This semester, I am setting goals for homeschooling for the first time, and I think it’s going to help me simplify and focus my homeschooling priorities. I got this idea from a homeschooling mom who successfully educated four children through high school.
I am setting goals for the boys in three areas: academic, practical life (I borrowed this term from Montessori – it basically means life skills), and character.
Here are Gresham’s goals as an example. Gresham is 6 and in first grade. We may do first grade for two years, however, because if he were in public school, he would be in kindergarten since he turned 6 in October. We’ll see. He does pretty well academically, but I wouldn’t want to put him in public first grade for social reasons, and also because it’s not that fun to be the very youngest in your grade during the junior high years. This is one of those situations where homeschooling is perfect – we can work a grade ahead now, and adjust in the future if necessary.
Academic Goals: Learn to tell time to the minute, memorize addition facts, learn to write sentences that begin with a capital and end with a period, learn proper capitalization (I’d like to get rid of the random capitals in the middle of words), improve listening comprehension
Practical Life Goals: Learn to tie shoes, learn to unload the dishwasher, improve in the area of folding clothes, continue to learn new skills in his gymnastics class, work on baseball skills with Dad
Character Goals: Develop the habit of speaking to parents and other adults with respect (“Yes, Mom” instead of “Yeah” or a sigh or a silly response), Learn to be gracious to siblings (rather than getting angry over every minor infraction)
It’s important to note that these goals are for me more than they are for the boys. These are the things that I will be teaching toward. I will be looking for opportunities to teach to these areas. I can’t, however, guarantee that the boys will achieve all of these goals, especially the character ones. But I think that the goals will help focus my efforts. Having goals will also help me to look at the whole child and not just at the academic side. It’s important for them to be making progress in physical coordination, interacting with others, and contributing around the house as well as learning writing and math.
An idea for the unmotivated learner:
This past semester, we had a lot of trouble with Aidan (fourth grade) not wanting to put forth very much effort. He’s a smart kid, and most things come easily for him. He likes to skate through life with a minimum amount of effort. We’ve never done a lot of grading, because I like to focus on mastering the work instead. However, it was getting to the point where he had to re-do half of his math assignment each day. Jordan told me that he would like for us to start keeping grades for Aidan’s work, and he made a chart to record the grades. Well, our boy whom we know is smart and able to work on grade level was making D’s and C’s in math! Every day, he said “Oh, whoops! Sorry!” but never did any better. His copy work grades were also atrocious. The point of copy work is to copy more complicated writing than he normally writes on his own and to watch for proper spelling and punctuation. All he has to do is copy the assigned passage (a couple Bible verses or a history sentence from Classical Conversations), and yet he consistently spelled words wrong, had incorrect capitalization, and left out whole phrases. When we pointed out the errors, he did more “Oh, whoops, ha ha!” We lectured about a good work ethic and doing his best, etc., all to no avail.
We decided to give Aidan a challenge. We told him that if he earned an A average for the week in both math and copywork, that on Friday he could choose to either have $3 to buy a Lego minifigure or stay up late Friday night and watch a show on Netflix with us and eat a snack. It was amazing how the right incentive got him working! He immediately started being much more careful with his work. He didn’t earn the reward the first week, but he did earn it the second week! The second week, he was studying equivalent fractions in math, and it was all new material for him. He didn’t get every problem right, but I was amazed at how much better he did. He chose the buy the minifigure that week! Then we took off three weeks for Christmas break, so we’ll see how things go this week when we start up school again.
Ultimately, I want my boys to do the right thing because it honors God and not because they are getting a prize. And yet, we all are helped by outside motivation at times. It would be tough for my husband to do a really great job at work if he weren’t getting paid anything! The right reward can be a helpful thing, I think, as long as it’s not over-used and children are trained to expect a reward for every thing they do.