homeschool how to make 2020 your best homeschool year yet

Homeschool How To:

It’s 2020, the year of perfect vision.  So how can you make 2020 the best Homeschool year yet?

The five-step process PandiaPress published (in 2019 here) was so good, we couldn’t resist sharing it again!

Step 1: Remember and Celebrate Your Success

It’s easy to get stuck and defeated, especially at the start of 2020 during winter, as in many areas the weather keeps kids indoors for longer stretches of time. Listen, 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. The goal is to remember what you’ve already accomplished, encourage yourself, and identify where you can repeat or replicate successful strategies that are already working.

Seriously, make a list on paper, use sticky notes, type in a computer document, or whatever works! Just make sure you remember: you are doing great things! In fact, as long as you frame the questions correctly, you can even ask your children to do this with you, which will help them realize some of the best parts of their learning from last year. What was their favorite moment or most memorable or valuable to them in 2019? What were they happy to have accomplished last year and what do they consider their biggest successes? Hopefully, you’ll see that some of your answers are mirrored by the kids, and get the chance to take a deep breath of “way-to-go” encouragement!

Step 2: Reframe Difficulties

Great vision isn’t just about acknowledging difficulties, it’s about reframing challenges as new opportunities. Earnestly desiring a new point-of-view on old challenges is about renewing your hope, whether you’re concerned about your child’s struggles in academics or dissatisfied with your schedule. Start by getting the challenges out on paper. If you like, you can even use a similar process that you used for your successes. Name the difficulties you are having, and ask helpful questions like “who can help me see a new angle on this?” Maybe you can even put your challenges right next to your success, so you can see them side by side.

As always, the purpose of this exercise is to get your concerns out into the open, so you can consider who or what will help you take a new approach. DO NOT 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!

2020 Homeschool How To

The things I want to change in 2020 start with a process of reframing difficulties as opportunities 

Step 3: More of this/less of that

Alright, have you got your two lists? Now it’s time to integrate your successes and difficulties through an exercise called More of This/Less of That. This will form the basis of your goal setting for 2020. 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: A Fresh 2020 Homeschool Vision 

Now that you’ve worked out the details of what you do and don’t want for your homeschool in 2020, it’s time to integrate all of these things into a coherent whole. There are several ways to go about this:

Optics 101

Make a list of words that describe the best parts of your homeschool and the qualities you’d like to see more of. An example: (some of my words are) curiosity, musical, scientific, hands-on, cooperative, and self-motivated.

Optics 201

Perfect vision isn’t about perfection it’s about projection (did you catch what I did there?) Seriously, start by envisioning what an “ideal day” will look like for you and your students. You know every day won’t be perfect, but how would you like things to flow from one activity to the next, and who is taking on what responsibility, where and when learning is taking place. Write this ideal flow down.

Optics 301

Okay, here’s the part that will destress your life for months-to-come. Make a list of Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Quarterly experiences you’d like to see in your homeschool. Realistically, it’s hard to cram in every moment into your calendar, but put together an initial list of ideas. Using different holidays, seasons and time frames in the upcoming year can be helpful guide in developing the 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: Goals for the Best Homeschool Year Yet

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, breathe deep and feel the strength of great foresight beginning to shape your path for 2020! You’re well on your way to making 2020 the best homeschool year yet!

If you’d like more in-depth discussion of any of these steps, I devoted a week to each on my blog last 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.