A New Year’s Assessment – Looking Back, Moving Forward – A great slogan for the first few weeks of any new year. But really, that phrase is so much more than a slogan. It is an action plan! Let’s take that phrase, looking back, moving forward, and put it to work for our benefit.
Looking back, or reflecting, is always beneficial. What can we learn from what we have done? How well have our efforts been working? It’s kind of like a mental inventory. Here are some things to consider as you look back over the first part of this school year.
What worked well for you?
When you started the school year, you had some ideas about how you wanted the schooling to go. So, what has worked well for you and your children? What area or aspect of your homeschooling are you pleased or satisfied with so far? Maybe a certain curriculum item has gotten your kids excited about learning. Perhaps your school area has worked out well for you, or maybe it is some organization strategies you are happy with. Did you institute a new procedure or system for keeping up with grading all that schoolwork? Make a list of all the things related to your homeschooling year that you are satisfied with.
What didn’t work?
Unless you are the “Super Homeschool Parent of the Decade” or something, you probably have some things about your homeschooling that you are not happy with. Do you feel like your routine or schedule is not working for you? Maybe it is your space – you tired of moving everything off the table for midday meals. Perhaps your “method” of dealing with all the homeschool “stuff” has left you totally frustrated. Do you find that some of your teaching materials just aren’t working the way you want them to work? Are your kids completely bored with some of their workbooks? List out those things that didn’t work, those aspects of your homeschooling day you are not happy about.
Why didn’t “whatever” work for you?
When you look at your list of things that you aren’t happy about, be specific about why they didn’t work. Don’t just say that you aren’t happy with your routine. Explain why it isn’t working for you. Are your kids crabby because they aren’t getting enough sleep? Do you need to schedule a “recess” time to focus better on the rest of their work? If you are not satisfied with some part of your curriculum, be specific about what you don’t like about it. Is it boring for your kids or too repetitive? What is bothering you about where you “do” school? Or how you keep track of all the school stuff?
Make sure you look at each item on your list of things you aren’t happy about and write specifics for each one! It’s hard to solve a problem if you don’t know the cause of the problem.
We can’t go back and change what we have already done. Life doesn’t usually provide “do-overs.” But we can change or adapt in the future. Look back at your list of what didn’t work and why, and see what you can change as you proceed with the school year.
Continue with what worked well.
Start by recognizing what has worked well for you, and keep on! Don’t change what has worked unless you see a way to make it even better! Is it working for your kids? That’s the most important thing – are they happy and learning? Keep on going. Sometimes it is easy for us to fall into the trap of “new and shiny must be better.” Maybe it is, or maybe it isn’t, but don’t change course midstream if what you have been using is working well. Continue with what is working.
How can you change what you didn’t like?
Look at your list of things you didn’t think were working well. Then, look over your list of specific reasons each of those items weren’t working for you. How can you change those things?
How can you change or adapt a textbook that isn’t satisfactory? Can you adapt it to make it fit your children better? Can you supplement with different activities or examples or add library books to help explain the material better? Are there worksheets online to add to the material and make it more useful or interesting?
Look over the things in your schedule or routine that you aren’t happy with. How can you change or modify your schedule? Do your kids need to sleep a little later in the morning? (Or maybe you do?) Do you need to schedule some play breaks to help your kids let off some pent-up energy? Are you over-scheduled and feel that you need to cut back on some extra activities? Give your schedule and routine a makeover if necessary.
Space and Stuff
Is your space for school and school “stuff” stressing you out? Adapt. Change it up. Think about how you can make it work better for you. Some people have the luxury of a separate room for everything related to school. You can find all sorts of great pictures on Pinterest of homeschool rooms decorated according to a theme and all nicely organized with shelves and bins and storage cupboards. Most of us, however, don’t have that luxury.
Instead of drooling over unrealistic spaces and ideas, how can you adapt the space you do have and make it work better for you? For several years we did school at our kitchen table. Each child had his own crate for all his school books, supplies, etc. They brought their crate to the table, and when it was time for lunch or school was finished for the day, they packed up their own crate and took it back to their room. Was it a perfect solution? Probably not, but it worked.
Maybe all you need to do is add some shelves. Small plastic boxes with lids work great for corralling pens and pencils, erasers, crayons, even compasses, and protractors. So, find what works. It might take some trial and error, but find what works for you.
Are your kids making progress towards their goals? Did you set any goals at the beginning of the school year? No? It’s not too late for some goal-setting.
What do you intend for them to accomplish before the end of the school year? Try to look beyond just finishing the book; be more specific. “I want my child to write in complete sentences consistently” is a specific goal that is better than “finish the Language Arts workbook.” “Finish the math book” is not as concrete as “demonstrate mastery of addition and subtraction math facts.”
Specific and Realistic Goals
Also, be realistic with your goals. Solving differential equations is not a realistic goal for most 7th graders, but it might be realistic for a high school senior studying calculus. Reading The Odyssey is not a realistic goal for your 2nd-grade student, but reading chapter books might be. Set specific and realistic goals.
Look for Progress
Then, review those goals and see if your kids are making progress in reaching those goals. It could be that your goals for your child were a bit much for this year. But that’s ok, as long as he is making progress in that direction. Perhaps, instead of mastering all the addition and subtraction facts this year, they will only have made it through the sevens. But if they started the year with the threes, they have made progress. Maybe instead of reading chapter books by the end of the year, they will be confident readers of shorter books. But if they started the year barely able to put letters and sounds together to form words, they have made significant progress.
If your child has been working diligently throughout the school year and has made progress towards his goals, you should be happy. Remember, not all children learn the same way or at the same rate. Always look for and praise progress!
Remember, homeschooling is not always easy – for you or your children! But keep at it! Keep going even though it’s difficult sometimes. Continue, even when the fun of homeschooling has worn off. Don’t get discouraged. Look for ways to change what hasn’t been working, and keep on with what works well for you. Look for progress! Always look for progress. Point it out to your children when they get discouraged. Be their cheerleader. Look back, make necessary changes, and move forward!
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