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Why We Don’t Make Up Work in Our Homeschool

By Shelley Sangrey

It’s that time of year again—when we homeschooling families tend to finish up what we’ve been working on and either take a break or begin preparing for a new year.

A common theme I’ve noticed perpetuating social media threads is that of “missed work.” I’ve seen many people posting about prolonging the year or homeschooling through the summer specifically to make up for missed work.

That, my friends, is never something you should fret about.

Let me tell you why.

Why I Don’t Worry About Falling Behind

Before I begin, I need to disclose that in our first homeschool year, I was the biggest worry wart when it came to this. Being a type-A, box-checking homeschool mom, I would panic if every single one of the lessons in my detailed planner wasn’t crossed off. At the time, that unfinished business just wasn’t an option.

I made sure that every single thing was completed before a new homeschool week would begin. If we needed to double up on assignments, that’s exactly what I did. I can’t count the number of times my children had to do school until 4 or 5 pm because of this. Sometimes we did school on weekends – even Sundays, I’m ashamed to say. (Thankfully, I never assigned homework. I developed quite an aversion to it when my kids were in public school. At least they got off easy there…)

By the end of the first year, I realized how ridiculous this was and how much joy it was sucking out of our homeschool, so I stopped being quite that strict about it.

Fast forward to this year, as we finish up our 9th year. Things couldn’t be any different.

Spending almost a decade homeschooling has offered me quite a bit of insight into true learning that I just didn’t have that first year. As with most people, I was just trying to replicate the school system, something that I now realize was a huge mistake.

What I’ve discerned is this:

Children learn more from everyday life experiences than they ever will from any curriculum. 

Kids really do learn best from real-life situations. From actual experiences that they can see, hear, and touch, and that actually have real meaning to them.I’ll admit, it hurts me to say that. I spend quite a bit of time and effort choosing curriculum, but let’s be honest here. How much do you remember from when you were in school? If you’re anything like me, probably not much. And that’s coming from someone who was once considered the cream of the crop.

This simply isn’t something that can be accomplished by a curriculum, no matter how good it is, because it will always feel somewhat contrived.

Am I right?

And those homeschool lessons that get missed? What’s a huge reason it happens in the first place?

Life gets in the way. Real life situations that they will learn from whether they fit into that school box or not.

In the long run, will it really matter that your kids only finished half of their science textbook? Will your children be permanently disadvantaged if you only made it to Lesson 100 in history?


On the other hand, will your children benefit from learning about real events that are happening right in front of them, or possibly, to them? Will they benefit from seeing how to handle things gracefully when a wrench gets thrown in their plans? Will situations that actually have a direct impact on them be a far greater teacher than you could ever be?

Children learn more from everyday life experiences than they ever will from any curriculum.

You bet.

That is why I don’t worry about missed work: because there is learning in everything, and life has more to offer than a curriculum.

So what should you do instead of making up the work?

When something foils your plans for the day, take it in stride and accept it. Then use a handy little invention called an eraser and move that day’s plans to the following day. Don’t double up on work. Don’t consider yourselves behind. Just keep moving forward.

I know that some of you are wondering…

What if none of our lessons are getting done? 


There are several ways to answer this, but I’m just going to focus on a few solutions.

First, if the lessons are missed because a child is deliberately not doing them, or they are being careless, then that is something that must be addressed. Missing school work because of life interruptions is one thing, while skipped assignments due to disobedience is quite another.

For the most part, however, “falling behind” happens far more simply because life happens in the midst of homeschooling, so here are a few questions you may want to ask yourself:

Are we using the right approach?

For example, if you’re a school-at-home family and find yourselves never being able to complete assignments because you live a very full life, maybe you could consider unschooling or self-directed learning.

Having a homeschool approach that not only fits your children but also fits your lifestyle is of the utmost importance.

Are we using the right curriculum?

If your children are living a stimulating and rich life, they aren’t behind. They are blessed.

While I certainly don’t consider curriculum to be the be all and end all of homeschooling, it is certainly helpful to have a curriculum that both you and your children enjoy. You will be far more likely to be diligent if you are using something that motivates you.

What’s my homeschool “why”?

If you, the parent, are the one who isn’t motivated, re-evaluate why you decided to keep your children home in the first place. Reflecting on this lifestyle choice and your initial excitement will often rejuvenate you and give you the kick in the pants you might be needing. 😉

Always remember that it’s very common for homeschooling parents to become obsessed with not falling behind, but just take this one thing with you: If your children are living a stimulating and rich life, they aren’t behind. They are blessed.

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