As a homeschooler in the north, I often dread winter. Winter means months indoors with restless children. It means allowing an extra half hour of prep time whenever we need to go somewhere. And, there’s the inevitable illness that descends, striking each of them in turn.
But, winter also brings a time of reflection, a mid- school year evaluation of sorts. After all the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s, I like to take a week to consider what’s working and what isn’t. I prefer a more relaxed, hands-on homeschooling approach, but that doesn’t mean that things are always going well. Character issues, relationships, and spiritual training all need to be carefully addressed, too, in addition to the academics.
How to do a homeschool evaluation
I don’t know about you, but by the time February comes along, I often feel like I need a break. That’s why this evaluation process is so important. Why do I feel like I need a break? Is it from being stuck indoors with active children? Is it burnout? Is it seasonal affective disorder? Here are some things that I consider:
- Even though this child helped choose this curriculum, is it really the best choice? Did she end up complaining about it or did it end up taking more time and energy than we thought?
- How much did my children learn in the first part of the year? Did they seem to already know a lot of the subject matter we were covering? Did I find myself skipping around a lot? What does that tell me about purchases for the rest of the year?
- How can I integrate community offerings and field trips into our second semester of school?
- Can I continue to group my children for some subjects? Is that really working or does each one need to have their own separate program?
- Is a child’s bad attitude truly one of disobedience or is there something else going on? Is a child’s good attitude just for show or is it heartfelt?
- If I feel exhausted, are there areas that I can streamline? Can I train my children to do more so I can have greater energy? Do we have the means to outsource anything (cleaning, driving people around)?
- Did I achieve balance? How can I improve?
- Are the children generally loving and respectful toward each other? How can I encourage them to have good relationships?
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What I learned from my homeschool evaluation
The kids knew more than I thought
When I went through this exercise, I often discovered areas that needed to be adjusted. For example, curriculum and other materials often disappointed us. Marketing promises and samples are not the same thing as using the product. My children surprised me with the knowledge they already possessed. And many times, even though they chose the materials, I ended up selling them. Then, I would resort back to my own templates to track their interest-led learning.
Cooperation sometimes depends on my proximity
I also figured out that one son needed me next to him for everything he did, even though he didn’t need my help. He just wanted me near him and got upset if I went off to do something else. My other son bristled at me sitting with him and preferred to work alone, away from all his siblings.
Before doing this evaluation process, I just reacted. I got upset because I thought they weren’t cooperating. “Why aren’t you doing your work?” I said. Well, the older boy wouldn’t work because he was grouped with his sister and they just goofed off. He needed to be alone. The younger boy couldn’t work alone, so I couldn’t leave him to do his work while I did something else (even though all I did was sit there. He didn’t need help).
Disobedience wasn’t the problem. When I did my homeschool evaluation, I found that the issue was their learning styles and love languages. I actually teach a course on discovering how to light a fire in your child’s learning, what motivates him and makes him tick, and how to identify needs. Learn more about that here.
One other thing came about because of this evaluation process. I gave each child more responsibilities and set up an accountability system. Chores already figured into their day, but I added a few additional duties to help spread the load. That freed me up for more service at church, get to bed earlier, and better manage my health. Don’t be afraid to give chores to even your small children. This little book really opened my eyes to the possibilities here.
Maybe you already have a process in place for conducting a homeschool evaluation at the midway point. Maybe you only do it at the end of the year. I encourage you to take some time for yourself to evaluate how things are going right now. Then, if you need to make changes, you can pivot now and finish strong. Blessings to you in the new year!