We have reached the time of year where many homeschooling parents can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel—summer break is only a few weeks away! In my own homeschool experience, this was the time of year that my siblings and I started doing extra lessons each day. That’s because as soon as all our textbooks were finished, we were done!

While I have typically followed this plan with my own children, this year has been a bit different. There is a good possibility we will not be able to finish all our books within the months we had scheduled for school. Can we end the school year even with unfinished textbooks?

Before we examine this question, let’s acknowledge that there can be many legitimate reasons for unfinished textbooks. For us, one reason is that we have become even more involved with our co-op this year. Although we still do school five days a week, we’ve officially given up one day at home each week. While I figured we could pack a little more into each day with most subjects, that can be difficult to do with math, so our schedule was already tight.

In addition, we have dealt with more sickness than usual this year, resulting in some missed days of school. On occasion, we’ve also had extracurriculars that have taken precedence over school, particularly driver’s ed for my oldest. And finally, with my husband’s schedule and mine being busier than ever, we’ve had to take a few days off here and there just for a sanity break or a chance to properly clean the house.

In the past, I would have considered only one option to deal with our unfinished books: extend the school year. This is, of course, a valid option. Some families choose to school through the summer, so continuing a few weeks into summer break would not be a problem. Others, however, consider a three-month summer break to be non-negotiable. I am somewhere in the middle: our summer break is usually not that long, but I strongly prefer to be done with school by early June and absolutely do not want to go into July. So when I realized this year’s trajectory was pushing us ever closer to July, I began to question my perfectionistic ideals and consider other options.

The simplest plan, of course, is to continue school to a certain date[1]and leave any remaining work unfinished. While I would have once balked at this idea, it’s begun not to bother me so much. For one thing, there is nothing inherently magical about finishing a textbook. When I felt less confident in my teaching, I felt obligated to complete every lesson, just to make sure my children didn’t miss anything. But I’ve realized that not every lesson is as important (or as difficult) as the others. Also, if my kids miss something one year, they can always cover it next year.

Another thing to consider is that some homeschools don’t even use textbooks! In fact, I have taught certain subjects outside of textbooks myself, and I don’t hesitate to drop or cut things short when I don’t have time to finish. If I can do this with my own program, why must I feel bound to a certain schedule simply because it’s in a textbook?

Furthermore, many textbooks are not necessarily intended to be completed—at least, not every exercise on every page. Teachers are free to choose the ones that they feel are the most needed. Also, the last few lessons of certain books (such as math) often teach a concept that is beyond the given grade level. Writers of curriculum realize that schools may not always have time to finish a given book, so they make sure to put the most important concepts earlier on.

Of course, when I talk about leaving work “unfinished,” I don’t mean we got a quarter of the way through and called it good enough (although it may be necessary to abandon a curriculum early if you realize it isn’t working). It is good to complete textbooks to a certain level, particularly if you are using them for high school credit. HSLDA recommends that at least 75-80% of assignments be completed for a book to count toward high school credit. But that still leaves more room for adjustment than my previous standard, which was more like 95-100%!

But beyond the options of extending the school year or dropping the remainder of a schoolbook at a certain point, there is also the option of skipping or shortening certain lessons before the end of the school year. Again, since not every lesson is as important or difficult as the others, these are the types of lessons I skip or combine. With math (where we are furthest behind), that means that whenever we find an easier lesson, we do only the new concept problems in one lesson, in addition to doing another lesson in full. With other subjects, I may skip particular exercises for concepts my child already masters.

In the end, I will likely be combining all three of these strategies: extending our year by a week or two, shortening our curriculum where I can, and possibly leaving off a few lessons at the end of the books. These solutions may seem obvious to some; even a few of my friends might think me silly for being such a stickler about finishing textbooks! But for anyone in my shoes who truly was not confident trying another way, I hope these thoughts may be helpful.

May your summer break (if you have it) come soon!