This is probably one of my favorite things to do each year. And yes, I do it each year.
You might not have to; it might be enough for you to remember your initial thoughts. I’ve found for me, I like to regroup each year and make sure my values and goals align with where I am.
What am I talking about? Goal setting. But not just any goal setting, homeschool goal setting! What’s the difference? Well, not much, to be honest, but it does have a nice little ring to it. Okay. Let’s dive in.
How to set goals that actually work
Every homeschool is different. Every family is different. Just like creating your why is important, creating what I like to call your “Top 5” is equally important. This is your game plan for those days when life happens. When the baby cries all day. When the toddler doesn’t take a nap and ends up tormenting everyone around them. When an emergency pops up..and up..and up (have you ever noticed they come in 3’s? Or is that just me?). When fatigue sets in. When you feel like you shouldn’t be homeschooling because you can’t even get out of pajamas some days. And on and on…
This list is what keeps me going. It’s my Top 5 things that I want my kids to grow up feeling like they learned really well. Take out a piece of paper. Better yet, print out this sheet that I made for you. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
I want you to make a list of what you want to teach your kids or that you would like to provide the foundation to. Just remember, it doesn’t need to be purely academic. How do you want their relationship with God or family? Things like resilience or financial literacy have a place here as well. Don’t create a list of what others think or what you’ve heard is a good idea. Create a list that speaks to you.
Narrow down your goals
Got your list? Next step, narrow that list down to 10. See if you can combine any. I have one goal that started as three but they all fit so nicely that I wrapped it with a little bow and put it on that list of 10. Is one a nice-to-have-but-not-needed? It doesn’t go on the list. Is there one that you know is your core? Keep it on the list. The point here is to start narrowing the list and seeing things that create confidence and those things that are fluff.
Now comes the fun part. Take that list of 10 and start asking yourself one question. If I could only teach my child one thing off this list of 10, what would it be? Don’t worry if it’s not academic. I would rather have an honest, thoughtful, character-driven child than one who could do math well but had no morals. What is that Top 1 spot for you?
If you could only teach your child two things, what would capture your number 2 spot? Continue that question until you reach 5. You will find that those are your core. Those are what will drive your homeschool and influence your curriculum choice or daily schedule.
My top choice is character-driven. If I find that my children are starting to argue, not follow instructions, lie, etc., I stop school work and we focus on the heart. It has also influenced how I structure my day. We do a morning canon – some call it a morning devotional or morning basket. I included scripture study, a poem to memorize, our family mission statement, and other things to help with morals. If nothing else gets done that day except our canon, I feel okay about the day.
I like to stop at 5 because after that I view it as fluff. The nice-but-not-needed. I also like to stop at 5 because it starts to get overwhelming once you have a larger list and start noticing all the things you don’t accomplish in a day.
A few tips. If you have a reluctant spouse, this a prime opportunity to come together. I have had one too many days of being with a newborn or toddler who is screaming all day to pretend that they don’t exist. I have told my husband on multiple occasions that we were working on character or that today was a love-your-family day. We also like to call it a home-making day. A day when we show our love and gratitude towards our home by cleaning it. And he understands those days. He also understands our priorities in homeschool.
If your day off turns into a week, instead of getting upset and thinking that maybe you shouldn’t homeschool, turn to your number one and work on that. Recognize that academics will come. If they miss a week here or there their life does not end. When the baby stops crying or the emergencies stop, resume with homeschool as normal.
Why do I reevaluate this list each year? Wisdom. Meaning I gain more the more I live. I might find that I put something in my Top 5 that no longer applies to my situation. Or I might become more aware of a subject and want to add it to my Top 5, so I have to decide if I want to kick another out of the Top 5. It is also a way to check myself and make sure I am accomplishing what I have said I want to accomplish.
Keep this list handy. Refer to it often and realize it’s there to create peace in those times of struggle, not provide more guilt.
Let me know your Top 5 in the comments below!