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, evaluate, and consider where to go next.
So, how do you evaluate your school year?
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 evaluation.
Write down everything you tried this year and make note of whether or not it succeeded. Your list will include techniques and components such as teaching methods, field trip approach, curriculum, school location, co-op or enrichment involvements, etc. This is not evaluation time, only brainstorming.
Assess Your Child
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 by comparing early and late assignments; asking your child pointed questions based on what she’s learned over the year; or using Well Planned Start, an interactive assessment test, to evaluate progress over the past year.
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.
Next, compare your thoughts to the notes you took when comparing assignments or your child’s assessment scores. Does your assessment of what did and did not work line up with actual progress in your child’s learning?
Talk it Out
It is one thing to consider how you felt about the year and to process through the concrete markers of what your child learned. But, keep in mind that your child might have thought very differently about the year! Ask 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 any way 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. Keep an open mind as you consider how to creatively mold your school year to fit the needs of your child, and realize that the relationship building that occurs during this interaction time is even more valuable than academic growth.
It is possible to meet all of the success markers 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 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 evaluation time. Use the journal to plan 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.