You know the type. Before summer even begins, she has already ordered next year’s curriculum. Lessons and activities are planned for the fall. Last year’s books are neatly put away or sold on eBay. The schoolroom is organized, and she is ready to implement educational summer fun.
Perhaps you know the type so well because I just described you. If so, we could be friends. But not because I’m just like you.
No, I’m the homeschool mom is who is ready for summer break before her children are. I’m one of those “relaxed” homeschoolers. I don’t even want to think about curriculum or lesson plans in June or July. Summer fun might be educational, but it might just be fun at the pool. I like to hold on to every second of summer. Then as August approaches, I swing into high gear.
Regardless of when you start planning the school year, it’s important to start with the end in mind. There is an old Chinese Proverb that goes something like this: If you are planning for a year, sow rice. If you are planning for a decade, plant trees. If you are planning for centuries, educate your children. And here is the amazing truth behind that statement: We should plan for now, tomorrow, and for the future. Or in other words, we should start with the end in mind.
Educating our children is not to be taken lightly. It is a heavy responsibility that reminds us to keep the bigger picture in mind. Jesus touched on this in Luke chapter 14. One should not begin a costly work without first seeing if they have the means to finish the work. In other words, start with the end in mind. So as you begin to prepare for the upcoming school year, here are five tips to help with your planning.
Determine your “why”
Why are you homeschooling? Most parents have numerous reasons for home education. Some are physical, social, educational, spiritual, or a combination. Perhaps you’ve never thought it through in much detail, or perhaps you haven’t thought about it recently. Either way, now is a great time to define (or redefine) your “why.”
Then, take some time to write it down. This advice was given to me when I first began homeschooling and I’m thankful that I heeded it. Over the years I have shared our family’s vision for homeschooling with many homeschool families. In addition, it’s been a source of encouragement on those days with it’s just too hard and the enemy wants to discourage me. Our “why” has kept us focused on the bigger picture.
Once you know your “why,” the next step is to set goals. Generic goals do not typically work. Goals should be specific, measurable, and have a time limit. “Teach Johnny to read this year” is too generic of a goal. A better example would be, “Spend 30 minutes a day teaching Johnny to read so that he is on a first-grade reading level by the end of April.”
Make sure that they are your goals and not the goals of others. Goals should be attainable and relevant for your family and your children. Setting goals based on the ideas of others can often lead to disappointment and discouragement.
It can be helpful to think of goal setting at two levels: the ultimate goals you have for your children, and the year-end goals you have for them. These goals can encompass the various aspects of your children’s lives (academics, character/spiritual life, practical skills, etc.), and should be the primary drivers of your plans for the years.
When we first began homeschooling, my husband and I determined that the ultimate goal for our children would be to help them develop a love for the Lord and then a love for learning. We filtered every other yearly or short-term goal through these ultimate goals.
And while you’re at it, set some goals for yourself. Remember, homeschooling is as much about the work God is doing in your life as it is the work He’s doing in your children.
Write down your progress
Study after study shows that people who write down specific goals are far more likely to be successful than those who have unwritten goals or none at all. When my children were younger, I kept a spiral-bound notebook for each of them. I wrote down goals, achievements, concerns, and prayers for each of them throughout the years. Writing goals down helps you stay focused. Defining and reviewing your goals keeps them in the forefront of your mind and helps you become more aware of opportunities to achieve them.
It’s confession time. Homeschool mothers spend all day correcting children. We must focus on their behavior and attitudes as well as their schoolwork. You missed this one. Redo this problem. Write neater. Try again. Do what I say. Clean up your mess. Watch your attitude. If not careful, we can be fast to point out mistakes and failures and slow to celebrate victories. I’ve been guilty of this. In all our correcting and admonishing, we don’t want to be a source of discouragement to our children, or worse, provoke them to wrath. Celebrating reached goals, even the small ones, can help keep everyone positive as we continue to strive and press toward the mark.
In all our correcting and admonishing, we don’t want to be a source of discouragement to our children, or worse, provoke them to wrath. Celebrating reached goals, even the small ones, can help keep everyone positive as we continue to strive and press toward the mark.
How did last year go? Did you accomplish everything you set out to do? Are your “ultimate goals” still the same? Does something need to be changed? How have your children grown academically and spiritually? What new goals do I need to set for next year?
Summer break is a great time to evaluate the previous year. My recommendation is to start on a sunny day around the first of August, grab a notebook and pen, take the children to the pool, kick your feet up and reflect and reevaluate. However, regardless of when you start, just make sure it’s with the end in mind.