated for cumulative review.

Obviously, review is helpful, especially for the strong math student who is chugging along right on track. But if you or your child have fallen far behind and need to gain some ground, eliminating review problems, review pages, or repetitious chapters might be necessary to get back on track.

You don’t have to do it all

Remember that the curriculum you are using for any subject is a guide for that school year – but you don’t have to do every single thing. Now, don’t get me wrong, you do want to cover most of your intended curriculum for each subject. If not, your child may not have learned all that he or she should have for that grade level, and that can cause him or her to be behind in the next school year. But, that doesn’t mean that you have to complete every single problem, question, or lesson in every single chapter.

Part of the beauty of homeschooling is being able to customize learning for your child. This component of homeschooling can also help you to catch up when you have fallen behind. Can your child already spell the week’s spelling words on the day you introduce them? If so, either move on to the next week’s words or reduce the number of days that he spends working with those words. 

Does your child have a natural knack for multiplication? Help with directions and give lots of feedback afterward, but let your child work independently on some pages if he wants and is able to so that you can work with a child who needs more assistance. 

Did your child already master types of sentences in grammar last school year? If so, skip the whole section on sentence types in grammar this year, or just cover it in an abbreviated way, so that she can move on more quickly to new content. 

In other words, there is no need to check every box just for the sake of checking it, especially if your student is already proficient in certain concepts or topics. When you have fallen far behind, take advantage of any place where you can skip ahead so that you can pick up the pace.

Just read it

In subjects like history and science, many homeschoolers use programs that combine a main spine for reading aloud, additional living literature selections to bring the topics to life, some kind of narration or note-taking work, and hands-on activities. The hands-on activities are the things that most kids love and that best help them to connect to what is being taught. There need not be any shame, however, in “just” reading.

Reading or listening while being read to is learning, too. If you have really fallen behind in subjects like history or science, try just reading to your kids for a couple or a few weeks. (I did this with our history program this school year). You might even find that you are able to catch up to the point where you can start doing some of the fun extras again. 

Alternatively, if you still want to involve activities or experiments, you could still do so but just simplifying the process. Written work like narrations, note-taking, and lab worksheets are places where it’s easy to get bogged down. If you were to eliminate the written work and “just” discuss what you did, would that also help you to you catch up? Reading, listening, and speaking are all important language arts skills. Practicing those skills more than hands-on and written work for a period of time is another way you can get caught up when you’ve fallen behind.

Re-evaluate the extras

As a former classroom teacher, I am sometimes surprised by the number of subjects and activities that I read about homeschoolers trying to cram into their weeks. An area that really jumps out at me is the “extra” subjects like art, music, physical education, etc. 

When I taught in the classroom, students in my school had two “extra” subjects a day and these were on a rotating schedule. It worked out that they’d attend each extra subject either once or twice a week. With classes lasting forty minutes in total, this meant that the students would have those extra classes for, at most, forty or eighty minutes each week.

I read about many homeschooling moms trying to do so much and then feeling burnt out or falling behind. Are your children getting about an hour each week in subjects like art, music, physical education, etc.? If so, they are probably getting a comparable experience to kids in traditional schools. If they are getting much, much more than that (and so many homeschooled children are), that is wonderful! But scaling back on time allotted for extra subjects is one way to gain some margin in your week in order to work on other subjects that have fallen behind.

Change up your school week

Now, it could be just the opposite! What if you are doing a great job getting through all of the main subjects, but it’s things like art, music, physical education, and so forth that you have fallen behind on? One way to carve out time for those subjects is to change up your school week.

If you are already on track with all of your main subjects, you could try doing those subjects with a 4-day week schedule. (I find that we can do this for all subjects but math). Designate your Fridays for all those “extra” subjects, fun things, life skills, or whatever else that you are behind on or would like to do more of. By allotting a whole day for those things, rather than hoping to get to them at the end of the school day and never actually doing so consistently, you can better focus on those subjects and therefore catch up more quickly.

Final thought

Sometimes we can fall behind in homeschooling not because of life circumstances, but because the curriculum that we’re using isn’t a good fit. There are a lot of curricula out there that are highly ambitious – I see this especially in Christian curricula. Rigorous and challenging material is good, but not if it has a family so overwhelmed trying to check the boxes that it zaps the joy out of learning.

Or, maybe it’s not the depth or amount of work involved in completing it, maybe the curriculum just plain isn’t a good fit. There have been three subjects in my own homeschool this school year that I kept dragging my feet on doing because I’m not happy with the material, and consequently we kept falling behind. If you have curriculum that is causing you to fall behind, whether because it’s just too much to realistically complete or because it’s not the right fit, it’s not too soon before the next school year to begin looking into alternatives. (Keep these few tips in mind when choosing something new and remember not to carry any curriculum guilt when you decide to go another way.)


  1. Thank you for this. I will be sharing with my homeschool group. If curriculum is an issue or uncertainty, I highly recommend "Love the Journey" by Marcia Somerville. It helps you, with grace, choose the type of curriculum that fit you and your family for now!

    1. Hmmm...I've not heard of that book. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on it so that I can add it to my list of suggestions for newbies. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Despite my best efforts, I fell below my friends, which put much pressure on me. I feel more driven now that I've read this essay. I appreciate your sharing!