Part 1: Establishing Goals for YOUR Homeschool
However, I'm a realist and I hope to be brutally honest with you what I've found that works... and what doesn't. To start this series, this week I'll focus on organization. Keep in mind yesterday's post about easing into your day and removing pressure. Part of removing pressure is keeping a realistic set of goals, maintaining flexibility, and having a general order.
I'm not talking military drill seargent orders. I simply mean having some general flow of manageable expectations for various ages.
Many stories have been told on how to put your homeschool together is a few neat and tidy steps. That's fine... If your a square-foot learner. However, if your kids are anything like mine, they are anything but square! They're loud, rompy, argumentative, tiny ninjas -- disguised as angels and sometimes "mean as the devil". But they are not a one-size fits all group of misfits. They are individuals who require knowledge and are open to learning it... and if you are a homeschool parent - you've chosen to provide it (or guide those provisions). Nevertheless, I've found no exact way in which to "set up" or even "manage" a homeschool that I would call 'perfect'. But what I have found are a series of truths that helped adjust our family out of the public school frame of thought and into a homeschool learning environment.
The first thing we did was consider our mission statement. Having a mission statement for your homeschool might seem bizarre, and at first I thought, "how in the world would this prove beneficial to us?" But it really did help me keep my "focus" on how I planned our lessons and that flowed through into pacing our daily schedule.
Our mission statement: Traditional and organic learning in a loving environment that promotes individual growth and acceptance of differences while retaining our personality and values in a self-assured, self-respected, and validated manner.
When I created this mission statement, I wanted to include individualism and the importance of accepting those who are different, while also having the ability to keep our own opinions and values. This is important to me for two reasons: 1.) the only constant in life is change, and 2.) knowing who you are and what you stand for does not mean you can't respect those who are different, no matter how many changes you face.
These two facts helped me discover that each kid is going to have a different way of looking at things. That in and of itself slowed down my haste to plan a day full of various activities (public school mindset) and refocused on personalizing their day in a way that would enhance their learning and growth. Long story short - I took out the quantity and replaced it with quality!
The latter part of our mission statement focuses on self-actualization. Being self-assured and having self-respect go hand in hand. Without self-assurance, you cannot expect a child to value differences. Without self-respect, you will find a child lacking respect for others. Lastly, validating our children and their role as "being" is sometimes hard for parents to realize. They are "children" - seen and not heard, speak when spoken to... yadda yadda yadda. They are human beings with feelings, and opinions, and beliefs and we as parents should validate those positives as often as possible. This will prevent the worldly influence on your child from all manner of negatives (not religious - just real). For example: a young girl who is validated by her parents as a child, a teen, and a young adult, will be less likely to turn to the world (i.e., pop culture influences, "challenges", fifteen minutes of fame fads, drugs, sex) for validation.
The second aspect in goal setting is to examine your desires for your homeschool:
To do this, ask yourself the following questions:
1. ) How much do I want to "be involved" in their learning? Do I want to be the teacher for every subject? Do I know enough to teach every subject? Do I want to develop my children to be independent learners? What will that entail?
2.) Do I want to school traditionally? Organically? Unschool? Co-op?
3.) What method of homeschooling sounds like my children (not ME) that will encourage them to be life-long lovers of learning?
4.) When and where will we homeschool?
5.) How long will we homeschool?
These questions are extremely thematic in the homeschool environment. Not because they are "THE GOLDEN RULES" but because they are present in nearly every facet of decision making as a homeschool parent.
Your responses to these questions will direct your goal setting. If you want to be fully involved, you'll likely have several mini-goals that work toward one common goal. If you want to teach every subject, you'll certainly need to be organized. If you want to develop your children to be independent learners, be prepared to let them set the pace and not hover.
Likewise, if you desire a more traditional homeschool setting, you'll again incorporate minigoals toward one large goal. If you crave a more organic or unschooling learning approach, you'll revert to letting your children set the pace, but provide multiple arenas for learning. The "when" and "where" become subjective aspects, and because these styles are in the "always on" mode, you don't worry about how long you'll school because it's ongoing.
The last element in this process is to actually set a few goals. Remember: They should revolve around your mission statement and relate back to the style of homeschooling you desire to have.
