No matter how you approach homeschooling, there always comes a moment between endings and beginnings. Even year-round homeschoolers who do not truly define grade levels find it necessary to stop, complete a school year evaluation, and consider where to go next.
Five Steps for Completing a School Year Evaluation
If you’ve been following the ACHIEVE method, you’ve been completing six-week evaluations all through the year to make sure you were staying on track with your benchmarks to reach your annual goals. This is an ideal way to ensure that you complete the school year in an efficient manner and don’t fall behind.
But, checking off every box and completing assignments on time isn’t the only consideration. It’s also important to process how well your student retained information throughout the school year.
Keeping up with benchmarks can definitely help ensure that there are no academic gaps in learning. But, it’s also necessary to step back and get a bigger picture by evaluating the entire year.
So, how do you complete a school year evaluation? By following these five steps!
Make Lists of What’s Worked and What Hasn’t
Even for those who are not list people, making lists of what has been done, what has worked, and what hasn’t worked is helpful for completing a school year evaluation.
Write down everything you tried this year and make note of whether or not it succeeded. This is going to be a little different from your regular evaluation notes because this list will include techniques and components such as teaching methods, field trip approach, curriculum, school location, co-op or enrichment involvements, etc.
Keep in mind that right now you’re just creating a list of everything that comes to mind from the year, not evaluating it. That will come later.
Complete an Official School Year Assessment Test
Part of determining what did and did not work in the previous year includes discovering how well your child learned certain concepts or skills. Many states require standardized tests for this purpose, but it is almost impossible to determine actual strengths and weaknesses through these tests and their results.
A better approach is to interactively evaluate how your child processes through work. You can accomplish this in a couple of ways.
Start by comparing assignments completed early in the year to those completed later in the year to see if there is marked progress between the two. This is especially helpful for evaluating progress in handwriting, grammar, math skills, and other assignments that build through sequential learning.
Next, complete the appropriate Well Planned Start interactive assessment test for your child’s grade level. This assessment compares what your child should know in that grade to what they’ve actually learned through the year, helping you evaluate progress from the past year.
Use Assessment Results to Process Why Things Did or Did Not Work
Now that you are done with your list and assessment, it is time to begin processing. This step will probably be the most time-consuming of your evaluation process, but it is worth it!
Look at what worked. Why did it work? Was it personality? Season of life? Learning style? Grade level? Subject matter? Process through the same questions with the things that did not work.
Now, compare your thoughts to your evaluation of assignment progress, your child’s assessment scores, and the notes you took during your regular six-week evaluations. Does your assessment of what did and did not work line up with actual progress in your child’s learning?
This is a critical step in any school year evaluation! Without exploring the why behind your findings, you won’t truly be able to determine what changes need to be made — or, for that matter, what needs to stay the same — in the new school year.
Reinforce Your School Year Evaluation Notes by Talking It Out
It’s often easy to consider a school year evaluation to be complete after the first three steps. But, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about our own interpretations. After all, your students’ opinions are relevant here, too!
Keep in mind that your child might have thought very differently about the year than you did. Solidify your school year evaluation by asking a few questions to get your child’s feedback.
- What was your favorite thing about the year?
- What was your least favorite?
- What subject did you like the most?
- What subject did you like the least?
- Is there something you definitely want to change or keep the same?
- If you could do school anyway you chose, how would you do it?
Depending on your child’s age and personality, this could result in some very interesting conversation time! You might find yourself laughing uncontrollably at the silly answers, but you might also end up crying together over unexpected realizations.
Obviously, some things cannot be changed, and there will be many times that your child just doesn’t want to do school. But, keep an open mind as you consider how to creatively mold your school year to fit the needs of your child and help them continue to fall in love with learning year after year.
Finish Your School Year Evaluation with a Family Health Evaluation
It is possible to meet all of your benchmarks and achieve your goals in a school year while completely depleting yourself or your family.
So, the last point of evaluation might be the biggest of all: did you enjoy the school year? Did your children? Is your family healthier physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally because of the choices you made? If so, good for you!
If not, go back and look at your list and reconsider your successes. Did some of them come at a high cost? What tweaks could have been made to succeed in a more healthy manner? How can you restore the joy of homeschooling for yourself and the rest of your family?
Keep a journal of all of your contemplations as you move through this final component of your school year evaluation.
Use the journal to help guide you as you restart the ACHIEVE process for the new year, then revisit it next year to see how you and your children have grown and changed — and to serve as a reminder that the impact of homeschooling reaches far beyond those tangible academics.
As you complete this school year evaluation, remember that your year was not just about academics but about the health and success of life as a whole. No matter what your annual goals are, your long-term goal and desire should be to raise well-rounded children who grow academically, mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
When you invest in evaluating your year from all angles, the investment will pay off as you see ways to dive into an even better new year.