Not Enough Progress in Your Homeschool?

Is your homeschool year starting back up differently than you imagined? (Or maybe you, like me, forgot to imagine what re-starting would be like.) Newbie and veteran homeschool parents alike experience the same phenomenon every January: the post-holidays slump.

All the excitement accompanying fresh adventure from the beginning of your school year feels like its been squashed under the greyness of January gloom.

I talked with a dear mama the other day who was feeling deflated with the lack of “progress” she saw in their homeschool as they re-started post-holidays. Sister, could I relate! I had the exact same conversation with God a few days earlier. To be technical, I had a whine fest, or at least a pre-whine fest (classified by getting out chocolate and eating with my eyes closed in an attempt to not hear my children fighting over Lego).

Me: All my boxes aren't checked off! *stuff chocolate in mouth* This year has not gone as I envisioned, and with Mom failing and the baby due this spring, I don't see us ever catching up to what I planned! *shake empty bag upside-down in vain hopes of generating more chocolate*

God: Remember when you first started homeschooling? WHY did you choose this journey? WHAT are you hoping to see in your kids when their “school” years are up? Did you really choose this path for the mathematics or the grammar curriculum or the science experience?

Ok, I had to admit, God had a point.

Sometimes, it's easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees.

While hiding in the pantry with a contraband bag of chocolate chips, I thought in terms of very, very, small pieces of goals: “master multiplication” or “phonics rules”, etc. But for our family, academics is NOT the #1 reason we're doing this. It's important, sure, but the bigger, over-arching question is not “did we check every academic box” but, “When my kids go off to college or get their first job or get married or whatever...what do I want to know I've given them?”

(BTW, if you haven't answered that question, yet, feel free to pause and write it down for yourself!)

Instead of feeling bound to a limited view of “progress” such as a specific chapter reached in History or a skill mastered in Math, God reminded me of the "master  paradigm" to evaluate “progress.” My pity-party ended and I was free to ask, What have we experienced or invested time together as a family that is working toward those goals?

If you're wondering what this process looks like, take, for example, a goal for your child to be financially wise. With that ultimate goal in mind, ANY math lesson she's grasped so far will serve as building blocks of the concept of income and expense – even if she hasn't “caught up” yet with where you thought she'd be by this point in fourth grade math. For younger (and older) children, what about allowance or reward charts for chores? They definitely count toward money management skills, or, even if they're not monetary (ie they earn privileges vs. cash), of building responsibility and work ethic.

Speaking of responsibility, I'm pretty sure we all have various character goals on that list. Granted, kids are kids and likely haven't mastered a great deal yet (especially those dear high-spirited ones who seem to need various and sundry reminders...every 5 minutes). But, have you talked about and set family standards around things like table manners, courtesy, or reading social cues? Read a book together where the characters dealt with manners or handling emotions? Role-played potential scenarios as you munched dinner around the table? (I may or may not have had to literally role play – multiple times – with my high-spirited son that “angry face” and yelling “no!!” meant his brother was NOT happy with how the game was going.)

What about other “adulting” skills like home management? Cleaning one's room, folding laundry, drying dishes, making simple meals or snacks (all of which even your kindergartner is capable!)...all these count toward learning to care for a future home/apartment/shared space.

When your days are reviewed in this light, my guess is you have made WAY more progress on the things that matter most to your family than you realize! (Remember, dear fellow OCD sisters, progress is NOT the same as ultimate mastery. 🙂 )

So may I make a little suggestion as you face the second half of this “school year”? Start off by writing down the things that are most important to you to know you've given to/laid the groundwork for in your child. When you look at your days through this lens, un-filled worksheets aren't quite as bullying.

Most importantly, don't forget: God loves your children even more than you do. He gave them to you, and YOU to them...and He doesn't make mistakes. So ask Him into this conversation! Soak yourself in His Word so you know HIS perspective. All the well-meaning advice of homeschooling friends (including me...I'm human, too!), all the best “tricks” and “tools” offered by “experts”...NOTHING can stand before the counsel of God.

Go forward with grace, mama!

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