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Goal Setting for Your Academic Year

July is here, and we all know what that means: The Back-to-school signs are starting to pop up everywhere we turn! For those of us that homeschool, it’s time to start thinking seriously about setting goals for the upcoming academic year. Even if you’re unschooling, starting the year with a good set of goals will help you stay mindful of topics you want to explore.

No matter which homeschooling approach you use, involving your children in the goal-setting process is always a great idea. Allow them to have a say about which books they are interested in reading, museums or other interesting places they would like to visit, and overall topics of interest they would like to learn more about. This can really allow them to invest in their own educations and keep them motivated throughout the year.

The best method we’ve found for setting goals that stick is the SMART method. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. To assist you in your goal-setting endeavors, we’ve created a little cheat sheet on how to set goals the SMART way.

Specific: In order for a goal to be a good focal point, it needs to be detailed. Instead of saying “I want my children to read some of the classics this year”, making this goal more specific will help ensure you actually achieve the thing it is you want. For example, a specific goal would look more like this:

I want my kids to read Where the Red Fern Grows, Black Beauty, and A Wrinkle in Time this year.

When you name exactly what you want to accomplish, it becomes much easier to make it happen.

Measurable: Goals must be measurable in order to know whether or not you have achieved them. Obviously, it will be pretty easy to know whether or not you have read the books on your list, but other goals can be a bit more obscure. For example, a goal of “have Johnny improve his handwriting this year” can be pretty tricky to measure. Instead, make sure your goals can easily be measured. For example, to meet the specific and measurable requirements, your handwriting goal could be more like this:

I want Johnny to practice handwriting 15 minutes every day and write a legible letter to a family member once a month.

With both specific (letter to Grandma) and measurable goals (the 15-minute time frame), it’s pretty much guaranteed that handwriting will improve in that time.

Attainable: At the beginning of the year, it’s easy to be overly optimistic about what we can accomplish and what our kids are capable of, but as the year progresses things will inevitably arise that can quickly throw us off track if our goals are not actually attainable. This becomes especially important if you’re gifted in an area where one of your children struggles, such as math or writing. It’s easy to forget at times that what may go very quickly for you might take your child a bit longer to accomplish.

While you certainly don’t want to set the bar too low, setting realistic goals will help everyone feel like they are making progress.

Relevant: The word relevant implies that there’s a clear connection between your goal and something else. That could be your children’s interests or the curriculum, but whatever the case, ensure your goals connect.

Ensure that your kids have an interest in the learning goal. If they are not motivated, it will be difficult to meet the goal without frustration.

Examine your goal and ensure that it is necessary. It can be easy to fall into the trap that your kids need to learn the same things you learned in school, but this isn’t always the case. Some kids may benefit more learning how to write computer code versus learning how to diagram sentences.

Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, it should clearly fit within your homeschooling ideals and curriculum topics.

Time-bound: No one likes to get bogged down with a never-ending project! To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, make sure you nail down a time frame to complete your goal. Having an end date in mind will help you stay focused on the task at hand and allow you to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Once you have your goals in place, don’t think you can’t reevaluate and adjust as necessary during the year. We all know that things can and do come up, and it’s perfectly acceptable to scrap some, or add some as things arise. Now that you’ve got some great guidelines on how to set good, attainable goals for this academic year, get to it! We can’t wait to hear what some of you are working on with your kids this year!



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