One goal that pretty much every homeschool mama has is to finish each school year well. But, making this happen can be a little tricky, especially when you are first getting started. Or you’ve had a really tough year with learning struggles or just personal life stuff.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were some simple ways to help you finish your homeschool year well? Well, here are three easy steps to help you do just that.
1. Make a reasonable Wrap-It-Up list
I learned a lot about how to finish things from a book called Finish by Jon Acuff. One thing that he recommends is to “cut your goal in half” which can help motivate you as you see progress. Kinda like baby steps. This got me thinking about how we can adjust our goals to finish our homeschool year well.
‘Cause we sure can have some lofty goals when we homeschool.
I remember entering a school year in the early days of homeschooling with a planner full of great expectations. Filled with all the amazing things that we were definitely going to learn and cover and do. Then, I blinked and suddenly it was April and we hadn’t done any science or history for the year. None! FOR THE WHOLE YEAR!
So, if you too are suddenly realizing that there are not enough hours left in the days to finish everything (no matter how much coffee you consume or sleep you don’t get)…
…try making a reasonable “Wrap It Up” list for each subject of the bare necessities that you need to finish before calling it quits for the year.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make your list.
Remember homeschooling is about progress, not just completion.
One of the perks of homeschooling is that you have been working one-to-one with your child or children, so you know a lot about the progress they have made. And you can also just pick things up the following year right where you left off.
And, at least in Florida, your annual evaluation is based on progress made, not completion of any specific list of subjects, topics, or skills. So, don’t forget that…
Your curriculum is not the boss of you.
You get to decide what has to get finished for the year. And it doesn’t have to be every single workbook page or book that was on the curriculum list.
Your “Wrap It Up” list should include the books and work that you realistically think can and should get finished by the end of your school year. Unless you are using a course like Flex or other class with specific assignments that must finished, you as the parent can decide what actually needs to get finished to check off that class.
Work backwards with your list to break it down into bite size pieces.
Maybe you want your child to finish one more historical fiction book or one last science project. Just list out the overall pages to read or steps to complete. Then break them down into manageable daily assignments on your planner or checklist. And about that planner…
Use the planning or scheduling method actually works.
That gorgeous, detailed planner that you never have time to finish filling out each week might not be the best choice to help you finish this school year well.
Instead, you can use daily or weekly checklists. And even laminate them for your kiddos to check off, and take pictures of as proof in your portfolio. As they get older and more responsible, teens can help you by keeping track of their own daily assignments to finish for each class.
Figure out what works for your family, and use your “Wrap It Up” list to finish those last lessons or projects for your homeschool year. And make sure to keep this next step in mind.
2. Focus on what is working, not what is not
Acuff has another great reminder to “learn from the past, but don’t live there.” It is so easy as homeschoolers to focus on everything that we or our children didn’t do this year, instead of what we actually did.
Now, I homeschooled before the Gram or FaceBook was constantly showcasing all the perfect pictures of everyone else’s daily learning moments. And I still felt petrified each year before our annual evaluation that we didn’t “do” enough. I would remind my kids on the drive over about that science experiment we did. And also to not bring up the fact that it was the only one for the year.
It is so easy to pinpoint every little thing that is not working in our homeschool, but sometimes we just take the stuff that is working for granted.
So, here are a few things you can do to help focus on what is working instead of what isn’t.
Make a list of what to work on next year.
Homeschooling is a journey. A long road trip with so many bathroom stops. And snack breaks. And rabbit trails of really great, juicy conversations and fun songs for all the historical events and math facts. And days of discipline and wasted time and unexpected messy life stuff.
And sometimes, all those magic moments do not include checking off every single thing that we wanted to finish. Even after we crossed out lots of things in our planner. Sometimes, we need to just make a list of stuff to cover or review next school year and take it off this year’s plate.
‘Cause some years have a little more difficult life and health stuff than others, and really all of life involves learning, even if all the multiplication facts didn’t get mastered yet.
Create a highlight reel of all the good stuff.
Here’s another way to focus on what is working. Just like a student applying to a film school, figure out all the highlights of your year so far. Look back in your journal or social media post, and find the best homeschooling days when learning happened and life was good.
If you are having trouble finding them, give your kids a big bowl of popcorn or snacks and ask them about their favorite moments this year. Now, make sure these things are documented in pictures or words in your portfolio, so you can see all the cool stuff you actually did this year. And so you can look back on them the next time you want to give up and send everyone back to school.
One form I always give my families for our yearly evaluations is basically a highlight reel for the kiddos to fill out. They get to pick four portfolio examples from different subjects and share what they learned, did well at, and could do to make it even better. Their answers always help us to focus on what progress was made over the year and I love seeing and hearing about all the cool things they learned.
By focusing on all the good stuff, you and your children can feel great about everything that was accomplished and learned, which is the best way to end the year.
And here’s one more thing to help you focus on what is working in your homeschool.
Choose what to bomb (or outsource).
This idea also comes from Jon Acuff again, and it can really help you sleep at night. The thing is that no matter how who you are or how many years you have been homeschooling, there’s no such thing as a perfect year. Let me repeat that: there is no such thing as a perfect homeschool year.
You will bomb at something, possibly many things. Your child will not master all the multiplication facts no matter how many songs you sing. Your kiddo will not be reading, even though you bought the fancy phonics program and did a lesson every single day. You will realize that they did five pages of history and even less in science for the whole stinking year.
And it will be alright. Your children can still grow up to be productive members of society, just like mine. I promise!
The best thing you can do is to choose what to bomb for the year. Add it to the list of things to work on next year, and stop worrying about it. And if you know you are definitely not the right person to teach that subject or skill, then figure out how to outsource it.
I work with lots of homeschooled students in high school math because their parents have no desire to relearn Algebra. When we homeschooled, I quickly realized that I was going to have to outsource fine arts, and found amazing local classes to check that off. We used local co-ops to learn all kinds of things with other homeschool families and make sure history and science happened each year.
You don’t have to do everything yourself when you homeschool. But you do need to do this one last thing.
3. Make it fun to get it done
This is also an idea from Finish, and it’s definitely my favorite one! I’m a big fan of fun and I truly believe that making things fun is seriously a great way to finish out your school year. Who wants to drag everyone over the homeschool finish line when you could cross it with some fun for everyone?
Here are a few things to remember about making things fun for your family.
Be weird with it!
Fun looks different to everyone, so it’s fine if what your family finds fun would be like a torture session to someone else. Just make a list of things that make you and your family happy. Then figure out how to add in some of those things as a reward or motivation to your final days of school.
And if you aren’t sure what your kiddos or teens find fun these days, just ask them.
Switch it up!
There’s a reason why teachers save pizza party days and field trips for the end of the school year, when things get extra monotonous. You can do the same thing in your homeschool without having to get all the permission slips signed and returned.
Try switching things up. Trade out math problems for the day for a fun math game instead. Ditch the last chapter in history for a field trip to a historical place. Swap out the science lesson for that messy experiment. Add in a beach day or park day, or let everyone snuggle up and read on sofa all day.
Learning happens all the time everywhere we go, and making things fun can definitely help you finish your homeschool year on a high note.
Make sure to end your school year with some sort of fun celebration. It can be as simple as going out for lunch or a sweet treat after you wrap things up with your evaluation. Or even a bigger day trip to an amusement park or museum.
Just make sure you include something enjoyable for everyone, even you, to celebrate finishing your homeschool year well!
And now, you are definitely ready to finish your homeschool year well! I’d love to hear any other helpful and fun ways that you have used to wrap up your homeschool year. And if you need help with an evaluation or outsourcing that Algebra, just let me know!