Spring Dilemma: Must We Finish Curriculum?

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With the joy and sunshine of spring comes this very familiar reader question each year:

“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. Do we need to finish curriculum by summer? Can I start something new even if we don’t finish curriculum we have now?”   

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.

Must We Finish Curriculum?

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 and founder of The End in Mind blog 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.” 

Even though I’m very happy with the curriculum we’re using now (Trail Guide to Learning) 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 being able to finish curriculum before the planned end to your homeschool year? Have you ever felt the need to make changes before a curriculum package was completed? How did you turn things around for you and your children?

Renée Gotcher is a wife, writer, editorial consultant, and home-educating mother of three daughters. She has been married for 26 years to her best friend Kenny, whom she met while attending Oral Roberts University in the early 90s. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. A former journalist, she is currently editor of NextGen Homeschool and blogs on personal topics at A New Chapter. Her family lives in Castle Rock, Colorado.

6 thoughts on “Spring Dilemma: Must We Finish Curriculum?

  1. I’m in this boat right now! We’re a little “behind” in a couple of books. It’s math and phonics so I hate not to have her finish before the end. Will she miss learning concepts if we don’t finish and then start on the next grade level next school year?

    1. Hi Gaye! Thank you for sharing: You’re definitely not alone. Many homeschoolers find themselves in this boat at this time of year.

      The important thing is not to feel rushed to finish books “on schedule” when the subjects are important, and not feel compelled to complete every page if it’s not important. We don’t have to follow a traditional school schedule, so there’s freedom to finish a book on your daughter’s pace – not just to finish a grade and move onto the next book. Enjoying the learning process and mastering important skills is much more important that keeping pace with a schedule that you don’t have to follow.

      I encourage you to work at her pace to finish those key subjects and be ready to move on to the next level when she’s mastered the level she’s on now. You can also focus on these two subjects and take a break from others that aren’t skill-critical right now to give you both more time to focus, and use summer time for fun hands-on subjects like science, history, art, etc.

      Enjoy the rest of this school year without pressure to rush! 🙂

      1. Thank you for the encouragement. This is our first year so I have much to learn!

  2. Unless I finish a curriculum, my kid misses important information. This poor kid has never studied beyond the Renaissance or World War I. I’ve decided content is necessary, and we’re finishing the books in the fall. Just me.

    1. Hi Sharon! You’re absolutely right that you don’t want to create learning gaps by skipping important skills and valuable content. I’m not suggesting that you skip anything that’s core to your children’s overall education. However, I do think it’s important not to rush through for the sake of finishing a book by a certain time (like a traditional school year) or finish a curriculum that isn’t working for your student when you feel it’s necessary to try something different. I have lots of friends that used to teach in public schools who say they almost never finished textbooks by summer (usually about 2/3 completed) but students move up to the next grade anyway. With homeschooling, we can finish what’s important on our own schedule so there’s no learning gaps before they move up to the next level of material.

      Sounds like you’re planning to finish up in the fall so you have time to cover everything – that’s a great strategy! Enjoy the journey!

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