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It's a New Year - Time to Refocus!

It’s a new year and with that comes a great opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate how you are progressing toward your homeschool goals. So, how’s it going? Ideally, if you are on a traditional schedule, you should be about halfway through your curriculum, goals, or material you intend to cover for the year. The reality of it is, however, most of us do not live in an ideal world. Countless homeschool parents have felt the pressure of wondering if they are moving at a good pace, covering enough material, or covering the material thoroughly. The curriculum itself may suggest one schedule, but your child is an individual learner and isn’t bound to a scope and sequence. Life tends to get in the way at times – family vacations, illness, oversleeping, you name it – it can seem like an uphill battle.

In the thick of it, it can seem like a failure on many levels. But a quick reevaluation of where we started compared with where we are currently can paint a clearer picture. Taking time to gather work samples, test scores, and other data will help – and may even provide a reassurance that things aren’t going as far south as you might feel.

Work samples may be some of the more simple pieces to collect. You can inspect work to look for information in many different areas. The key is to know what you are looking for before you examine your child’s work. Are you looking for growth and improvement in an area? Mastery? Are you wanting to note which skills are strongest or which need more attention? Do you want to see if your child’s handwriting has improved? Work samples can provide the information to all of those inquiries and more – you just need to know what you are looking for before you dive in.

Test scores may be a good indicator of what types of skills your child has mastered. I’m not a fan of over testing, and I feel strongly that the data we gather from any test session needs to be used and then shared with our students in a meaningful way. One of the easiest assessment strategies is the traditional pretest/post-test scenario where students are given a test at the beginning of a semester and then are given the same test at the end of the semester. Scores and test performance can be compared to give a terrific concrete example of student growth.

Conversations and observations can be powerful indicators of skill mastery and academic growth. Keep anecdotal records to help you remember what types of information your student can recall and apply, as well as what kinds of skills she has mastered. You might observe how a young student’s pencil grip evolves over time or how an older student tackles a real-world math problem. You might observe the process he uses to budget, make a shopping list, purchase items, and count change. All of this is important information that can be used in planning for the rest of the school year.

Once you’ve decided which types of data you’d like to use to evaluate your first semester, take some time to dig in! I like to create charts and different visuals to help me better see patterns in scores. Take your time – what initially may feel like an overwhelming task will become easier the more you chip away at it. Make visuals that fit your needs and reflect what you want to reflect to your child. I’m intentional in making visuals that are beneficial for my students as well. Sharing and explaining grades, test scores, and other data with kids is a powerful way to help them visualize what can often be a difficult abstract idea to understand.

"That uphill battle you feel your fighting? It’s a most worthy fight"

When you have a good idea of where your child is performing, revisit your curriculum or your homeschool plan for the second half of your year. Are there lessons you need to re-teach? Are there upcoming lessons that you can skip? Do you need to add a subject area or take a break with another? Do you need to find a new curriculum altogether? Some parents are loyalists and find a curriculum that is trustworthy and a good fit for their family needs and stick with it no matter what. Others like to mix it up a bit and try different lessons, methods, and strategies to keep things fresh. Whatever your preference, don’t be afraid to adjust things to meet the needs of your learner. It makes no sense to stick with a curriculum for the sake of “not quitting” when it isn’t a good fit for your child.

A word of encouragement – if you find your child isn’t progressing as quickly as you’d like, don’t stress out! All students have ups and downs. As long as the overall trend is growth, all is well! Taking the time to look at different points of data is a beneficial practice for this very reason. It helps give direction and helps us refocus on our long-term goals. That uphill battle you feel your fighting? It’s a most worthy fight – you are shaping the future of your community and our world.


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