Lists are one of my staples in life; so when I came across a list of questions to use for an end-of-the-school-year evaluation, I had to try it out. The interesting thing about this list was that it also asked for the child’s thoughts about what had worked well and what had not. It seems foolish to admit now, but it had never occurred to me to ask my kids what they thought when evaluating how our school year had gone. I’d inadvertently left out a key part of successful homeschooling in my previous evaluations — the relationship I have with my kids.
Evaluation through Conversation
Tests, writing assignments, and projects can certainly be useful tools when measuring the progress a child has made. I’ve noticed over the years, though, that spontaneous conversations with my kids tend to give me a much better idea of the things that are making an impression and really sticking with them. In order to have these conversations, there has to be a relationship where my kids are comfortable talking to me. It’s easy and tempting for me to brush off their attempts to tell me something they find interesting because I’m busy. There will always be one more thing on my to-do list, but taking the time to listen to one of my kids whenever I can builds that habit of chatting with Mom about whatever is on their minds. That habit in turn gives me a peek into what they’re thinking about, what they’ve learned, and how they are applying it in their ponderings.
The first year I started asking each of my kids for their thoughts on the curriculum we used, what they thought worked well, and what didn’t, they seemed surprised that I asked for their opinion. If there’s one thing I could go back and change about my early years of homeschooling, this would be it! Asking each of them questions, then listening to what they said, gave me a little more insight into where they were struggling the most, and why. The two of us would next brainstorm what we could do differently to help them with those areas. Involving them in evaluating our school year and planning for the next one showed them that I cared enough about them to listen and was willing to do what I could to best help them. To be honest, I was a little scared to ask my kids if there was anything I could do differently, but I’m so glad that I did!
There are times when one of the kids is studying something where I feel less than confident in my own knowledge. This is where we start learning together. We look up resources or videos to help explain the topic being covered, then we read or watch them together. Many times this has resulted in my favorite discussions and projects over the course of our homeschooling years. There’s something about learning together that engages them more than just independent study. They know that I’m invested in them and their education when I’m willing to dig into a subject with them.
A solid, healthy relationship with my kids definitely makes homeschooling go a little more smoothly. The beautiful thing about homeschooling though, is that it gives me the opportunity to grow and develop that relationship while educating my kids. Listening to them, learning with them, and showing them that I value them and their thoughts makes me less of the parent who’s nagging them about their schoolwork and more of a mentor and even partner in their education.
There are still bumps and rough spots, and I don’t always cultivate my relationship with my children as well as I should. The work that I do put into our relationships has allowed some beautiful things to grow, though! When those bumps do come, the foundation of a strong relationship helps us to get past those bumps a little more easily because my kids know that I care about them and not just their test scores.
Eventually, my years as a homeschool mom will come to an end. I would not want to come to that milestone and find that I’d homeschooled my kids but sacrificed my relationship with one or more of them in the process. By prioritizing education and relationship, both are made stronger and richer; and at the end of my part in their education, we’ll still have the relationship. That’s something worth investing in.