“Ask a NextGen Homeschooler” is your turn to ask our authors — formerly homeschooled moms who are now homeschooling our children — to weigh in on your homeschooling questions. We welcome all of your questions, whether you’re looking for practical tips or support and encouragement!
This week’s question was brought up in a discussion with a first-year homeschool mom:
I feel like the end of this school year is coming much faster that I want it to, and I’m worried that I need to finish every textbook and lesson from the curriculum that we’re using right now. I don’t want to rush through it, and I’m also fairly certain I’ll be making some curriculum changes going forward. Can I start something new or start the school year fresh without completing everything in the curriculum we have now? Must I finish every textbook?
Today my sister-in-law Rosanna Ward and I will share our take on this topic:
NextGen Homeschool Author Rosanna Ward
Was homeschooled since 8th grade
Began homeschooling in 2005
Two homeschool graduate daughters, two sons ages 9 & 3
In a word, no. For one thing, public school classrooms rarely finish a whole textbook. The beginning of the school year is spent reviewing what the students learned or were supposed to learn the year before, and the end of the year is spent trying to hit the high points in the short time left before summer break.
As a homeschool teacher, you get to decide how much of a textbook your children should finish. My daughters did not enjoy science at all, and several years in a row, we were coming close to the end of a year with only two-thirds of their science textbooks finished. At that point, I searched through and cherry picked what I thought was important for them to learn. I did this by looking at the scope and sequence of what they needed to learn and talking to them about what they already knew. Then I went through the rest of the book and chose which chapters they needed to finish, which experiments they needed to do, etc.
Personally, I enjoy history, so we usually get through our history curriculum. However, this year I feel like we hurried through some really fun units so that we could stay “on track” with the lesson plan to be done with our Story of the World curriculum by the end of the school year. What I should have done is spent the extra time on the fun units and skipped some of the more boring chapters.
Many homeschoolers don’t use textbooks at all: They use a combination of living books and other resources to teach subjects such as history and science. Ultimately, the most important thing is making sure your children learn the things they need to know to get to where they want to go.
So don’t feel pressured to finish a complete textbook by the end of the school year, or to finish every assignment in your curriculum’s lesson plan. If you feel like your child should cover all the information at the end of a particular textbook, you can teach them through the summer or start with that textbook again in the fall. It is much more important to spend time making sure they understand what they have learned and enjoying the learning process than finishing a book by a certain day on the calendar.
NextGen Homeschool Editor Renée Gotcher
Was homeschooled in 11-12th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010
Three daughters ages 13, 11 and 6
I remember feeling exactly the same way in the spring of our first homeschooling year. We had been using My Father’s World, and although I really loved the books that came in the boxed package, my daughters and I desired a more integrated learning experience than the suggested lesson plan offered. So we had supplemented with lots of additional reading, movies, projects, and field trips — and I found myself quite “behind” when it came to finishing all of the provided material.
After talking to my husband, my sister-in-law, and supportive homeschooling mama friends, I realized I didn’t have a clear homeschooling “mission” for our family. Was our goal to replicate traditional classroom school at home? What was more important: Checking off boxes on a to-do list from a curriculum publisher or encouraging my daughters to think outside the box and develop a love for learning? Why are we homeschooling in the first place?
After much prayer, discussion with my husband, and seeking God’s word for wisdom, we developed a clear mission statement for our family’s homeschool. Against this new mission statement, the answer to my dilemma was quite clear: No, I don’t need to finish all this material for the sake of “finishing” the school year.
A traditional school approach is not our standard, and neither is the lesson plan of any particular curriculum publisher — or the pace and process of other homeschooling families we know. And I don’t think these external influences should limit you, either.
As 20-year homeschooling veteran Lori Lane recently shared with our homeschool group:
“God is an out-of-the-box Creator: Give yourself permission to homeschool outside the box. I give you permission to tear the box open and let yourself out.” — Lori Lane, Artios Academies
Even though we’ve been homeschooling for four years now, and I’m very happy with the curriculum we’re using as the “spine” to our homeschooling, it was encouraging to hear these words from a homeschool veteran who’s been in our shoes and found freedom and success in her homeschooling journey. I find that at this time of year, I do need to remind myself that our “why” is more important than “how” we homeschool. So I give YOU permission to tear the box open, let yourself out, discover your family’s why, and make decisions that support your mission!
Do you feel compelled to check off every to-do in your curriculum’s lesson plan? Are you worried about “finishing” your curriculum before the planned end to your homeschool year? Have you ever felt the need to make changes before the school year or curriculum package was completed? What changes have you made that have turned things around for you and your children?