Goal Setting: My Process and Some Examples

Amanda P asked:

Could you tell me how you choose goals for your kids?

And may I ask you…if you were doing the elementary/preschool years right now, what are a few most important things you’d focus on with them?

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Preschool Years:
Honestly, I would try to stick as close to Ambleside Online’s suggestions as possible for my preschooler. If you follow the link to Year 0, there is a wealth of information about how to implement a Charlotte Mason style home life for your children. She advocates that these early years be used for exploring, playing, and also for developing good habits.

Ambleside Online Year 0

Make sure to scroll down to the section titled, “A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six”. Whenever I have a friend interested in starting to homeschool their young children, I print off the Ambleside Online Year 0 information and give it to them to consider. I love that the suggestions are open ended and can be adapted to all families to suit their tastes and location. If I were starting all over with my children, I would stick to reading lots and lots of good books and keeping in mind the list of attainments from Ambleside Online.
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Beyond Preschool:
After those early years, I would use the same method that I use now as far as making goals and then finding ways to reach those goals. We are not trying to churn out kids who are only prepared to attend college. College is not the ultimate goal in our family and so it takes some time and thought and prayer to come up with a plan for filling the time you have with your children during their school-age years.

Honestly, as our children have grown and matured, we bring them into the process. Their tastes and interests are highly valued and nurtured. I try to mold our school plans to allow for their interests to be included in their school day. My goals are influenced by the big picture, the need to prepare the children for life after homeschooling.

I know it is always helpful to have example so I will attempt to give you one from our family.

For instance, you can make long-term goals and then break them down into steps over a number of years. Perhaps in the area of language arts you could make goals for your child to:
Become a strong reader who loves to read.
Learn how to research an answer to a question.
Use written communication to share thoughts and ideas in a clear and understandable way.

You would then work backwards from the goal in increments to see how to achieve your desired outcome. In the early years, I would plan on reading lots of living books on a variety of topics. I would plan frequent trips to the library for choosing books and for acquainting my children with what is available to them there. They must learn to read on their own so choosing a program such as Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading might help me get that part of the goal accomplished. Strong writers are developed over time and starting with copywork and short narrations we would build on those skills until we had a competent writer, perhaps using Institute for Excellence in Writing as the boys became ready for more formal instruction in the mechanics of putting together research reports and longer essays.

I work through each area of study for each of my boys and put down on paper what I hope to work on during each year. This focuses my purchasing of materials and keeps me from trying to cram in things that would be fun but would not necessarily work us towards our goals. With the wealth and variety of resources available today in the homeschooling world, I know that I could easily become overwhelmed and purchase more than we could work through in a year’s time.

I keep all my ideas in a Subject Notes binder with tabs for each subject. This is a way for me to organize subjects far in advance and keep them handy. For example, in my math section for each son, I have an overall schedule for their math program and I adjust it as I see from year to year how they are progressing. Some years we do not finish a text in the confines of a school year but rather than move on to the next level or stress them out by pushing them to finish over the summer, we continue on in the text where we left off once we start our fall term again. When this happens, I adjust the overall plan in my Subject Notes binder.

In practice, this flexible plan to working towards a goal helps me from pushing too hard or not encouraging them enough.

For example, my overall goal for our high school math program is to finish Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra 2 during that time period. I also have made the goal for each of the boys to achieve 85% or better on each test. If they don’t achieve that score, we review and retake the test. Both my boys are headed for jobs which require strong math skills during their college years so I want them to have a solid base to start from for those courses.

I also keep a separate binder for the current year’s plans. This is also tabbed by subject and in each section I keep ideas and notes for projects, books, and activities that I can choose from as we work through the year.

For example, in the biology section, I have printed out the table of contents from the textbook and then made notes for each module for additional activities that would tie into my overall goal of including nature study along with the formal biology text. I have listed possible field trips, names of kits available from Home Science Tools catalog, and then nature journal topics that we can include during our hiking and traveling over the year. If I read a particular blog post that contains ideas and thoughts that I want to include in our homeschool, I print those out and place them in the appropriate section in the current year’s plans. I do not by any means use all the ideas but when we get to a point where we are bogged down or we are in the mood for something different, I can flip to the subject and see if there are any ideas that we can implement.

I know I haven’t given you a direct answer to your original question but there is no one answer. I could give you a list of goals that I thought were important and they might be totally irrelevant to your children. Take some time and make your overall goal list and then break the goals into parts that you can implement.

  • Use What Your XXX Grader Needs to Know as a base if you need some ideas to get started.
  • Start with Ambleside Online’s suggestions for each year and adapt to your goals.
  • Another great book to help give you a framework is The Well-Trained Mind. We have used The Well-Trained Mind as the beginning point of our overall planning for a number of years now and if you view it as a beginning point and not a plan set in concrete, it can be helpful in planning goals.
  • I also have gleaned many particular goals by reading The Charlotte Mason Companion.

It takes effort to come up with goals but the sooner you get it done, the more time you will have to break those goals down into small increments.

Hopefully this very long post contains some ideas for you to form your list of goals. 🙂

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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