The trouble with homeschool is that there is no start and no finish, no report cards, no deadlines, no “have to.” Of course, that is one of the advantages, but a time of reckoning is a necessary part of any endeavor, including home education. In the working world, employees are given “quarterly reviews” to assess their progress. How are we assuring progress is made in our children’s learning? Maybe we need to do some measuring.
Do you start new ideas for school with a bang and then fizzle out before the project is really done? In my zeal to be flexible, I have been guilty of no follow-through. Perhaps that is because many of our best learning experiences have come about when we got sidetracked. Recently, for my son’s writing assignment, I helped him choose an area of interest on which to do a research paper. The topic he chose was the history and production of magnetic tape (audio tape and video tape). After checking the library and finding nothing, we decided he could probably get information by contacting Memorex company and other tape manufacturers. He wrote a lot of correspondences and while he was waiting and waiting for replies, the whole project just sort of fizzled out. None of them ever responded and we lost our steam for the research paper, even though it was a great idea and was approached with a lot of enthusiasm.
The cure for losing momentum is setting goals and deadlines with consequences. We have a natural deadline for every day’s work, and that is lunchtime. My children have plenty of time and lots of help from me if they feel stumped or do not understand their work, but they need to be finished before lunchtime, or they have to work after lunch while their brothers and sisters are free. A short check of my child’s assignment page at the end of school time is a good way to help him be accountable and report how he’s doing.
It gives a person a great feeling of accomplishment to return and report. Although I don’t want to make my children dependent on praise, it sure feels good to me to have others notice when I have put out effort to do something well. (Have you ever made a special meal and received no notice of it?) I also talk over whether or not he’s enjoying his school work and what needs changing. A schedule can be a big help. Half of the battle is settling into knowing what to expect. When my children know that every single day they have to write in their school journals, for example, they don’t fight it like they do when I am sporadic in what I require.
Self-motivation is great in studying an area of interest, but some basics must be done whether you are enthused or not. As a homemaker, if you love flowers and gardening, your own high interest level is sufficient to motivate you to weed, cultivate, plant, water, etc. However, whether you like it or not, at some point you will have to take out the garbage and wash dishes even if you don’t fully enjoy it. For one of my boys, reading is the self-motivated “flower gardening” and math is the annoying “garbage chore”. We approach it this way: you don’t have to love or pursue math, you just have to learn it so that you can function well. Then you will be free to spend as much time as you want reading.
A little planning before the school year begins goes a long way to guarantee success. I like to sit down with each child individually and look over all the possible resources that could be used for this child’s age and interests. For example, for the subject of American Government, my 10th grader and explore together the possibilities—different textbooks, a DVD series, online courses—and set a specific goal. We do this for each subject.
My priority list for my children’s education is:
- developing a witness of Jesus Christ, and living as good Christians
- competency in daily life skills (such as cooking a meal, doing laundry, fix-it skills, etc.)
- reading, writing, and math (the 3 Rs)
- history, science, music, art, etc.
- seeking out the talents and skills that will help them make a contribution in life (their career)
- becoming patriots that are literate in the Constitution and other freedom documents to preserve our freedoms as Americans
After we have chosen the resources we will use in each area, we set goals for the school year. Then as I write up their week’s assignments I can refer back to the year’s goals to make sure we are accomplishing them. From this point, I only have to offer help and check on their work daily. My children mostly steer themselves once the course direction is set.
If you are guilty, as I often am, of no follow-through, homeschool can become quite nebulous. Take the time to set up some expectations and then check that what you and your child agree on is actually done. It makes school a lot more productive and more enjoyable for both of you!
May I recommend: