Thursday, November 18, 2010

Guest Post - Welcome Joyce Herzog!

Today's guest is speaker and author, Joyce Herzog. Joyce's passion is helping people learn the way they learn best! You can visit her on the web here to learn more about what she has to offer including Learning Without Labels, Luke's Lists, Timeless Teaching Tips and more!

~ Goals and Goal Setting ~

A parent recently wrote, “We seem to bounce around and never feel we have accomplished anything. Can you help?” Here is my answer: You have already taken the first steps toward a solution. You have recognized that there is a problem, verbalized it, and asked for help. I’m impressed. From here on, it gets easier.

One of the best motivators is seeing progress. It is impossible to see progress unless you set achievable and measurable goals. Not every skill can be so charted, but it is important to chart some goals in order to see movement. Without such goals, it is more likely that learning will be unfocused and unrecognized. That often leads to a feelings you are experiencing of being stalled and ineffective.

You are feeling a need for some structure in your life and homeschool. That doesn’t mean that you should switch to a regulated curriculum or begin to bring school home. On the contrary, such a major jump would probably be so restrictive that you would bounce back in reaction. It’s better to just set some long term and short term goals.

In the academic areas, get a scope and sequence from a reputable curriculum publisher (or look at my own Luke’s School List). This is a list of skills or concepts covered, usually grade level by grade level, listed in order presented. It is available at no cost from most curriculum publishers. World Book Encyclopedia also publishes one online. There are also books which give an idea of what can be taught at each grade level - or what must be covered in the elementary grades, middle school ages and high schools. Though I personally resist too much restriction by age and grade level since God made each of us so unique, I have also written a mini-book on SIMPLIFIED Homeschool and Recordkeeping which contains a scope and sequence for kindergarten through sixth grade. Use one of these as a guide to choose some topics to approach in the coming months.

It is not always possible to determine ahead how long the study of a given topic will take, but it is helpful to have a sequence so that you can be gathering materials for future studies when you notice them. Keep a drawer or a file cabinet ready to organize these finds so they’ll be ready when you are. Keep note also of library books which address the topic, questions that come up that you’ll want to research, and articles you come across in magazines or on the internet. Jot down ideas for possible field trips. I find that sometimes under pressure, these ideas remain hidden in the vast recesses of my brain, but when I least need them they are jumping out, ready for attention. Keep future topics in the front of your mind and jot down the ideas as you find them and file them immediately. They will start you thinking in the right direction long before deadlines threaten.

It is also helpful to involve the children in goal setting. Ask their opinion when choosing topics, methods of study, and the manner of showing effort and progress. Be willing to compromise where possible, but remember that you are ultimately the one held responsible for their education.

In a given study, make a list of skills to be mastered, facts to be memorized, jobs to be done, or books to be read. Turn the list into a chart ready to date, mark off, or award a sticker when the job is done or the skill is mastered. Seeing the chart fill up is very rewarding and keeps efforts directed. Do allow diversions when they are important; just add them to the chart so you can still see progress and direction. The important thing is to structure a way to document accomplishments. You might make a chart per month, per quarter, per semester or even per year… Probably for most of us monthly or quarterly is best.

Another way to see progress is to have the children make an informal record of their present level of development, and repeat the same activity every three to six months. I often had my children list ten words they could spell, write a story or paragraph and make up and solve one problem for each aspect of math they were familiar with (addition, subtraction, decimals, money, fractions, etc.). This gave me a running record of their handwriting, spelling, and math and, indirectly, their reading level as well. Perhaps a better evaluation of their reading would be to have them list three of the best books they have read since the last time they did this. Be sure they put their name and date on this paper! Keep them in sequential order, most recent on top, in a section of the child’s portfolio and refer to them occasionally. You will be amazed at how easy it is to see maturation and skill in this simple way.

Some progress can be best recorded through taking photos. Photograph large projects, presentations, and field trips. Then have the children enter the photos in an album and add captions. These will be great for recordkeeping, reminiscing and sharing with interested friends and relatives. Writing captions provides meaningful opportunity for practicing handwriting, improving spelling, and formulating thoughts into sentences and paragraphs. And it’s more fun than an assignment for the sake of an assignment.

Setting goals and posting them in front of you keeps you directed and goal oriented. I find sticky notes invaluable for keeping current goals in the front of my mind. I love to write “DONE” on top of goals, and even enjoy discarding the stickies when I complete all the tasks on them. You might prefer to date the stickies and keep them in your child’s portfolio. Whatever way you choose, the key is to keep goals in the front of your mind so that they do not become neglected and forgotten before they are finished. No one finishes everything he starts, but you can always make improvements by setting goals, keeping them in front of you, and charting progress on a regular basis.

© 2010 by Joyce Herzog. Used with permission.

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