CATHERINE DONNELLY MUG

Catherine Donnelly

How can one hit a target that doesn’t even exist? Homeschooling without defined goals is like standing in one’s backyard with a bow and arrow spinning in circles trying to decide what to shoot at. Or worse yet, letting those arrows fly randomly and hoping for the best.

As fall approaches each year, the panic settles over many homeschool parents and they become glassy eyed from pouring through catalogs and websites of curriculum options. How to choose the best materials for each child can be agonizing.

As a veteran homeschool mom of 27 years who was also homeschooled as a child, let me ease your burden just a wee bit.

Before you even start looking at all the options, may I suggest you step back and decide what your big goals are. What are the most important lessons, skills or qualities you’d like to be sure your child leaves your homeschool with when the time comes for them to launch?

The answer to these foundational questions will then guide and narrow the rest of your decision making process. And hopefully significantly reduce your stress levels.

No matter what your plans are, it is very important to note that your homeschool goals do not need to mirror those of any other family or school, public or private. (I am going to share our family’s goals with the hope that these will get you started thinking about your own!)

When I was a new homeschool mama, I would sit for hours, researching and writing lists of all the specific skills I hoped to cover each year with each child. This exercise was fine and it did help steer our choices for the year but after a few years I realized that everything boiled down to a few foundational targets I wanted each child to hit before they “graduated” from my homeschool.

So each year I still make a general list of subjects and skills we will cover but everything always points back to our family’s “Five Learning Goals.”

The Donnelly Family Learning Goals

That the child would learn to read well.

That the child would learn basic mathematics.

That the child would learn to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.

That the child would learn how to learn.

That the child would cultivate a lifelong love of learning. (This is the one that is the absolute most important to me.)

When I sit down one day to write each of them a transcript or a diploma, I will look back at these foundations to our homeschool and judge our mutual success as student and teacher. If these targets were met, I will have confidence that any subject they didn’t completely ace or a skill that wasn’t on our radar can easily be filled in if they find a need for that skill or knowledge in their adult life.

The ability to read well is the key that unlocks any door.

A deep love of learning will inspire and drive them to seek the knowledge they need.

An understanding of how to go about learning will steer them to be able to follow their dreams.

The ability to communicate what they have learned will insure their usefulness in whatever professions they pursue.

And mathematics, well we all know that math is used all day every day in one way or another.

May I encourage you to take some time to evaluate what your family’s most important outcomes are for your homeschool and then let everything else be driven by your foundational goals.

Homeschooling is hard. It’s wonderful. It’s worth the investment of time and money. You can do this.

{span}Catherine Donnelly began her formal education journey in Montessori preschool. Following a short stint in regular school she was homeschooled from 5th grade on. After being her college’s first homeschooled graduate, she and her husband decided upon home education for their five children. Now, 27 years, and many adventures later, she is till homeschooling their youngest 3 children.{/span} For more information on ShillerLearning, call 888-556-6284 or message/email your questions.

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