Finishing up… (or not)

We’re on week 31 of 35 for school, and about this time each year, I am confronted with the same thing:

  • Feeling that, on one hand, we’ve had a satisfactory and investigative year of school, where we’ve learned a lot and (mostly) really enjoyed doing so.
  • On the other hand, for most subjects, we didn’t cover nearly the prescribed year’s worth of work.

All of the boys will be done a week or two early with math.  Some subjects, like English, the way I’ve set up the pace (“scope and sequence”, if you like) of study, the pace is more nebulous and need-based, so I’m not concerned about a “year’s worth;” I just want specific areas of individual need to be addressed:  for them to advance in their abilities.  But, then, in things like our Core work for Sonlight, and in science, it looks like, yet again, we will only complete about half of what we’re “supposed” to, maybe more like 55-60%, but still not nearly… enough.

“Enough,” that is, if our goal is simply to FINISH.  I find myself not able to completely commit to that goal.  I’d much rather that we LEARN and ENJOY than to fly through the work.


Some people just work until the work is done, but I find myself unwilling to do that, because I feel like we (including myself) need summer.  We need the opportunity to accomplish big projects around the house, and to go see a cheap movie in the middle of the day, and to go swimming at a neighborhood friend’s house, and mid-week sleepovers, and swimming lessons at the city pool, et al.  We just can’t accommodate those activities whilst doing school.

We are going to do the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in early May.  (My Stepdad, who is  a semi-retired public school teacher, and an awesome supporter of homeschooling, is going to administer the tests.)  Even though there are many in the homeschooling community who say that no one should have to be subject to standardized tests, I find that I am not completely of that bent.  Though this will be the first time in eight years of homeschooling that we will be doing standardized tests, I support the idea of them.  And, I shall like to discover where my kids’ education needs some emphasis, and where we have excelled.  I do think that “those who compare themselves among themselves are not wise,” yet, I also agree that there are certain standards (which are, admittedly, highly debatable) to which students should attain.

I guess if they do “well” at the ITBS (we will get results within 1-3 weeks of completing them), I guess I’ll feel less badly about our perpetually “unfinished” school years.


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on April 21, 2010, in Homeschooling, Introspective Musings, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I know what you mean about finishing books, taking summer vacation and using standardized testing!

    Do you remember ever finishing a textbook when you were in school? I am positive that we almost never did, and I went to a really good school. I am convinced that it’s not about finishing books but about finishing children (paraphrased Dorothy Moore quote). I think you’re doing a good job to make sure they have conquered certain skills. Your children will be better off, imho, learning to do what they know ~well~ than just covering something for coverage’s sake. Kwim?

    I’m with you on the wonderfulness of summer vacation. We’ve done things differently, schedule wise, so our kids will do school most of the summer, but the weeks we’re off, we’re OFF.

    The thing I love about homeschooling as that each family gets to do what works best for them. We aren’t bound by rules that don’t work for us (and that don’t work for traditional schools either!). Don’t sweat the feeling of not completing the books. You’ve already done more with your kids than would be done if they went to a traditional school.



    • Thanks, Esther. I needed to hear that. I continue to struggle to find the balance in the “finishing children” vs “finishing books” thing. I don’t know about you, but we could easily give the whole day, every day, to character issues and never crack the spine of a book! Some times, we do need to just stop and address the way, say, Ethan is speaking unkindly to Grant, and that relationship/character issue can’t just be swept under the rug so that we can meet my own set goal of three science lessons for the day (true story!).

      But, OTOH, I went to a private Christian school that was super-Christian, truly Christian, but did not do all that well in actually educating children… LOTS of holes in my secondary education. (And nary a text finished.)

      So, I feel the need for BOTH: thorough, more-than-adequate, excelling EDUCATION, *and* to “finish children.” And, it fluctuates, which one gets the greater attention…

      I do think most texts are written very idealistically: For the knowledge-hungry child who is eager to work, and has no trouble focusing. But, so far, I just haven’t produced any of those… Thus, we continue to not finish texts.

      • LOL I have produced one of those out of three, but he gets that from his Dad – and we still haven’t finished every part of every textbook with him! I agree. I think they are written idealistically.

        As far as gaps go, I went to a top notch Christian school which has always performed very well compared to other schools. ~I~ was academically challenged and ~I~ had/have gaps, but that’s not a reflection on the school but on me.

        In the spirit of gap prevention and/or reduction, I’ve recently begun using the half hour after lunch to introduce unfamiliar topics. I plan on using that after lunch time to expose them to foreign concepts mainly for the purpose of creating pathways in their brains for when they study it later. If they pick up on it and do well, I’ll count it as a subject which, as it happens, we’re doing now, but if they don’t do well, it’s still time well spent in plowing and fertilizing their minds.

        This will all be over before we know it and we’ll wonder what we were worried about. Keep up the good work, friend!

  2. newbeginnings09

    Great post Karen. I continue to struggle *daily* with the idea of homeschooling vs. public schools. My older two are mandated by my ex-husband to attend our local public school and while that infuriates me in ways we can’t begin to address, I wonder. I look at my two babies, that we have made the decision to homeschool largely in part because of my preschooler son’s sensory processing disorder, and wonder if they will miss out.
    I think, because I never have a clear train of thought anymore, what I’m trying to muddle to the point of is that, homeschooling vs. public schools, finished textbooks or well adjusted *finished children* is something most mothers struggle with. I think you’re doing a great job, all the way around, no matter how *finished* you get.
    ps: WAY off topic but I thought you might like to know that even after 18 months of roller coastering and frustrating blow ups, my mentally ill husband and I are STILL married and living in the same house, and doing very, very well. A large part of this was your encouraging email from last summer and I want to thank you!

    • Adrienne, I was STUNNED (in a very good way) by the last part of that comment. I remember sitting, debating whether or not to butt in and say anything to you, a stranger (other than our bloggy interactions). But, I really felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me to write to you. So, I did. And, LOOK! It bore fruit!!! I am certain your life still has some major challenges, but I am beyond happy that you and your husband are still together. Give me goose bumps, makes me cry and shake my head at how God works when we just obey Him!! I feel immensely privileged to have been used by Him… Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m in awe!! GOOD FOR YOU for persevering and trusting God with your hubby… If you want, you can e-mail me privately ( ) and give me a more thorough update! (No pressure, though!)

      God is so good, and He so loves you and your family. Don’t get weary in doing well!!!!

  3. Virginia Johnson

    just a little note, as a public school math teacher… I have NEVER finished a book with my students. I finish the curriculum, and even go beyond that scope, but I have never done every page or even every chapter of a textbook with my students… and they ace the AP tests regularly!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: