What to Do When You Don’t Finish the Curriculum by Summer Break

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Have you ever run out of school year before you ran out of curriculum? Yeah, me too. More often than not. What do you do when you don’t finish the curriculum by summer break?

when you don't finish the curriculum by summer

What to Do When You Don’t Finish the Curriculum by Summer Break

1. Pick it up next fall.

More than once, we switched curriculum in the middle of the school year. One year, one of my daughters was just not enjoying the literature curriculum we were using. I considered having her “stick it out,” but she was miserable. And I was miserable. And that made homeschooling miserable for both of us.

So. Not. Worth. It.

So we decided to switch. And (Yay!) we found a curriculum we both loved. The rest of the school year went much more smoothly and was much more enjoyable! And, to be honest, I think she learned a lot more than she would have if we’d stayed with the other curriculum.

Another year, my high-school-aged son switched curriculum during the school year. He decided he wanted an online curriculum that allowed him to work at his own pace and do whichever classes he wanted to do on a particular day. I wanted him to have a curriculum that allowed him to be accountable to somebody besides me. Changing curriculum allowed us both to meet those goals, and it was totally worth it!

Because of these switches, though, we didn’t finish the curriculum by the end of the school year either of these years. (Another year we didn’t finish the curriculum because we were building a house, our contractor got very sick, and I ended up having to be the contractor for our house-building. That’s a whole other story! But, needless to say, we didn’t finish the curriculum that year either.)

In all of these cases, we got to a good stopping point and set the books aside. When it was time for the new school year to start, we picked up where we left off.

We really didn’t experience any issues. There were a few times when we’d have to review a bit, but it was never a big deal.

One of the many benefits of homeschooling is that we don’t have to be constrained to arbitrary grade levels or schedules. We can just keep plugging along to mastery.

2. Compare the last lessons in the current level with the first lessons in the next level.

If the subject you didn’t finish is one built on previously-learned concepts, such as math, compare the incomplete lesson topics from your current level with the first few lessons in the next level. Each level usually includes some review at the beginning of the year, so you may be able to skip the unfinished lessons without even noticing.

If nothing else, you can use the unfinished lessons from your current level as extra practice for the next level if your child needs it.

Some subjects teach the same basic material in increasing complexity. Grammar is one example. When we used Easy Grammar and Daily Grams, we would sometimes skip a level after taking more than one school year to complete a previous level.

3. Do a light school schedule over the summer.

If you didn’t finish the curriculum by summer, you may choose to work on the missed lessons over your summer break.

If you have a child who thrives on structure, working on the unfinished lessons can provide a familiar routine, keep the topic fresh in his/her mind, and get you caught up before back-to-school time in the fall.

My children have all graduated from my homeschool, but when they were still homeschooling, two of them really needed at least a little structure even over the summer. So if you’re thinking you’re punishing your children by having them continue doing school work over the summer, decide whether your kids might actually need a bit of structure over the summer. They may actually enjoy it!

If, however, that isn’t the case, that’s ok too. There are other ways to handle this situation.

4. Look for other ways to learn about the topic.

Consider other ways you might be able to learn about the same topic without “doing school” during the summer. Read historical fiction, biographies, or captivating non-fiction books. Non-fiction books written for younger readers can be perfect for giving older kids a good overview of the key points of a topic.

Watch documentaries or movies based on the events or set in the time period you didn’t get to. Take field trips related to the missed topics.

5. Don’t worry about it.

Cut yourself some slack and don’t worry about what you didn’t finish. If you completed at least 75% of the curriculum, you’re probably okay. It’s not uncommon for kids in traditional school settings not to finish every single book either.

I taught school before I became a homeschool mom, and I never completely finished a book by the end of the school year. In fact, I used many of the tips I’m currently sharing with you as I chose what to finish each year!

Most curriculum publishers provide enough material for a traditional 180-day/36-week school schedule. That doesn’t take into account time away from the curriculum for co-op classes, field trips, enrichment activities, or even sick days.

And besides, if you have young kids, chances are you’ll cover the topics again in middle school or high school.

What do you do when you run out of school year before you run out of curriculum? Do you have any tried-and-true tips for what to do when you don’t finish the curriculum by summer break? 



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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. I wish I had read this a few years ago . When I first started homeschooling my first son, he would cry because we would keep doing school into the summer until we finished the curriculum. Now in our sixth year of homeschooling we pretty much just stop at the appointed time and if we didn’t finish we still put the books away. And you’re right, the books we buy usually have a review of the things previously learned so it all works out. My husband, who is a certified public school teacher, would always tell me not to worry about finishing the curriculum. I should’ve listened and save my sons the tears. 🙁

  2. Thank you for this! I’m not sure how I came across your blog, but I’m about to look around. These are great ideas and I have been trying to counsel other moms along these lines since I started homeschooling.

  3. Oooh the anxiety that I have had trying to complete a 170 lesson curriculum in time… Doubling up lessons, trying to get it done in time… I am So happy to know that I am not the only one who doesn’t finish the whole curriculum every year…. Gives me some peace

    1. I’m so glad you feel better! Thank you for your comment. It makes us feel good to know when we’ve helped or encouraged someone!

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