March — it’s the month for buckling down and staying the course, right? Well, right — and wrong.
Right because it does take a lot of stamina to press on when the glitter of the holidays has worn off and the breezes of spring have yet to revive your flagging spirits. The impulse to faithfully put your nose to the grindstone is good.
And yet, if all you’re focused on is plugging away, you’re missing the golden opportunity of early spring: realistic evaluation and planning.
That’s right — evaluation isn’t just for May, when you’re putting together a portfolio or administering standardized tests. And it’s certainly not for July, when you realize you should probably be finalizing some choices for the coming school year. Evaluation time is right now.
Why? Because right now, you’re acutely aware of who you really are as a homeschooler, and who your kids really are as students.
There’s this thing that happens over the summer, after we’ve had a chance to breathe and get some distance from the day-in, day-out life of homeschooling; it’s called Fantasy Homeschool Syndrome.
Awash in the glow of summer sunshine, we forget what kind of curriculum we will actually open and use. In our imaginations, we have unbounded energy, unflagging discipline, creativity beyond measure. We lose touch with the kinds of assignments we will hate, the projects we’ll avoid, the books we’ll never open. We envision ourselves as the homeschoolers that we want to be (creative, diligent, free-spirited, rigorous — whatever floats your hypothetical boat) — instead of being informed by how God has actually made us and what is realistic within the boundaries He has given us.
Not only that, but we lose touch with who our children really are. Weeks after we close that final book and go out for celebratory Slurpees, we fail to see a disconnect between the kid who hates scissors and a lapbook-heavy curriculum. All we hear are the rave reviews from our friend at the pool.
Now is the time to take stock!
Ask yourself honest, detailed questions, based on the real school year you are living right now:
~ What are my strengths as a homeschooler? What did I really dive into and enjoy, and why?
~ What are my weaknesses? What kinds of things (books, approaches, routines, etc.) do I dislike? What am I avoiding and why?
~ What are the other factors I should take into consideration? What are my other “boundary lines”? (Think about budget, part-time work, ministry, care for other family members, etc.)
These questions are your lifeline to a homeschool that truly fits your family. Trying to pretend we’re someone we’re not or have strengths that we don’t means that we are ignoring the graces God has given us. Don’t trade your actual, unique potential for a phantom “you” that is destined to crash and burn because she’s not real.
Now ask your kids similar questions about their current experience. What are they enjoying? Where do they feel successful? What do they dislike? How could school be better? The answers to these questions will be invaluable for shaping next year’s homeschool. Do it NOW, in March, and not in June. Kids forget over the summer, too, and will give you insight-yielding answers like “fine” and “whatever.”
The answers to these questions become your guidelines. They help you ruthlessly filter the vast array of options you’ll encounter at the convention or as you click around the internet. It doesn’t matter how appealing something looks; if doesn’t match the criteria you’ve learned you actually need, it’s out of the running.
When we romanticize our circumstances, we don’t end up with a solution that’s God-breathed. When we fail to be realistic about who we are — and who our kids are — we end up with a plan that might work for someone else, but not for us.
Seize the month of March for brutally honest evaluation — and get ready for next year to be your best yet.