If you’re like me, you feel both excitement and dread at this time of year. On one hand, so many new possibilities await. On the other hand, it’s daunting! The things I want to change won’t automatically morph because my calendar says 2019 now. Where to start?

Here’s the five-step process that I am using to make 2019 my best homeschool year ever!

Step 1: Celebrate success

Before identifying areas that you’d like to change, it’s important to acknowledge what’s already going well and what progress has been made. This will help identify what you’re already doing that you can expand upon or replicate.

You can make a list on paper, use sticky notes, type in a computer document, or whatever works! And if you’d like, you can ask your children to do this as well. What was especially memorable or valuable to them in 2018? What do they consider successes? Do those answers mirror yours?

Step 2: Acknowledge difficulties

Whether you’re concerned about your child’s struggles in academics or dissatisfied with your schedule, it’s helpful to get it all out on paper. You can use a similar process for the difficulties that you used for the successes. You can even put them together on the same page, so you can see them side by side.

The purpose of this exercise is to get your concerns out into the open, NOT to beat yourself up about them. You’re simply identifying what needs work. Again, if desired, ask your family to do this too, and see how your lists match up.

As you make your list, ideas might start coming to you about how you’d like to make changes. You can jot these down for later in the process!

The things I want to change won’t automatically morph because my calendar says 2019 now.

Step 3: More of this/less of that

Now it’s time to integrate your two lists (successes and difficulties) through an exercise called More of This/Less of That. This will form the basis of your goal setting for 2019. You can start with successes or difficulties, but I find it helpful to start with difficulties and think about ways to turn those negatives into positives.

For instance, one difficulty on my list is getting my son to practice skills he doesn’t prefer to work on. If he just gave himself a chance, he’d experience success! From that item, I wrote “less arguing and more cooperation.” From that, I brainstormed “more ways to keep track of his progress.” Specifying what I didn’t want led to specific list items of what I did want.

Here are a few more examples for a More/Less list. What’s true for you will depend on your situation!

  • More working out the schedule together/Less arguing about when to do things
  • More exciting book choices/Less zoning out during reading aloud
  • More workspace and storage space for projects/Less worry about mess or clutter

Step 4: Refresh your homeschool vision

Now that you’ve worked out the details of what you do and don’t want for your homeschool in 2019, it’s time to integrate all of these things into a coherent whole. There are several ways to go about this:

Option 1

Make a list of words that describe your homeschool or the qualities you’d like to see more of. Some of my words are curiosity, musical, scientific, hands-on, cooperative, and self-motivated.

Option 2

Write out an “ideal day”. How you’d like things to flow from one activity to the next, who is taking on what responsibility, where and when learning is taking place.

Option 3

Make a list of Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Quarterly experiences that you’d like to see in your homeschool. Realistically, it’s hard to cram in every area into every day. Using different time frames can be helpful in developing that bigger picture of your homeschool throughout the year.

Your daily list includes habits and routines that happen every homeschool day. I recommend keeping this short. My list: reading, discussions, and play.
A weekly list might include experiments, projects, co-op meetings, music lessons, tutoring, visits with friends, and so on. Some of my weekly items are poetry teatime, tennis class, and nature study walks.

Monthly lists might have field trips, outings, end-of-chapter assessments, and presentations. If one month doesn’t seem like enough time, you can think about 6-8 week blocks.

My quarterly/seasonal list includes having book parties, wrapping up current unit studies, and starting new projects. Even if you don’t homeschool year round, you can still list experiences for summer, such as watching the Leonids or developing swimming skills.

A yearly list might include items like “visit a historical site that involves a hotel stay” and “master a level of curriculum.” Or you might want your child to learn about a specific topic sometime within the upcoming year, but are flexible as to when.

As with the other steps in this process, you may want to involve your family in creating these lists.

Step 5: Set realistic goals

The final step is to make all of your ideas concrete by phrasing them as realistic goals. We’ve saved this for last because it is much easier to set goals when you’re clear on the end result!

If you wrote out daily, weekly, and monthly lists during Step 4, you might be able to generate specific, realistic goals right from there. Or, you might need to break things down into more actionable steps.

When writing out goals, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How will I know when this goal has been achieved? Will it be a general feeling or a specific achievement?
  • How will I keep track? It’s helpful for me to have a visual checklist that we reference throughout each week, while other families prefer to keep an online record or use a printed planner.
  • What support do my kids need in order to do their part? For example, if I want my son to be more responsible about cleaning up his LEGOs, I could give him a set time in the schedule, until it becomes part of his routine.
  • What support do I need from my partner/family in order to make this happen? Make sure you have some time for yourself, too!
  • What strategies or tools might make this more doable? Whether it’s a chore chart, new curriculum, or planner, brainstorm what will help get the job done!

What next?

Now that you have a list of actions to take, go for it! But make one of those actions scheduling a time to revisit your goals, homeschool vision, and More of This/Less of That list. You can edit these documents periodically, updating and reflecting as you go.

And now, celebrate! You’re on your way to making 2019 your best homeschool year ever!

If you’d like more in-depth discussion of any of these steps, I am devoting a week to each on my blog during the month of January. You can check out the entire series here: Homeschool Refresh

Lisa is a homeschooling mom, science educator and curriculum developer with classroom experience ranging from pre-K students to 7th grade. After almost 20 years in traditional school settings, Lisa currently works as a curriculum consultant to schools and families. She also teaches weekend, after-school, camp programs, and graduate courses for science teachers at the American Museum of Natural History. Lisa blogs at  Inquiring Minds Homeschool.