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Thursday, December 29, 2016

End of Year Homeschool Assessment

End of Year Homeschool Assessment at Homeschooling Hearts & MindsAs 2016 comes to a close, I’m replaying the year’s happenings in my head and assessing our homeschool. For us, it is nearly mid “school” year and a good time to take a closer look at what is working and what needs some work.

Plus, we have been off from our formal studies for almost 2 weeks to focus on holiday festivities, which gives me some needed distance for a better evaluation. It’s really hard to see things clearly when you are in up-to-your-eyeballs in the doing of those things. It’s important to evaluate things frequently.

Why do I assess our homeschool midyear?  Can’t it wait until the summer?

I listened to a webinar a little while ago. The topic had to do with entrepreneurship, but the content was relevant to really any endeavor we undertake. The fella was talking about how our perspective affects our chances of success.

If you look forward to what seems like a huge goal, the achievement of which is far into the future, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed. Our goal seems unachievable and we can become overcome by inertia.

We need frequent feedback. We need a shorter time horizon so that we can know we are getting somewhere and not just spinning our wheels.

If you can break up your big goals into smaller goals and look back at the path of steps you have conquered on the way to the “big one,” you gain momentum and it becomes much easier, psychologically, to continue on with the fight. 

I can’t tell you the number of times that I felt like I was getting nowhere with one of my kids on a necessary skill, but I happened upon a blog post from a few months before and realize that, actually, real, tangible progress had been made. The sweat and tears had made an impact. This is feedback that we, as human beings, need to continue on.

Eighteen years of raising kids so they are ready to face the world on their own? That’s a big, huge, overwhelming goal.  And it’s so easy to get lost in that goal and to miss the significant advances made in the interim.

Even looking at it a year at a time is, perhaps, beyond where we can accurately see.  Child development tends to happen in fits and starts, rather than as a slow, steady climb. I really have no idea what each of my kids will be capable of at the end of year when we begin a year. And there have been years that the plans I made at the beginning of the summer were no longer a good fit at the end of summer, as we embarked upon the next school year.

The new year is a good time for us to take stock of things and adjust as necessary.

How do I assess our homeschool?

In order to know where you are, it’s good to know where you started and where you are trying to get to. But, it’s equally important to know what your philosophy of education is, because the getting there is sometimes not as important as how you get there.

So, the first thing I look at is where each of the children was at the beginning of the school year and what our goals were for the year (both mine and theirs). I also review why were are homeschooling in the first place and our chosen educational approach. 

I don’t assess my children through standardized tests, but this might be an important step in your homeschool---it just depends upon your goals.

What I do do is talk to them, reread my notes from last year, reread this year’s plans, look at pictures of them throughout the year, look over their work for the year, and think. I ponder a good while. In fact, I’ve been pondering since before Christmas.

The results are a bit wibbly wobbly, but they seem to work for our family.

For us, homeschooling is lifestyle.

Learning doesn’t happen during certain hours each weekday and we try to embrace that. We want to have a rich environment, conducive to our children’s full development (spiritually, academically, emotionally, and physically), therefore our “homeschool” tends to overlap and bleed over into all parts of our life together.  I prefer an organic approach, where knowledge grows from itself and from a desire to know. So, when I talk about what is working and what isn’t, I might seem a bit all over the place.

Lately, I feel that our homeschool has become overly compartmentalized.

I don’t blame anyone for this, though. The kids seem to like the compartmentalization. It was they who rejected doing unit studies this year, for instance.

Our “planned” studies are very much “do this,” then “do that.” Some of the material is very interesting and worthwhile, but it often feels like we are doing it to get it done.  That’s not a feeling I like.

At the same time, it’s not as though we spend several hours a day on school work, only taking potty and eating breaks. The children have plenty of time to pursue their personal interests and they have been doing that.

Is this something that needs to change? I’m not sure. It isn’t a fail, but it doesn’t feel like complete success, either. I need to ponder it some more.

Maybe my philosophy of education needs to change? That’s a big topic for a different post.

How are the children doing academically?

For the most part, very well.

Emma (2nd grade) has taken off in reading.

End of Year Homeschool Assessment at Homeschooling Hearts & MindsWe’ve put aside spelling for awhile. Whenever she writes, she will ask how to spell things and she is pretty good at remembering for future writing. She loves to write little stories. I expect that I will have her do copywork once she has developed some more writing stamina. 

In math, she prefers to solve puzzles and word problems, rather than doing straight arithmetic. Arithmetic is boring, apparently. She can add with regrouping (in fact, she understood the concept without my explaining it to her), but she hates doing it. It is slow and tedious. The tendency for math programs to do a page of problems of the same type is a problem for her, so I give her a few problems on a white board and have her do puzzles, bar graphs and things on worksheets.

One area I want to improve in: Many of the great books I have read to the older children I either haven’t read to Emma at all or she was too young when we last read them for her to remember what we read. I am rectifying this by making a conscious effort to choose high quality read alouds just for her for bedtime reading (the other children are welcome to join us). We just started The Wonderful Wizard of Oz the other night.

Peter (5th grade) has really impressed me with his ability to stay focused and complete independent work this year. 

End of Year Homeschool Assessment at Homeschooling Hearts & MindsThis year I decided to give him and his older sister more independent readings and assignments, including notebooking pages. He has been really good about managing his time and has done a good job on all of his work. This is a big win for him.

He is reading and writing at a high level. Math is still a struggle for him, so we take our time with it. His math skills are in the average range, but it takes him more time to solve math problems.  This is the area we will focus most on in the coming months.

Mary (7th grade) has really started to blossom as an artist.

Her specialty is designs, with hand-drawn intricate details that look almost like they were stenciled.  She would spend all day drawing if I let her.

IMG_2707She is continuing along fine with her assignments. No major issues, no major advancements, just steady progress. She does want to improve her spelling. I had her doing a spelling workbook independently this year, but it doesn’t seem to be sticking. We will try a different approach when we return to our studies.

Aside from spelling, her biggest challenge seems to be time management.  She is often still working on her math assignment just before dinner. In a little over a week, she will officially be a teenager and I expect that some of this is teen brain. We will be working on reminders and perhaps backing down to daily, instead of weekly, assignment sheets for her to help her stay on track.

David (11th grade) has matured a lot in the past several months.

He takes things like school work much more seriously than he once did.  He has also been taking responsibility for managing things on his own more than he once did, experimenting with different schedules and different ways to be accountable.

For the most part, he is keeping up with his work load, but he is behind the schedule we had created in a few subjects. His big challenge right now is time management and staying focused on the task at hand. This is an area we have been working on for a while, but I have seen some definite improvements. We just need to keep working at it.

End of Year Homeschool Assessment at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Overall, I’m pleased with my children’s progress this year. I’m a little bummed that it seems like our plans are not as much fun as I’d like.

I’m trying to figure out if I need to fix things or accept them as they are.

One thing I have come to realize is that I am investing too much into my children’s education and that I need some other outlets.  Perhaps that will make it feel right? More on that in another post.

Have you assessed your homeschool lately? Has 2016 been a good year?

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