We all know that regular physical checkups can help us to identify small problems before they become big ones, or sometimes can make a crucial difference in a situation where a disease can be cured if found and treated early.
While I don’t mean to sound dramatic, our homeschools can benefit from “checkups” too. What do I mean by a homeschool checkup?
A homeschool checkup takes a look at your long-term and short-term objectives, to see if you are meeting your goals or if adjustments are needed.
The next question then is when or how often should I perform a homeschool checkup?
This depends somewhat on what your typical school year looks like. As you probably know, we homeschoolers are an eclectic bunch. Many homeschoolers tend to roughly follow a “traditional” school year, taking summers and holidays off.
Other homeschoolers choose to homeschool following a different schedule, one that works for their family. Some will school for 6 weeks, for instance, then take two weeks off, and they follow this schedule year-round. Others plan breaks at various times to take into consideration that a baby is due or a move is impending, and so on.
So when you perform your homeschool checkup depends on your schedule. For those of us follow a traditional school year fall and spring are good times to assess where we’re at and if we need to adjust our expectations or goals.
You may have discovered, for instance, that your child needs more work on their math facts, so you may decide to put off beginning a science curriculum until after the first of the year while you put more emphasis on your math drills. Or you may have a workbook or two that you didn’t finish last year that you want your child to complete before jumping into a new curriculum.
This happens to me often. This year, in fact, I have decided to put off beginning our history curriculum until my 5th grader finishes the “Maps, Charts, and Graphs“ workbook he started last year.
In the same way that successful businesses assess their business plans and make adjustments on a regular basis, taking the time to assess where you are in terms of your objectives are for the year can make for a more successful year.
I have compiled a checklist below that you can use, any time of the year, to assess whether you are on track with your goals or need to make adjustments. You can use the “print” button at the bottom of this page to print a copy to keep handy, or bookmark this page so you can come back to it any time you feel your homeschool needs a checkup!
DO YOU HAVE A WRITTEN PLAN?
- Are your “objectives” for your school year written down and kept some place where they are readily accessible? Your planning for the year can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. I prefer simple these days! This is the first year, in 19 years, that I am homeschooling only one child, so my objectives consist of one page where I have listed the curriculum that I will be using (or plan to use) for the year. I include everything from my son’s Math curriculum and drills, to Physical Education (which consists of “personal training” by his older brothers.) I have this list posted on a bulletin board in our schoolroom so I can refer to it whenever I need to. Whether you are homeschooling one child or five, you could do as I do and simply list the resources you will be using throughout the school year – but make a separate list for each child. If your studies overlap (for instance, you all do art together) include it on each child’s list anyway. Then post your list(s) somewhere where you can see them at a glance. You may prefer – or be required by law – to do more extensive planning, but start with the basics and if you can, keep it simple. It will not only make planning your year less complicated and less time-consuming , but it will also make assessing where you are at with your goals a simpler task as well.
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR PLAN?
- How do you FEEL about how your school year is going? Yes, I said “feel.” As a homeschool parent it is important that you have positive feelings about how your school year is progressing. If you are feeling stressed on a regular basis, maybe you are trying to do too much. You may be better off doing as I do, which is to only tackle four subjects a day with my son (in addition to his computer school work). He has three computer programs that he is required to work on independently, each day, fifteen minutes for each program (those programs are (Typing Instructor, Quarter Mile Math, Rosetta Stone Italian). When we sit down together to work I prefer consistency and quality over quantity, so we tackle his Old Testament History and Math, and then we work on two other subjects each day that I rotate through. This keeps us both from getting bored and it keeps me from stressing out. If you are feeling stressed at the beginning of every school day, I suggest you cut back on the number of hours a day you are spending on schoolwork and/or the number of subjects you tackle each day.
IS YOUR PLAN WORKING?
- It’s obviously just as important that the plan you have crafted for your homeschool actually works. For instance, are you or your child frustrated with a particular subject? There are two different tacks you can take to help solve this problem. The first is to put that subject (or particular curriculum) aside for a while, particularly if you feel that it is an issue of your child simply not being ready for that level of work (and readiness is SO important). On the other hand, perhaps your child is ready but you are trying to rush through the school day because you are trying to do too much each day. Work out a schedule that allows you to approach that subject at a more leisurely pace. Perhaps twice a week for four months is better than every day for six weeks.
- Another aspect of evaluating whether your plan is working is the issue of whether you are “keeping up.” If you feel like you just can’t keep up, which is leaving you feeling frustrated and defeated, you clearly need to make changes to your plan. There’s nothing wrong with going back and reevaluating what you need and want to accomplish. Were your goals too ambitious when you take into consideration your outside activities and other obligations? If you are feeling regularly stressed out and frustrated, especially in terms of your homeschool, then you likely need to scale back and be more realistic about what you can accomplish. One thing that I believe is crucial to remember is that homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint! Putting off tackling a subject or resource doesn’t mean you’ll never get to it, it just means that when you do, you will be able to enjoy it more and true learning can take place.
HAVE YOUR PLANS GOTTEN OFF TRACK?
- Are distractions getting in the way of having a “successful” school year? Take a moment to think about those distractions. Are these things that could have been expected (and planned for) in advance or are they simply events that are completely out of your control? One of the most important aspects of homeschooling is learning to be flexible so that when distractions come (and they will!) you aren’t thrown completely off track. Having a plan ahead of time for what you might do in the case of someone in the family getting ill won’t make that time fun, but it will help you not to stress about what isn’t getting done. If mom’s sick, can the kids work on their own, catching up on a workbook or two? Workbooks are great tools you can use when you want your children to have something educational to do but you’re short on time – I recommend you check out my “Workbooks That Work” post for ideas. If a major life event has hit, such as a death in the family, I suggest you drop the schoolwork altogether. Take the time you need to deal with this event. You can always extend your school year to catch up if needed.
- During your “homeschool checkup” you should consider whether your goals for the year were too ambitious, or not ambitious enough. As I pointed out earlier, most homeschoolers definitely err on the side of being too ambitious! Perhaps you’re finding that your extracurricular activities are taking up more time than you thought. Don’t forget, those “extracurricular” activities are just as important a part of your child’s development and can, usually, count as homeschool “credit” if your state requires that kind of record-keeping. Participation in sports is Physical Education. Dance or music lessons count as Fine Arts. If your child is involved in Awana or some kind of scouting, there are innumerable ways you can count those activities as schoolwork. Don’t forget to give your child, and yourself, “credit” for these outside activities. Perhaps if you think in these terms you will find that you can drop a subject or two from your school day, relieving some pressure on you and giving you time for household tasks or even, occasionally, a bubble bath!
Giving your homeschool a “checkup” at least once or twice a year will greatly enhance your chances of actually achieving your goals for the year, and will also result in you feeling better overall about where you are at and where you are going.
Do you have anything you would add to this checklist? If so, please share with me and my readers in the comments!