Whether or not you’re one to make New Year’s resolutions, the beginning of the year offers a good time to reflect on goals and refocus priorities so you can finish your family’s homeschool year strong.
At this halfway-through-the-academic-year milestone, you can usually gauge if it is possible to finish the school year “on time” or whether you’ll all need to work into the summer to complete your goals. Setting a pace for the end of the year with those completion goals in mind can help you and your kids feel productive and accomplished as spring approaches.
In our homeschool, we use a good bit of traditional textbook-based curriculum, and from the time I was a homeschool student right up through my first few years as a homeschool mother, I have enjoyed looking at the total number of pages in each book, subtracting the pages I’ve already done, and dividing what’s left by the number of calendar days left in the school year.
It is important to be accurate with the number of school days left—don’t count major holidays or birthdays, and leave yourself a few wiggle-room days (usually at least one a week), so you don’t hem yourself in too closely.
Even if you decide to double the pace (say, to be done with school before the new baby comes or to hold space for a special vacation or big move to a new house), it can be encouraging to see exactly where each child stands progress-wise and show them how your combined hard work will pay off with completed goals at the end of the year.
Our midyear reassessment also affects our extracurricular activities. We ask questions like these: Is the co-op class we’re attending adding enough substance and yielding enough benefits for the time and energy it takes? Do we have time to add YMCA sports to our schedule once or twice a week? An honest assessment of the cost of participating (or sitting out) can save you from burnout in the final stretch.
Now is also a good time to plan how to motivate yourself and your students. For instance, while our family really enjoys tangible motivations—tasty treats and gift-wrapped surprises—I also enjoy practical motivations, such as an occasional bonus day off or a field trip.
For families like ours that do some form of school all year round, it can also be encouraging to highlight the “fun school” we’ll be able to do when the formal school year winds down: more science projects, arts and crafts, and field-trip outings.
Another midyear motivational tactic I employ is to set aside time to clean out and reorganize our school space. Here are some questions that help me identify when and what kind of refresh may be needed: Is it hard to access the pencils? Is the paper drawer always a mess? Is it difficult to pull out (or put away) learning aids? Is the bookshelf too cluttered? By New Year’s, our family usually needs to restock dry-erase markers, colored pencils, and printer supplies.
Midyear reassessment can also reveal things that you want to do differently over the next six months or so. For example, does your schedule need to be revamped? Are you actually studying each of the subjects you started with?
Because February is when our family purchases curriculum for the following school year, I like to reassess how we feel about the curriculum we’ve been using so far before purchasing another round for subsequent school years. Talking with, listening to, and observing my kids, as well as taking good notes on the current year, helps me set better expectations for next year.
Just as the beginning of the school year holds the most natural excitement and curiosity—driving our kids’ keen interest in and initial focus on their studies—an honest midyear reassessment can reenergize you and your students to keep learning and progressing toward a strong finish.