Life Happens and Homeschool Takes the Backseat
It has happened to most homeschool families. A well planned year with a carefully chosen curriculum is negatively impacted by distracting circumstances or tragedy:
- a death in the family
- a new baby
- a major move or job change
- a long illness or hospitilaztion
After a few weeks or even months of these problems, and you can find yourself saying, "We are so behind in homeschool!"
The guilt starts to set in. Later the guilt can turn to panic when you honestly look at how far you've missed the mark of your original plans.
You start getting crazy plans:
- cramming in three math lessons a day for the next eight weeks
- taking a speedy view of the entire Middle Ages in just one week instead of the four weeks you originally wanted
- skipping all art, music, and outdoor play until you're caught up
- leaving out all hands-on projects and games in favor of the bare bones academics
You may even question the entire homeschool venture and think, "If my children were in public school, they would not be behind. I am a failure. I am a terrible homeschool mom."
Two Images to Free You from the Guilt and Panic
Here are two messages, conveyed through photos, to reassure you. Look carefully at the heading of each photo. Keep reading for more explanation of the images.
1. You Don't Have to Look Like This (the Classroom)
2. You are Not a Slave to This
HOME School is Flexible -- YOU Are in Charge
Homeschool is not transplanting the classroom experience and environment into your home.
You are the teacher, mom. You can make the decisions about what, when, and how to teach your children.
So you can't truly be behind.
Yes, you made a plan. You were diligent to organize your lessons and make goals for the term or the year. But life interrupted. Don't accept the guilt or panic. Instead, get productive.
RE-plan for where you are NOW.
Don't even try to "catch-up." Just keep working forward.
If you're worried about your child not finishing her fourth grade work by the end of her "fourth grade year," let it go. Grades are actually very fluid in what is required. There is so much repetition and review that in many ways, the curricula of consecutive grades are almost indistinguishable from each other.
Don't be tempted to cram in unrealistic amounts of work to catch up. You will only frustrate your children and yourself.
Do consider what is truly essential to cover. If there is fluff that you can omit without making your homeschool dull and lifeless, go head and nix it. But don't go so far in the extreme that homeschool becomes a drudgery. Continue to do the fun things you did before the time crunch.
My own story
We dealt with many moves during my daughter's third grade year. Living out of suitcases for months at a time, homeschool was almody impossible to accomplish. I did the best we could, but once we were in a stable situation again, we had lost about 6 months of school.
I chose to simply continue with where we left off. The curriculum I chose for third grade carried us on into part of fourth grade. In fact, my plans for third and fourth grades actually stretched over third, fourth, and fifth grades. Did it matter? No, not at all. My daughter was consistently learning. As she matured, I required her to take the material a level deeper to stay in keeping with her abilities.
Those six months did not harm her dramatically in her academic abilities. In fact, she learned a lot of invaluable lessons that her curriculum could never teach her.
Another Question for You
Getting and Staying Organized
Sometimes we are behind because of our own lack of organization or discipline. If that is the case, a homeschool planner may be helpful. Here are three options to get your curriculum, field trips, goals, and resources in tidy order so you can stay on track.
Planners For Keeping Organized
- Homeschool Planner by Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations
Weekly Homeschool Planner that will help you organize your school day and record daily learning ~ year after year. Fully editable pdf that can be saved to your computer and used year after year.
- The Homeschool Planner
Over 50 different printable sheets to create your own individualized planning notebook.
More Moms Speak Out About Getting Behind
- Getting Behind? by Lani Carey - The HomeSchool Flame
Another new year, so full of possibilities. We have so much to look forward to, and yet in January most of what we counselors hear is, "I need help - we are SO BEHIND."
- How to recover from Disturbed Schooling
Nadene from Practical Pages blog recommends Spot, Skip, & Speed when school is disturbed by life's problems.