Here is an example of our goals this year with the aforementioned questions answered.
1. I want to be semi-involved and teach a variety of subjects, but I do not know everything, so I want to be sure they have access to instruction via the web. To do this I need to make sure they know how to utilize their resources and identify key words when using search engines.
Primary Goal: Provide instruction 3/5's of the time and allow independent growth 2/5's of the time using a variety of resources available to each child.
Mini-goal 1: Focus my energy on topics I know. My comfort level in teaching will directly affect their comfort level in learning.
Mini-goal 2: Find alternative resources that are dependable and trustworthy to provide those areas I am not comfortable teaching
Mini-Goal 3: Ensure web safety when using browsers. Identify key words for search engines when they are doing independent work.
2. I want to homeschool traditionally, but with an organic element. I don't want them to be rushed or feel pressured to learn something just because other kids their age are directed to learn it in public school.
Primary Goal: Ensure the kids are learning at their pace (organically) through their own questions and motives, but with gentle direction.
Mini-goal 1: Provide a learning setting with posters, graphics, and other elements one would find in a traditional classroom which promote a learning mindset rather than a "we are at home" way of thinking.
Mini-goal 2: Encourage questions, research, prompts for deeper thinking and leave it open to their interpretation while providing guidance in how to find the answer rather than teaching the answer and them spitting it back out on a test.
3. Homeschooling various ages leaves this open to subjective options. Because we have a K, 6th and 8th grader, I've chosen to not pick a particular homeschool method. What works with one child may not work with the other. We've opted for the regular "homeschool method", over Montesorri, Charlotte Mason, etc. That is, we take a little of this and a little of that and it works for us. However, for the goal, I've elected the following:
Primary Goal: Continue with what is working for each student. If the student begins to struggle: adapt, change, revise, recharge.
Mini-goal 1: Weekly visual assessments of childs interaction with his/her work. Are they engaged?
Mini-goal 2: If yes, continue. If no, adapt, change, revise, recharge.
4. We homeschool in our designated classroom area with the occasional trip to the library or other "out of class" learning. We have a tentative schedule as a core guide, but it is flexible (more on flex schedules in the coming days).
Primary Goal: Create a positive reinforcement for getting school work done daily/weekly and encourage each child to do their best through redirecting loss of focus, rewording key phrases that encourages them to continue on, or taking a break to recharge before approaching a tough topic/concept.
Mini-goal 1: Have an open door for communication without anger, aggression, disappointment, or disdain. Positive communication skills are vital for a parent as the child imitates those responses (all the way down to the hand on the hip and the head cocked to the side -- you know the look!).
Mini-goal 2: Offering a mediation moment: a time for melt-downs, when that one math concept is just too hard and both of you feel like crying. Taking a moment (and a piece of chocolate maybe) reaffirms that you understand it is hard sometimes to learn a new thing. And that it is OK to not get it the first time... the second time... or the twentieth time. This teaches them to take a break, not to give up.
5. We'll homeschool until they want to stop for the day or until they have covered at least 5 of the 7 subjects we are learning.
Primary Goal: To teach proper diligence in working toward and end goal (education), through small reminders that everyone learns different things at different times and this is their time to learn.
Mini-Goal 1: Setting a timer for each lesson and offering small praises for uninterrupted lesson/assignment work.
Mini-Goal 2: Offering a break after a really tough concept or turning up some music to de-stress before a test.
Mini-Goal 3: Other types of reward systems that will encourage a life long love of learning!
These are our goals. Some we have met. Others we are still working on. I have a new list of goals for the next school year and I am excited to bring them into our home and our classroom. I hope you find this little piece of help... helpful! As stated on our about us page, it may not work for everyone, but it suits us just fine!
Until next time,
Welcome! My name is LaVonda. I am the wife of Rodney, the mom of 5 remarkable kids (well, 2 are adults now), an avid homeschooler, blogger, and sociologist. I am blessed with the ability to spend my time sharing our homeschool and life experiences with you. It is my hope to provide you with motivation, ideas, and some candid stress-relief through my blog - Mom's Scribe! Grab a cup of coffee, sit on down, and make yourself at home!