I remember in college first learning about goal setting. Though I was already a goal-setter in real life, I guess I didn’t really know it. I knew full well the advantages of thinking ahead as a way of getting things done, but this was the first formal presentation about it I’d ever heard.
I think it was in psych class where Professor Emeritus explained the only way to reach Z from A was by mapping out an elaborate plan. Setting goals, said he, followed by defining a complex set of action items to accomplish them all, was the only way to guarantee completion.
I remember that lecture like it was yesterday. Hearing about goal setting made so much sense to me. It validated what I had already been doing in terms of my everyday life, but it also began feeling right for other projects, too. I was in my element, so to speak, as Professor’s words oozed organization and logic, promised higher achievement and productivity, and stroked my somewhat-perfectionist tendencies like nobody’s business. Nodding and hmming, I soaked it up, vowing to further expand my goal-setting capabilities from that day forward, never to be dampened by creativity or feelings of free-spiritedness ever again.
I don’t mean to make this overly dramatic. But, it was in that moment that I became the lean, mean, uber goal-setting machine I remained for many years.
Which wasn’t a bad thing necessarily. For the logical brain, supported by a planet full of people who are highly successful doing it, goal setting IS a highly successful activity. If one is building a house, conducting a system analysis, writing a lengthy report, or doing anything with multiple steps that takes more than a few minutes, goal setting is THE best way to complete a project. You get that, right? There’s no contest.
But, goal-setting everything in life? Not so much. Not everything needs to be planned out to that level of detail. Or planned at all. Attempting that is just downright crazy. It’s unrealistic. Why? Because excessive goal-setting saps all the life out of…well, life. Don’t ask how I know.
As homeschoolers, we need to set goals. We have to. It’s our duty as parent educators, a responsibility that is necessary to successfully carry out our jobs as facilitators of learning and mentors to our kids. If we forget to set goals, we’re unable to measure success at the end. Homeschoolers are continually asking themselves questions like, “What are we going to study this week?”; “Which things do we want to finish by the end of the year?” ; “Is this field trip going to contribute anything to our lives?”; and questions like that. Checking items from a list of priorities (stemming from goals), homeschoolers can measure success and wind up feeling very accomplished when completing everything they’ve set out to do.
So, there are plenty of reasons homeschoolers should be setting goals. They include:
Goal setting is brilliant for those reasons. It really is THE best way to get from A to Z.
But, here’s the rub. There’s a destructive down-side to goal-setting, too. It’s has to do with going overboard and asking too much of yourself and your kiddos. It’s has to do with losing sight of the journey because you become so distracted by the outcomes. And it’s about failing yourself and your children before even giving the process a chance.
In my work as a homeschool advisor and conference speaker, I meet moms (usually) all across the country. MANY of them are caught in an excessive goal setting trap. Though well-meaning, the desire to “cover all the bases” means these moms are expecting way too much from their children and from themselves. I used to do this, too. Believe me when I tell you, too much is too much.
You see, while goal setting can be incredibly helpful, goal setting can also backfire when done to excess. When I meet families with expectations so high, I am reminded of my younger self, and how our family struggled with getting everything done, too. I remember the feelings of disappointment at the end of every “unproductive” day. I remember the nervousness I felt trying to plan everything out so carefully, and the sense of failure when daily goals weren’t always checked off as planned.
No wonder homeschooling mammas are so exhausted.
No wonder we feel like failures if we don’t get everything done on time.
Goal setting to feel accomplished is one thing. But excessively ambitious goals, for whatever the reason, have got to go.
Here is a list of reasons goal setting isn’t so smart. Try to remember these when planning (or not planning) yours:
Did you see what I just did there? I listed all the reasons why excessive goal setting WILL hurt you and your precious kiddos. I reminded you the reasons you’re homeschooling in the first place, which are all about doing what’s right for your family, NOT what you think you should be doing for everybody else. I reminded you that setting goals just to keep your kids busy, or so you don’t have to step out of the box a little, isn’t always a good idea. In fact, it might stink.
Do me a favor and think about what you’ve planned for your day, your week, your month, and your year. Remember that setting goals for homeschooling is an excellent way to direct your activities and guide your family through the joyous experience of home learning. But, if you recognize your goals (in the form of curriculum, lesson plans, schedules, or a very hectic lifestyle) are a bit “too much”, consider my words today. Share this with a friend if you recognize this tendency in someone else, too.
I want you to start loving homeschooling again. I want to help you avoid the stresses of setting crazy high expectations. I want to help you create the homeschool you and your children deserve.
To your success without overwhelm,
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. A homeschooling pioneer and the founder of many groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks, is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the public school system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame, with no teaching background whatsoever. A liaison for regional school-to-home organizations, a homeschool leader, and a women’s life coach and trainer, Marie-Claire mentors in a variety of areas that impact health, education and lifestyle. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA, H.E.R.I., Home Education Council of America, Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool, and many other events. Her articles have appeared in and on Holistic Parenting, CONNECT, Homefires, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of sites and blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.