Mak on November 21, 2018:
I’m being homeschooled and recently with all the stuff going on my school has been placed on the back burner. I was so tempted just to cheat on everything to get through my 2 months of school that I lost, but reading this made me see that there’s really no huge deal. I still have around 7 months to finish at the same pace as regular school, but even if I don’t finish by then, it’s my own schedule. Not the public schools. Thank you
Z King on August 06, 2017:
I'm actually 2 years behind in school. My younger brother ended up getting cancer and we had to put school on hold. I was 10th at the time and I still am. I'm probably more caught up now than I was 2 years ago because I never really touched my math because of how hard I found it but now though....I look at it and I'm like: "How could I think this was hard?" It's easier now. I guess taking a few years off- not by choice- had helped. But I still feel behind because my class has already graduated and I wasn't one of them...:( which did and still does kinda make me sad and disappointed but then I remember that life is so unexpected and you can't do anything about it.
Love this article and thank you for posting it. :)
hopdrop on December 07, 2014:
did not work
David Steffy from Southern Ohio on January 31, 2013:
I'm going to get my wife to read this one. We went through many situations like this and have come to grips with it. Three of our children had some form of binocular dysfunction. Our oldest took nine months of therapy (EVERYDAY) which we did at home... Needless to say our homeschooling suffered. We had to do all of his learning auditory during most of this time. The lady who professionally does the homeschooling evaluations, curriculum consultant, and helps with learning issues told us that our other children would catch up but that our oldest was the one in need and to focus on him. We did this and he has really progressed. He is also quite the musician now, especially with the banjo and guitar. You can see him here.
He would have been considered a mentally challenged or "dunce" student in the public school system because his condition caused him to loose the ability to comprehend what he was reading even though he could read perfectly for short periods of time.
Columba Smith from California on July 24, 2012:
Thanks for the encouraging hub! It's late July and we're still finished up the most disrupted school year we've ever had. One of my children was diagnosed with type 1 (autoimmune) diabetes last August, and we got really behind. I bought Switched On Schoolhouse and ditched my elaborate classical plans for the year. It's worked pretty well. Keeping up gets a little more challenging with two kids in high school and the third going into 7th.
Familyof7 from Illinois on June 22, 2012:
Great article! We went through those motions of trying to recreate the classroom from public school to our home for to help our boys adjust. All that did was cause conflicts. After many websites and a half of a bottle of Advil, we erased the classroom and discovered kitchen table learning, as well as flopping on the couch. Love the planner idea because we even invested in the teacher planner and that was too confusing for us.
cha cha on March 13, 2012:
i think every organization involving our children nears and overseer component. Homeschooling does not seem to have one and it is much needed. I know kids that are not being taught.
explorer742 on March 03, 2012:
What about the children ? Long term, do they learn its ok to be behind, we'll catch up later. Or they learn, we dropped the ball, don't worry about it we'll get another ball. My Ex has homeschooled my son his whole life. we went to church and in his 3rd grade Sunday School class, he cried because he was so ashamed, he read like a 1st grader while everyone else read well. We or I, had him tutored our whole summer. How is his life ?
Anxiousmomof3 on January 10, 2012:
I am soooo glad that I happened to find your page! I found out at the beginning of Nov. 2011 that we are pregnant! We have a soon to be 12 yr old and a 9 yr old. I myself just turned 40 in Oct. and this baby I must say is a SHOCK! :D Anyway, I began to get very sick, to where I was not able to keep anything down, which made schooling very hard! Needless to say, we have not done school in about 2 1/2 months! I was thinking of doing the double schooling each day for the next 2 months, but our children WOULD NOT be happy! Thank You for the reassurance of just letting go and letting God! :) We will be trying to start up again this week. Thank You again!
HQ on July 19, 2011:
I think it is fine to reassure yourself as long as you work on catching up your homeschooled students to the place that they are at least equal academically to the average brick and mortar school contemporaries.
It does bother me though when I see home educated children who are FAR behind their peers who are fully capable of learning and whose parents are rationalizing not teaching. When a parent deals with a crisis or long term depression, they need to honestly evaluate whether their child would be better served in a traditional school setting.
When you homeschool, IT IS YOUR JOB. Most jobs don't tolerate people slacking off for months at a time. You'd be fired.
