New homeschoolers have many questions. These range from curriculum choices to legalities to how to find friends for their children to how to convince a skeptical spouse or grandparent, and so much more. This is normal, and most new homeschooler questions are fairly common, too. But even if they’re not, they are important to someone, and deserving of a good answer. And with the help of books, web sites, groups, friends, and the many other resources available today, the information is out there, for sure. Take this web site, for instance, or my homeschooling book. Plus the many other wonderful people out there rooting for new homeschoolers each and every day. We’re here.
But with all of these answers and all of this information coming at them all at once, new homeschooling parents, like new parents of any kind, can sometimes feel a little overwhelmed. Even scared. And who wouldn’t be? After all, we’re talking about a child here.
One of the things that I have found is tremendously helpful for new homeschoolers is to SET GOALS. That is, before doing too much else, before embarking on weeks worth of research, and before spending a nickel on homeschooling products, thinking about their GOALS for homeschooling. When I counsel families or speak to groups, I encourage parents — if they haven’t done so already – to really, really sit down and think, analyze and explain what their homeschooling goals are. This comes as a new idea to many people, but begins to make a whole lot of sense once I explain.
You see, like with anything new, decisions about homeschooling need to be made early and they need to be made often — at least at the beginning. But without clear ideas from the start — without GOALS to guide them – parents may find it difficult to make intelligent and effective decisions on behalf of their children. What better way to make decisions for homeschool than to match them with pre-existing homeschooling GOALS?
Let me give you a couple of examples to demonstrate how this process is very helpful.
First, we’ll look at creating a list of goals for a 4-7 year old child – a preschooler, kindergartner or first grader.
When the family begins homeschooling this child, her parents generally have some idea of what she will be doing that year (or 6 months, some other time period). Perhaps she will be learning numbers, phonics, letters, time, drawing with crayons, typing shoelaces, brushing her teeth, plus some other things. These outcomes are then written down and referred to as the child’s list of GOALS.
Keep in mind that when goal-setting, parents sometimes have very specific goals for a child in mind — things that they really want to work on that particular year. But other times, parents don’t really know what their goals should be, especially for early learners, or they only have a very general idea of what to do. There are ways to figure out what children are generally capable of, or should be learning at every age (find out what students typically learn in every grade HERE). But always keep in mind that homeschool goals may include any milestones that parents hope to meet with her that year, even if they aren’t traditionally “school related”, either.
So, a list of goals for this child could might like this:
- Write the entire alphabet in upper and lower case
- Learn to say and write the numbers 1-20
- Memorize her first ans last name, address and telephone number
- Name the seasons of the year and the days of the week
- Understand simple terms for weather (rainy, snowy, windy, sunny)
- Basic colors
- Be able to tell the difference between living/non-living things
- Name 5 jobs that people do
- …and so on
The benefits to creating such a list are endless. First, it helps her parents to select (or create) the books, games, software, toys, lessons, classes, social groups and other resources that are related to her development and learning in homeschool. By knowing what they’d like to teach, or what things they’d like her to learn, selecting resources becomes very easy, since they can easily be matched to a goal on the list. Simply put, if it isn’t on the list, they just don’t need it right now.
Next, the goals help her parents focus on what kinds of things to work on throughout the year. By looking over the list from time to time, they always know what they should be working on, and approximately when. And while it is critically important not to be limited by the list and to recognize that learning happens in other (often unexpected) ways, having the goals handy is a way to stay focused throughout the year.
[Related post: A checklist system for teaching]
Finally, when trying to see what has been accomplished at the end of every week, month, or year, it is easy to see if goals have been met. If goals have been checked-off the list, they’re done. If they haven’t been met, it is easy to see what still needs to be addressed during the next time period.
Goal setting works for children of all ages. Look at another example of a child who was withdrawn from a public middle school.
In this scenario, the young man’s parents already recognize his challenges with mathematics and writing (the primary reason they decided to bring him home), thus it is clear that at least some of their goals should address these areas of frustration. But they also recognize the things he’d really like to study and those in which he is likely to do very well, so they include homeschool goals for those, too.
A list for this student might include goals like:
- Review times tables and memorize as needed
- Brush up on three-digit multiplication and long division
- Converting improper fractions to mixed numbers
- Multiply and dividing fractions
- Learning the writing process
- Types of writing: narrative, descriptive, expository, persuasive
- Note taking
- Writing 3 paragraph short stories
- Basic carpentry and building simple pieces of furniture
- Photo and video editing
- Learning basic sketching and drawing
- Learning the history of martial arts
- …and so on
Not having goals can make decision making for this student very difficult. But having a plan with clearly stated goals for his homeschool year makes everything his parents do, and everything he does — from selecting textbooks to hiring tutors to purchasing technology and equipment – that much less complicated. Just think how it easy it becomes to assign projects or select books from the bookstore or library when all of the homeschool goals are already spelled out! Imagine how efficient and productive homeschooling will be after parents identify the specific things they’d like to work on with their child? Keeping a focus on goals helps keeps his homeschooling moving in a forward direction, plus there is just something about putting goals down on paper that helps the whole family align their actions and intentions with his goals every day of the year.
Goal-setting can be utilized for homeschooling at the beginning, and every year thereafter, too. Consider creating a list of goals for every student in your homeschool every single year. I think you’ll be happy with the results.
Already goal-setting? Share how you do it here by leaving a COMMENT. Have questions about goal-setting? You may COMMENT, too!
Melanie Thurman says
I couldn’t agree with you more about setting goals and being sure to include those nonacademic goals you are wanting to reach. As you are setting goals you also want to remember how your kids learn. Too many workbooks are going to frustrate a audio or hands on learner.
FPEA Relationship Ambassador
Thank you for mentioning the learning styles dimension, Melanie. That is a terrific tip!