Over the years, I’ve been asked if I thought it was possible to “catch a child up” over the summer. Often, the mama asking me this question is wondering about a child who is behind in math or needs to work on reading skills. I can easily say, “Absolutely!” to this question because all it takes is a concerted effort, a plan, and focused energy.
But, a couple of months ago, I was asked if I thought a mother could homeschool through an entire grade over the summer. This particular mother wasn’t sure if she would want to return her child to public school or continue to homeschool, but she felt desperate to get her child “caught up,” and wanted to know if I thought she could do it.
That’s a little harder question for several reasons.
First of all, there is a big difference between “catching up” for public school and “catching up” for homeschool. When you homeschool, YOU decide which classes are most important to the actual “catch up” process. Typically, this will be math and reading, occasionally science and/or history. Every other subject can usually be picked up at a later date. However, if you are returning a child to public school, you will need to know what the school system wants your child to be caught up in. What will they want to test the child on before allowing them to join the next grade? All of this will need to be discussed with the administrators and teachers.
So, while I do believe an entire “public school” grade could quite possible be schooled over the summer, I am not going to definitively speak to that in particular. What I can speak to is homeschooling an entire grade over the summer without the intent to placing a child into the public school system the next year.
Homeschooling a full grade over a 3 month period will be hard work, and your child probably won’t have much of a summer, but I am going to give you some guidelines to help you navigate the possibility with confidence.
But, first a warning – true mastery of subjects may not occur at such a quick pace. Really consider WHY you feel you need to finish an entire grade over the summer. Is it in order to take a test? Is it because you feel behind? Is it a feeling of pressure coming from somewhere. Whatever it is, be absolutely certain you NEED to homeschool an entire grade over the summer before you do it.
STEP 1: Decide which subjects must be tackled.
As a homeschool mom, you know which subjects your child is having difficulty with. If you are trying to catch them up over the summer, choose only the subjects that absolutely MUST be tackled. Again, this is typically going to be Math and/or Reading. Science and History rarely need to be handled in this way unless your child is needing graduation credits in order to make a certain time table, or there is a test needing to be taken to meet state requirements. You may have special circumstances that require your child to have a prerequisite class in order to be accepted into a certain program, or you might want to get some “easy” credits out of the way over the summer.
STEP 2: Plan your Scope & Sequence
One of the easiest ways to do this is to look online. Nearly every curriculum and every school system out there posts their Scope & Sequence lists for each subject. From there, you can decide what parts of that list apply to your child and which parts they have already mastered. Then, you can decide how much needs to be done each day (or week) to get through the subject on your timeline.
STEP 3: Decide on curriculum or method.
Note: Trying to use a boxed curriculum as a crash course over the summer will probably not be your best option here. You can use pieces of the curriculum, but do not try to implement the entire thing. You and your child will only end up immensely frustrated. It is better to piece together what you need.
This step actually has endless possibilities – which I find very exciting and encouraging. I’ll try to cover a few of the ones I believe to be the most helpful.
Video: When we moved, and found our oldest son needed an Economics course in order to graduate by our state’s standards, I turned to Compass Classroom’s video series. He worked his way through it at a good pace, and had it finished in record time.
A curriculum with a video component can often help mom out when she doesn’t have sufficient knowledge in a subject, and would like her child to work at a solid pace.
Internet Resources: My oldest daughter currently works from a Scope and Sequence we found online for Algebra and then uses Khan Academy to work through that S&S. (By the way, she’s not doing this because she’s trying to “catch up,” but because traditional math curricula has never worked well for her.)
You might also consider using apps like Starfall or ABC Mouse to help a child who is having trouble reading. Similarly, if your child is behind in certain concepts in math, you can use an app or website to give them plenty of practice in that concept.
Workbooks: Math and Phonics both lend themselves to workbooks. By concentrating on getting several lessons done a day (with breaks in between), you can get quite far using the workbook method.
Book Lists: Suppose your child needs to have a Christian Worldview course under his belt before taking a certain coop class in the fall. Snag a book list from online, and get him reading! Instead of written papers, try narration to help him retain and cut down on time spent in seat work.
Handbooks: Need to teach composition this summer, but don’t know where to start? Grab a Beacon Handbook! Yes, your child CAN read through the handbook and learn everything they need to know!
STEP 4: Clear your schedule
There is absolutely NO WAY you are going to be able to school an entire grade or subject over the summer if you or your child are busy. This may be the most difficult thing you face because it may mean you drop summer sports or swim lessons or time out with friends.
STEP 5: Stay consistent!
And here is the second most difficult thing you will face…consistency. You have to commit to doing this. If your child is older, they need to be responsible for their work, and you will need to check up on them. If your child is younger, you will need to fight through the days when your child wants to give up.
STEP 6: Plan rewards!
When you look at your Scope & Sequence, insert rewards for meeting certain milestones. Perhaps a family pizza night when he gets 3 chapters done. Perhaps a trip to the water park when she gets halfway through the plan. Celebrate the victories and accomplishments!
Have you ever homeschooled an entire grade over the summer? How did you do it? Raising Arrows readers would love to hear how it went for you, what you would have done differently, and any suggestions!