I homeschool myself and have continued to homeschool through personal tragedy. Yes, we took time off, but then we got back in and finished up our year. If I had not been able to do that, I could not have *honestly* promoted them to the next grade and considered our school year over. I could not *honestly* claim to be homeSCHOOLing them, just letting them stay home with mom. Staying home with mom is great, but it isn't homeschooling; it is staying home with mom. If that were the case, then my kids would be better served by being in a school where someone was taking the initiative to teach, rather than with a parent who is rationalizing their lack of education.
kirsteno on May 13, 2011:
I totally agree! Life happens sometimes and we're teaching life not just books. Thanks for bringing it into focus!
Columba Smith from California on May 06, 2011:
Great article! As the saying goes, homeschooling works, even when it doesn't. Having homeschooled these past 11 years, I've found that the overall effect is well-educated kids who think outside the box. I always think we're behind, but I'm learning to keep it in perspective.
Now, what really gets us behind is when I spend too much time writing hubs, lol!
Jimmie Quick (author) from Memphis, TN USA on April 22, 2011:
Dana, I am so glad this article reassured you. You may feel behind, but if your child were in public school, he would be struggling with loads of make up work on top of his physical recovery. What a blessing to be able to homeschool during this stressful time.
DanaC on April 21, 2011:
Thank you! Have been feeling a little lost. This was our first year homeschooling. We suffered a sudden tragic death the week before christmas that had us traveling between Utah and CA three times in two months. Once we thought we could start on track again my son suffered a bike accident, we are now awaiting surgery #4 at the beg. of May. I have spent this week trying to figure out a way for him to finish up his sixth grade year. It's posts like this that help me!
Bethany Culpepper on April 01, 2011:
Great reminder that the reason you homeschool is so you can set their own pace. I like structure so it still bothers me if we don't get stuff done, but we also have all summer to work on things.
Catherine on February 28, 2011:
Last year was my first year homeschooling, and I was concerned I wouldn't finish a certain text before the end of June. I had a seasoned homeschooler gently remind me that it was homeschool, and I was free to complete it on OUR schedule. It was at that moment that it dawned on me.. I was still being slavish to the public school ideal and calendar! We did finish the course with no problems, but I also relaxed, considerably.
Evelyn Saenz from Vermont on February 28, 2011:
The year that I was pregnant with my youngest it seemed that all we did was read aloud. I read hundreds of books to my older two. It seemed all I was capable of that year. It got me pretty worried.
Since then, however, I have wondered if that contributed to my children's vocabulary levels and desire to read. My children gained an amazing amount of information that year, even if we did nothing but read.
Nadene on February 28, 2011:
So true, Jimmie! Thanks for such encouraging points. Twice I have spread a 12 month curriculum over 18 months and those years have been the most wonderful years.
Children plateau through their growth anyway, and so when they seem behind in an area, they may suddenly catch up in just a few weeks naturally.
I must admit that my children complain because they don't know exactly what grade they are in! I tell them approximately, but it seems important to them, so I guage their maths and literacy levels for this purpose.
For the rest - life and education is a journey and we can never keep strictly to those boxes, so now I don't plan it that way! My plans are focused on outcomes, rather than on specific times and dates.
alex on February 15, 2011:
great article! thanks for letting me know through tagfoot. I shared it on my blog's facebook page on a homeschool board I visit regularly.
We've gone through 2 moves, and very likely another in the near future, and also a death in the family. Remembering that homeschooling is flexible is key to not feeling overwhelmed when we're a little "behind"!
Jimmie Quick (author) from Memphis, TN USA on February 15, 2011:
Absolutely, Ada! I'm so glad you came to grips with "being behind" and came up with a new perspective.
Ada on February 15, 2011:
I sort of went through this - up until Thanksgiving as my son's fine motor skills and disabilities caught up with him and made it harder and harder to "keep up." I did a couple of things starting with deciding that what I was doing was going to have to be enough. Who says you have to do Ancient History in one year - so I gave myself permission to to do it in a year and a half or even two years. Then I taught my son typing to help with the fine motor skills. It is enough and ds is writing compositions and stories like you wouldn't believe!
The great thing about hs is that we really are in charge of the tempo and tone. No one person or even curriculum has or should have permission to decide what you teach your child.
Thanks for this reminder Jimmie.
Sam from Tennessee on February 14, 2011:
voted up and useful! Well written and informative. Challenging for those who tend to give up and quite too soon...