This time of year we start winding down the old school year and gearing up for the next year. I look at all the things we did and take some time to see if we reached our goals and accomplished the things we set out to learn. I try to see what worked for us and what things we need to tweak for the upcoming year.
We finished our school year a couple of weeks ago ending with standardized testing and an awesome weekend at the Teach Them Diligently Conference in Spartanburg, SC. Since arriving home, we have had non-stop activities related to end of the year sports activities, out-of-town company, etc. I am just now sitting down and taking stock of our accomplishments.
My husband and I sit down at the beginning of the school year and talk about character issues, academic needs and life skills that we need to focus on with each of our kids for the upcoming school year. We try to revisit this list in January and tweak it or change it if needed. This helps us to personalize each of our kids educational plan. We also pray for direction and wisdom as we lead our kids on this exciting adventure we call homeschooling. The adventure comes with joys and challenges and we know that we need help from the Source and wisdom for the journey.
I also ask the kids what they liked and disliked about school this year and if there is anything particular they would like to study next year. I am always surprised at the answers the kids give me. My fifth grader told me he LOVED history this year and he REALLY wants to study more about animals next year in science (he hopes to be a vet when he grows ups). I would love your suggestions in the comments if you have any great science resources for animal studies. My first-grader declared his favorite subject was preschool time with his two-year old sister. Just these two simple questions give me insight and direction on where to focus my teaching in the upcoming year. It gives me a peek in their heart and into their passions and personalities.
This year was a pivotal year for us as we made a transition from a more traditional home school curriculum to a literature-based living book-type of curriculum. The switch to Sonlight curriculum was a wonderful thing for us. My kids thrived with the new schooling environment which included more read-alouds, a history focus, and a focused Bible time each morning. We attended a smaller co-op that we formed with friends and met every other Friday for a half day, This schedule was perfect and we loved having our co-op at the end of the week rather than the first of the week as we had in the past.
Another thing that worked great for us this year was the switch to computer-based math for the boys. I knew that this year was going to be challenging for me with a 5th grader, 1st grader and a two-year-old. I just wasn’t going to have the time to give everyone their own one-hour math lesson. Having the boys do just one subject independently was so liberating. I worked out a checklist for my 5th grader to complete his own work and after only a few weeks, he was able to breeze through his work without multiple stops for directions from me. This was so liberating and I was wondering why I didn’t incorporate more of this self-direction and independent learning into our homeschooling earlier. This gave me the extra time I needed to focus on teaching my first grader to read. I think my biggest academic goals for this year for the boys were increasing independent learning in my oldest and teaching my middle child how to read fluently. I feel these big goals were accomplished.
The things that didn’t work for me this year included planning too much schoolwork in a day, making our school days longer. I found after a few months, that I couldn’t accomplish all the things I had planned in a reasonable time frame. The kids were beginning to dread school after lunch because they were having less and less free time. If they finished early, there always seemed to be one more thing to add-on to the daily schedule. I am planning to have more free time in our schedule this year and work in some margin to our schedule for the extra things that come up such as Crew Reviews, unit studies, lapbooks, etc. I also found myself pushing everyone to finish everything as the year was winding down and I felt that I lost focus on the important life lessons and character training opportunities that arose. I am praying for insight on how to relax and not be so focused on curriculum that I miss the relationship with my kids.
I hope that as you reflect on your school year you will take the time to thank the Lord for time with your kids, small accomplishments such as learning to ride a bike, milestones such as losing a tooth, and landmark moments such as a child coming to faith in Christ. Homeschooling is more about passing on our faith and teaching our kids character than checking off academic lists. If we can teach a love for Christ and a love for learning, we will have accomplished our job. Be encouraged even if your evaluation falls short of your expectations. Give your expectations to God and pray for guidance on this journey. He can give us the educational plan we need if we just consult Him and make sure our plans are checked at the door. Be open to change if He leads you in a different direction. Blessings to you on your homeschool journey!
Click on the link below if you would like to read what other Crew members have to say about evaluating their school year.