SummarySometimes high school students fall behind. Senior MaryAnn Dudley shares tips she learned when she was a half year behind and finished before summer ended.
One of the biggest challenges we homeschoolers face is keeping up.
It’s so easy just to say, “Tomorrow, I’ll do it tomorrow,” and then completely forget about that essay until the following week. I’ve been there. In fact, just this past May, I realized that summer break was scheduled to start in a month and I had just finished the second quarter. Yes, the second quarter. Yikes.
Needless to say, I was rather daunted. I was working in my junior year of high school and knew that if I was to stay on track to graduate, I needed to finish before senior year started. So I got to work. In the process, I figured a few tricks and tips that helped me survive and even finish in time!
Make a Game Plan
One of the things my dad had me do to catch up was make a list of all the assignments I needed to turn in. Making a list turned out to be one of the best things for me.
I was able to assess what I needed to do and on what I needed to focus. A bonus was that as I turned in each assignment, I was able to cross it off and see my progress!
After I had all of my assignments written out, I assessed each one and figured out how long it would take me to finish it. Based on that, I made a schedule which would help me finish in time. This schedule could look different for everyone.
I found it easiest for me to write out a goal for the day. For example, I might have my goal for the day be “write analysis” or “do chapter 13,” depending on the day.
Be realistic in your expectations, though. It may be beneficial to ask your parents if there are any plans and to write those on your schedule as well. You are likely not going to finish a full day’s worth of work if you are going on an all day hike or taking a trip to visit relatives.
And if something does come up unexpectedly, simply adjust your schedule. For this reason, I found it easier to use an online calendar.
Find What Works for You
To make your schedule, you are going to have to figure out something very important. Do you work better by covering everything in one day or do you do better with a block schedule? I found that I worked best with a combination of both.
This meant that it was easier for me if I spent one day only focusing on math, then the next on English, then chemistry, and so on. I found that I wasted more time if I switched subjects every hour or so and that as soon as I would get on a roll, I would have to switch! But when I tried blocking, I would be tired of that subject by the end of a few days.
I also learned that sometimes I could skip activities. For example, English is an easier subject for me. Rather than spending a lot of time analyzing the questions in the lesson plans and writing the answers down, I would instead answer the questions in my head and then check the answer.
If you find that certain math questions are easy and you consistently get them right, perhaps you could skip most of them, doing only one or two to retain them.
Another thing I noticed that had an effect on my efficiency was how I dressed that day. I found that if I wore “lazy day clothes,” then I would be lazier! But if I wore something I would wear out in public, then I would work better. For me at least, clothing influences how I feel, and thus I choose to dress in a way that makes me feel more productive.
Finally, music can have a big effect on productivity. In my experience, I found that music, even any instrumental, would make me lose focus as I would tune into a pretty melody. For some people, it helps them focus. Find which one is more beneficial to you and use it to your advantage.
Keep Away Distractions
Finding a place to work is vital. For some, biking over to the library is a viable option. For me, the nearest library is twenty-some miles away, so that doesn’t work. Working in my room doesn’t work either, as I tend to see that book I’ve wanted to read or something of the sort. There is also no good writing surface. Rather, I work in our playroom.
This helps me because, during the day, all my siblings are working save the youngest. His play doesn’t distract me, and the toys don’t appeal to me. I took over an unused desk there and had a relatively quiet room in which to work.
The time you choose to work is necessary as well. Although I am more of a night person, I find that at that time my brain is at its most creative and therefore tends to be more distracted by crochet ideas or a great idea for a poem. Definitely not conducive to school.
Instead, I would get up at 6:30 and work for an hour or so until the younger kids would get up. Then I would join them for breakfast and then get back to work. In the summer, this helped a lot because it was also cooler. I found it harder to focus when the temperature outside was over 100 degrees.
For those of us with siblings, staying focused with them running around and making noise can be next to impossible. While the best way to deal with that is to find a place where they aren’t, that can sometimes be next to impossible.
Using headphones or earbuds can help keep the noise level down, even if they aren’t connected to anything. Talking with your parents about finding a suitable arrangement, such as no siblings in a certain room for an hour, can also be a huge help
Finally, there is just about the biggest distraction in all of history: the internet. I’m sure most teenagers will agree, the internet is the master procrastinator’s secret weapon and the high school parent’s biggest nightmare.
As necessary as it might seem, checking out that cool-looking blog is not going to get math done. Trust me. Wasting time on the internet was the biggest reason I fell so far behind in the first place. I had to do something about my wasting time on the internet. I found that the best way to combat this was to remove my computer from the room.
There were tests and essays that needed to be done online, though. To keep from getting distracted then, I would complete the test or essay on paper and then transfer them to the computer, taking care that the questions and answers were the same. Make sure to double check the questions and answers because there have been times when they were different.
The Importance of Taking a Break
Taking a break when you are quarters behind is usually not on your mind. It is important, however, to rest your mind and give it a few days to reset. Be sure to take off every Sunday as a day of rest and prayer. Focus on spending time with your family and friends.
If you are dreadfully behind like I was and are working through the summer or another break, take a day or more off to reset and review your progress.
If you are going on a short trip, see if you can leave all your work behind at your house and just enjoy the trip.
Sometimes, bringing school work to the campground when you are only gone a few days can just be more stressful as you are hanging out with your family and guiltily thinking about the book you said you’d finish during the car ride and the math you said you’d do after dinner.
Give It to God
The most important part of trying to catch up, and even school in general, is to dedicate your work to God. School can be very challenging at times. The best way to deal with the challenge is to rely on God’s help before you begin each day, say a prayer asking God to help you get through the day.
As you find your mind wandering, say an Our Father and ask for help refocusing. Not only do these little actions help with keeping focused, but they also help us depend more on God and not on ourselves.
Good luck in your work and God bless you all!