August was always my favorite time of year when we were homeschooling. My husband and I held our annual teacher in-service conference at the end of every summer. We would take a long walk through a local park, meet at a favorite restaurant, or pack a picnic lunch and head to the lake to plan for the coming school year. It was a wonderful perk of being a parent/teacher, and one I would highly recommend you build into your summer planning.
The purpose of our yearly meeting was two-fold … to look back on the previous year, and to look ahead to the upcoming year. So as you are making your school supply lists and checking them twice, plan to make yet another list for the coming year.
Look Back …
Take a few moments to list, for each student, what worked and did not work the previous school year. Did Ashley conquer her struggle with multiplication facts? Celebrate! Did Sam’s attitude about completing school work on time improve by the end of the year? Praise God! Make a list of three academic and three spiritual/character highlights from your school year and refer to it often in the coming year. Rehearse God’s work in the lives of your students and be sure to include them in your thankfulness. Remind them that you are on this homeschooling journey together, and that both victories and challenges are part of taking the trip.
Your next list (remember, I love list-making) will outline those things that didn’t work as well. Did Ashley really struggle with the Spelling program you chose for this year? Did she find it repetitious and yawn-worthy? Maybe there’s room to consider another approach for teaching Spelling in the coming year. Does Sam still struggle with correct punctuation and sentence mechanics in general? This might need to be your focus for him this fall. Perhaps both of your children wrestle with trusting Mom/Dad (and God) to make the best choices for them. Make a list of three academic and three spiritual/character goals for the coming year. Base them on what you know to be true about your students from the previous school year. Use those goals to help you make curriculum and extra-curricular choices. Hang your list on the bulletin board or refrigerator where you and your students can review it often. One of my favorite sayings is “you can’t hit what you don’t aim for”. So know what you're aiming for!
A goals list serves one other purpose for your homeschool year. When the mid-year doldrums hit (maybe January or February) … and they will! … reviewing your goals will be a good reminder of what your priorities are, and what doesn't matter.
So as you enjoy one last trip to the beach ... as you savor the last opportunities for late night star-gazing around the campfire ... spend a few minutes to also review both the successes and challenges from the previous school year. And don't forget to focus on what God taught YOU this past year. Because we all know that our children are not the only ones who get an education when we homeschool. :)
Still on the journey ...
PPS ... Get that goals checklist up on your refrigerator before the first day of school. Snap a quick pic and post your 'fridge list on our Facebook page. Trust me on this ... it's worth the effort to make the list!