He had put cups, jars, and glasses of water all over the house. Some were filled partway, and others were filled to the rim. Some had soap; others were plain tap water. Some were covered with lids made while others were open to the air. Some were placed strategically in the sun; others were scattered around the shadowed parts of the room.
Not for the first time in my mom life, I found myself asking my child, “Honey, what on earth are you doing?”
“I’m conducting experiments, Mommy.”
And so he was.
Is Your Homeschool Working?
We had been reading about the water cycle in our Sonlight science curriculum, and he had clearly taken the ideas to heart. Despite the clutter and spilled water everywhere, I was thrilled! After all, having a child create experiments from the topics in your homeschool lessons is one of the most encouraging signs that your homeschool is working.
But what if the signs are not as obvious as a floor covered in cups of water for science experiments? Here are six other ways to tell your homeschool is working.
1. Your Child is Making Progress
Our family has never felt the need for formal assessment of our young children. In the early years, we are able to tell our children are learning by the stories they tell, the words they use, and the enthusiasm with which they dive into their next science or math project. As children mature, it’s still easy to see progress:
- They are reading more difficult books.
- They are mastering math facts.
- They can verbally explain principles of science.
- They understand cause and effect in the events from history.
When choosing your curriculum, though, it’s a good idea to make sure your child is prepared for it. Sonlight, for example, offers placement tests that can help you determine the best choice of program. At the earliest ages, you may be able to simply review sample test questions yourself to determine an appropriate starting level without having to physically sit your child down to answer questions.
When you homeschool, you set the pace. Remember that grade levels are largely arbitrary, and making steady progress is more important than achieving what is supposedly on “grade level.”
Is your child making progress? Besides testing, there are many ways to measure it. Have your child teach you about a topic, put on a puppet show, or draw an illustration about what they know and want to know.
2. Your Child is Engaged and Interested
Your homeschool is working when motivation is high. It’s a clear sign that kids are actively involved in the learning process when they love to learn. Since we use a literature-based program, our kids show they are engaged by snuggling up and enjoying the stories. “Please just one more story,” is a common phrase in our house.
Here are more signs that your children are engaged:
- reminding you that it’s time to read or start homeschool
- asking to read more than what’s assigned for the day
- conducting additional experiments on their own
- seeking out extra books and videos about a topic you’ve covered
- asking for learning tools for birthday and Christmas gifts
- asking good questions about your homeschool lessons
I’ve seen my kids demonstrate all of these traits at one time or another. Homeschooling with our book-based approach has protected their natural curiosity and fostered a love of learning.
3. Stories and Lessons Seep into Playtime
Besides being engaged during lessons, I know homeschool is working when our children infuse their playtime with the characters, events, and ideas from our studies. I often hear my children reenacting stories from one of our read-alouds. Or sometimes they borrow favorite characters and classic plots to create their own fantasy worlds.
Storytelling is one of the oldest and best ways to help children learn and retain new information. It comes naturally to children! We learn through stories by reading great books together, and then they play through stories, rehearsing what they learned in imaginative play.
4. Your Day Moves at a Comfortable Pace
A curriculum does not need to take all day to be effective! In fact, an ideal homeschool has a perfect balance of lessons and free time. Children need periods of unstructured time to investigate, daydream, and reflect as much as they need time learning how to read and do math.
A flexible curriculum that adjusts to your family’s needs is key to finding the right pace. Some days you are on track, the kids have had enough sleep, and everyone feels well. On those best of days, you can pursue additional activities beyond your curriculum. But on days when there are doctor’s appointments or, heaven forbid, the coffee maker died, you can still cover your homeschool day without too much struggle. The right homeschool pace allows for exploration but doesn’t overload you with more than you can feel capable of accomplishing.
5. You're Comfortable & Enjoy Homeschooling
Moms are excellent barometers of a how well a homeschool is functioning. If you are enjoying spending time with your kids and learning together, then you have created a successful homeschool environment. You are winning!
On the other hand, if you find yourself stressed or unable to get normal and necessary house activities completed while still keeping up with the homeschool schedule, you may need to adjust your routine. Being able to homeschool multiple ages with one curriculum, using a four-day homeschool week, and getting support from other homeschool moms using the same curriculum have been life savers for me. I’m loving our homeschool life!
6. You are Staying True to Your Faith
I grew up using exclusively secular materials in public schools. Now that I’m a homeschool mom, I am so grateful to be using a curriculum that weaves the gospel into our education. Even being able to discuss the meaning of AD and BC without fear of controversy makes a world of difference!
In our homeschool, God is integral to understanding history, philosophy, literature–all of life! He isn’t segregated into a small section labeled religion and only discussed on Sundays. Because we homeschool with a solid Christian, literature-based program, my husband and I are able to guide our children daily in God’s Word. When our homeschool reflects our faith, we know homeschool is working.
Most of us are quick to identify when homeschool is not working. On top of our natural tendency to focus on the negative, our constant self-doubt keeps us on our toes, wondering if we are doing enough. When you see these signs, though, you know that homeschool is on track. Choose a respected homeschool curriculum with a proven track record, pray (a lot!), and seek support from fellow homeschool friends. Homeschooling has the potential to be the most rewarding thing you do as a family!
If your homeschool doesn’t measure up to these six signs, what can you change?
If a curriculum switch is needed, visit Sonlight.com to request your free catalog (either print or digital). If you have any questions about what program is best for your family, please reach out to a Sonlight Homeschool Advisor for a complimentary consultation. Sonlight advisors offer you free, personalized homeschool help – every step of the way.
And remember, Sonlight is the only homeschool curriculum provider with a money back guarantee. That’s right! You have a full year to make your decision. If Sonlight isn’t a good fit, you may return the curriculum and get your money back.
About the Author
Erika Evans is living a life she never saw coming and couldn’t be happier. As a veterinarian turned homeschooling mom, she is loving learning with her three kids. She shares her homeschool journey and connects with other moms at Pray Species.