How often do you start homeschool planning by making a list of courses and resources you want your children to study next year without thinking about what homeschool goals you want to accomplish?
Yeah, me too.
Begin with the end in mind. Stephen Covey
It’s easy to go into planning mode and start hammering out the details, but when we take some time to remember what we want to accomplish by homeschooling, our plans are much more effective.
In this post, you’ll learn the five simple steps you can take to set homeschool goals you will actually accomplish, the types of goals you should include, and how you can evaluate your progress.
How to Set Homeschool Goals
Setting homeschool goals can seem like a daunting task. In the beginning, I thought they needed to be big goals or sound impressive. In reality, they need to be small steps we can take each year to make progress toward living out our homeschool mission statement.
Once I began thinking about setting homeschool goals in the context of our mission statement, the process became much simpler. Here are the five steps I follow to set goals for our homeschool.
1. Identify your overall homeschool goals.
If you haven’t written your homeschool mission statement yet, start there! I call our homeschool mission statement our decision-making framework. It helps me make decisions about curriculum, activities, and goals for our homeschool without fear, guilt, or shame.
Click here to read a post that includes questions you can answer to help you write your own homeschool mission statement. Plus, you can see ours as an example.
2. Identify one small step.
Obviously, you cannot fulfill your homeschool mission statement overnight. Some of the objectives you outlined may not be achieved until close to graduation. It’s like the finish line at a marathon instead of the finish line at a 100-meter dash.
Your homeschool mission statement should be a guide to help you make decisions and set smaller goals. Identify one small step your children can take this coming year to make progress towards achieving the objectives you outlined in your homeschool mission statement.
For example, one objective outlined in our homeschool mission statement is to “Learn to communicate through the spoken and written word.” My children need to master multiple skills to accomplish that objective. They need to be able to do the following.
- Pay attention and remember what they read and tell it back.
- Identify the main ideas in their readings.
- Connect what they read to ideas from other readings.
- Express their thoughts orally.
- Write legibly.
- Express their thoughts in writing.
These are all skills they need to master over time. I can choose just one of those steps for my child to work on next year.
It’s also important to not set too many goals for one year so you and your children are not overwhelmed. If you are trying to focus on too many, it will be difficult to ensure your child is making progress.
3. Inspire your child to achieve the goals.
This seems obvious, right? But think back to the last time you wanted your child to do something. Did you actually communicate that to him? If you’re like me, probably not. It probably stayed in your head.
One goal we have for our homeschool is that our children assume responsibility for their education. This is one way they can do that!
Until my daughters were in middle school, I didn’t just tell them the goal I wanted them to achieve. That’s too abstract for younger students. Instead, I tried to find a way to inspire and motivate them.
For example, one of my daughters struggled with academic subjects. Reading, spelling, and math were hard for her. But when she revealed that she wants to be a nurse when she grows up, I had something tangible I could use as an example for her. I found ways to gently point out how nurses used math skills during their shift.
She also loves sewing historical costumes so we set a goal of her researching historical nursing outfits through history and designed a project to present what she learned. She needed to read and spell to finish the project. Of course, I didn’t just turn her loose. I helped her when she needed it, but she was motivated to work harder because she could see the benefit.
Now that my children are older, I often tell them the goals I identified for them for the school year and how those goals will benefit them now and in the future. I still try to inspire them and help them see how achieving that goal will benefit them.
4. Include ways to work on achieving the goal in various subjects and aspects of your day.
If I set a goal of cleaning out the garage, I would outline the steps I need to take to achieve that goal. The steps might include:
- Pull the cars out of the garage.
- Remove bicycles and other large items.
- Sort through items on shelves and either 1) put into a pile to sell or take to goodwill, 2) put into a pile to take inside, 3) put into the trash, or 4) leave on the shelf (or move to a different shelf with related items).
- Sweep garage.
- Put large items back in the garage.
- Pull cars into the garage.
It is easy to see what needs to be done, in what order, and when you have accomplished your goal. In contrast, I find homeschool goals are often more abstract. Most do not have a defined set of steps you can follow. For example, the goal of identifying main ideas in passages does not have a set of steps my daughter can follow to achieve this goal. Instead, I ask her Socratic questions during her narration time to help her develop this skill. I would find ways to work this during all of her lessons and even during some discussions not related to her lessons.
5. Evaluate progress.
Periodically throughout the year, I take time to evaluate our homeschool progress. I ask questions such as:
- Have my children made progress toward achieving the goals for the year?
- Have my children developed or improved other skills?
- Have my children made progress toward developing habits we wanted to develop?
The key to my evaluation is “made progress.” I recognize that it is important to set SMART goals most of the time. (Smart goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.) Those criteria help us determine if and when we achieve the goal.
Because homeschool goals often rely on our children to develop or master a skill, they are more difficult to measure and set a time timetable in which to achieve them. Children develop at different rates.
For example, one of our goals in elementary school was that my children learn to read. One daughter achieved this easily (and almost without any help) at age 6. My other daughter struggled to learn to read and was not reading proficiently until she was 11. It would be stressful and counter-productive for me to set a goal of her reading “at grade level.” She would not have achieved that goal and would have felt like a failure. Instead, I evaluated her progress towards achieving that goal. I can identify the steps we took each year to make progress. Some of these steps included testing to identify learning problems, yearly eye exams, strengthening visual discrimination skills, strengthening gross motor skills, practicing reading, activities involving word families, and listening to an audiobook or read aloud to build vocabulary.
Setting SMART goals becomes less of a problem when your children are in high school and they have mastered the foundational skills. In elementary and middle-school grades, it is helpful and less stressful to focus on helping your child make progress towards achieving a goal instead of fixating on the specific timetable in which you want to achieve the goal.
In episode 052 of the All in a Homeschool Day podcast, I share my reflections on the 2019-2020 school year and how I will adjust our plans for the next year based on those reflections. Listen in and learn how you can use your evaluations to make adjustments.
Types of Homeschool Goals You Should Include
Our society is so focused on helping our children get accepted into prestigious colleges and entering desirable careers that it is easy to lose sight of the real goal of education.
The aim of education should not be to teach everything one needs to know to get into college but rather to become a lifelong learner.
Becoming a lifelong learner is more than simply passing a test or getting into college. A lifelong learner loves to learn and continues learning throughout his life. He knows how to read and study to learn. He also knows how to think critically, evaluate what he read, and apply it in various situations.
Because a lifelong learner is influenced by the authors he reads, he usually seeks to become an individual who has a broad range of interests and who desires to improve his character.
With this perspective of helping my children become lifelong learners and well-rounded individuals, I include more than just academic goals for my daughters each year. I also include goals such as developing time management skills, development of spiritual habits or practices, character development (serving others, patience, awareness of social cues), and practical life skills (laundry, cleaning the house, car care).