school's out

If you are one of the many homeschooling families who takes the summer off, you’re almost there, and so are we! I’ve seen lots of fellow homeschoolers on Facebook discussing how ready they are for the end of the school year, and I’m right there with them. We’re in the final countdown, and I can’t wait for our college kids to come home, to have more time for my fiber arts business, for gardening, and for getting through the final trimester with the baby I am carrying who is due in July. (Yep, we actually have kids in college and another baby on the way.)

You all know how much I love lists for homeschooling, and a few years ago I started making an end-of-the-year list for the last few weeks of homeschooling. I found it helped the kids to push through the last few weeks if they could see everything they had left, so we switched from our regular Excel spreadsheet lists (here) to a list I make for each child based on what they have left. Last year I made the mistake of switching to the end-of-year list too early, when we had about 6 weeks to go. The problem was the lists were just too big to provide the incentive and didn’t help much. In fact, they might have discouraged certain children from getting done as soon as they would have otherwise. I have found that 2 to 3 weeks works well for us.

This year, I actually planned to do this in advance. I planned out 34 weeks of regular homeschooling and left the last 2 weeks as weeks to finish whatever was left. I will admit that part of my incentive for doing so had to do with the limits of an Excel spreadsheet. Did you know that an Excel spreadsheet is only wide enough for 34 or 35 weeks’ worth? I didn’t know it had limits until I started planning this way!

Anyway, when we get to the end of week 34 this year, which is 3 weeks from now as I write this, I will look at each child’s list and see what he or she still has to finish. I will make each of them a checklist with a separate checkbox for each lesson remaining in each subject area.

In the case of my son who is a junior in high school, he still has a long way to go to finish precalculus, so the list will include a checkbox for each lesson remaining in his precalculus book. He finished literature ahead of time (staying up until midnight because he couldn’t put the book down–is this good or bad?), so there won’t be any literature on his list. He will probably have an extra chapter of history and a couple lessons left in economics and a whole lot of spelling because that is the item that has most frequently been forgotten when he is heading out the door to his part-time job. I have to decide whether to have him finish out spelling this year or just let it roll over to next year. Not sure yet.

With my daughter who is finishing 8th grade, she needs to finish Season 2 of Analytical Grammar and has a long way to go. She also has to finish the One Year Adventure Novel and has a ways to go with that, but she should be on schedule to finish all her other subjects by the last week of our regular schedule, so her end-of-year schedule will have a lot of just a few subjects, which might prove challenging as there is only so much grammar one can do in a day. I may actually add something new and different just to give her a way to cycle through her different subjects without feeling overwhelmed–a break subject, which for her could be piano practice or another good novel or maybe some time for artwork.

With my son who is finishing 5th grade, the stakes aren’t so high. He just finished a chapter of Math Mammoth this week, and rather than having him go on to the next chapter which he wouldn’t be able to finish in the time remaining, I talked to him about it, and together we decided he could switch to Life of Fred Fractions through the end of the year. That will definitely run into the end-of-year 2 weeks, but it’s so much fun that that’s okay. He lost his science book for several weeks, and I finally gave up looking for it and ordered another one, so he’s a few weeks behind on that. Otherwise, he is in good shape. His trouble is that he tends to get bored easily if he’s the only one done, which happens a lot, so I’ll have to think about how to help with that.

Anyway, you get the idea. I find that the end-of-year checklist helps when we’re all ready to be done. Each child chooses which subjects to do on which day, and I’m available to help with the Mom-intensive subjects and whatever else is needed. Usually they count up all their check-mark spaces and figure out how many items they need to do each day to be done on time. If they finish early, they’re done. If they finish late, well, they finish late. This year, though, because I would like as much time as possible between the end of homeschooling and the new baby making his appearance, I really hope no one finishes late!