I grabbed my pen, lesson plan book, and a cup of tea and went to sit in the sun on a beautiful spring afternoon. We had just finished our second term of the school year and I was about to complete the end-of-term reflections. This is not an activity I have always done, but term evaluations have become an invaluable part of our homeschool routine.
Our school year is based on three 12-week terms. The terms include time spent traveling and learning on the road as well as more structured time at home. At the end of each term, we have term exams that include questions related to our learning on the road and at home. We also celebrate our achievement of hard work by getting ice cream on a family night.
Before planning the next term’s details, I sit down to evaluate how this term went. I use an amazing resource to walk me through this process. Below are five of the reasons I love using this resource to evaluate our school year.
5 Benefits of Term Evaluations
1. Reminds me to look beyond the academics
It is important to teach our children the three R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic), but there is so much more to education than purely academics. Educating the whole child also includes training in life skills, positive habits, character, and discipleship. We should also be helping our children love to learn and to strive for excellence.
2. Helps me take a step back and see the big picture
Sometimes the curriculum needs to be tweaked or changed completely. Other times our schedule or habits might be causing stress that affects our learning time. Open-ended questions in the term evaluations help me look at the bigger picture and ask if our schedule is too busy. (I am constantly struggling to maintain a balance between pursuing our interests and time for masterly inactivity!) It also provides an opportunity to evaluate areas of strength and weakness in our curriculum, home environment, and habit development.
3. Allow me to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses as the teacher
Let’s face it, we, as the parent/teacher, set the tone of our homeschool. If I am struggling with habits such as timeliness or joy, I will probably see similar issues in my children. It is a constant struggle to set a good example of work and play, especially when we are with our children 24/7. Questions in the reflections allow me to look at what I am doing well and areas where I need to improve. I have found this to be so helpful and also a great encouragement! Most of us can identify our faults quickly, but often struggle to identify our strengths. When I answer these questions, I am prompted to look at both.
4. Provides an opportunity to celebrate
It’s true that we did not have finished as much of the book as I thought we should have. We might not be as far along in the math curriculum. And my daughter might still be struggling to read. But we can celebrate the accomplishments we did make! For example, instead of finishing the book, we had deep discussions about ideas in the book that led to further study. Instead of clipping along in the math curriculum, my older daughter camped out and mastered some concepts that had been a little shaky. And my younger daughter may not be reading chapter books yet, but she is reading an early reader book all the way through with minimal help. These are huge accomplishments that we should celebrate!! If I were only evaluating test scores or checking off assignments I might miss these.
5. Helps me formulate practical action steps to move forward
The practical, Type-A side of me loves this last benefit of term evaluations. It’s fine and dandy to look at all of these great benefits and be reminded to focus on educating the whole child, but if I don’t do anything about what I identified, what good will it do us? Throughout the questions, I am prompted to identify specific changes I want to make. After completing the evaluation, I can make a list of these changes and determine how best to implement them into our homeschool.
Term evaluations should be an integral part of your homeschool routine. They can help you maintain focus on why you homeschool and on educating the whole child. If you would like to incorporate them into your homeschool routine, I encourage you to check out The ABCs of Looking Back and schedule some time for a parent-teacher conference. You and your children will thank you.