Friday, January 6, 2017

What's Working and What's New? Our Homeschool Mid-Year Review for 2016-2017

I plan the bulk of our homeschool curriculum once a year in July, but each January it is time for our mid-year review. The whole process of our mid-year review takes only 1-2 hours.  The intent of our mid-year review is to look at the following with regards to our home school:
  • What has been working well?
  • What needs to be improved?
  • What needs to be removed from our curriculum?
  • Is there anything new to focus on? 
  • What specific needs does each child have over the next few months?


Pen and Paper

I start the process of our mid-year review by writing out the answers to the above questions.  I think back on the previous semester with an open mind to identify things that need to be changed. Sometimes there may be a particular book or curriculum resource that I was very excited about, but that my children don't engage well with.  I may find that there are some subjects that we never even got off the ground with, and I need to decide whether I will re-commit to working on those or let them drop off the to-do list.

I think about each child and what needs I can identify. Perhaps they are struggling with a certain activity, chore, or skill; perhaps they need extra support in some specific area. I think about each child's current interests and ways that I can direct our schooling to make the most of those interests.

Mentoring Conversations

Once I have written down my own thoughts, the next step is to have a conversation with each of my children to discuss their goals and desires, needs and wants. This year, we are using this free homeschool compass to record what each child wants to focus on in the coming months. 

I write down my children's input, and this shows the children that their input is valued and important.  While I may make gentle suggestions during this process, the children are ultimately allowed to decide whether or not they want to focus on anything in particular. This gives my children a sense of ownership over their own educations. Their own interests are just as important as my own agenda for their learning. Mentoring conversations are a time for me to get a better understanding of what I can do to help my children in reaching their goals and pursuing their own interests. 


2016-17 Midyear Review: Things that Are Working Especially Well

World Trip 
From June through November 2016, my kids and I went on a virtual world trip. We "visited" 20 different countries, exploring the culture in each place through books, music, art, and food.  We all thoroughly enjoyed this.

Life of Fred Math Books
Although last school year Bedtime Math was my children's favorite math book, this year they are totally into Life of Fred. We have breezed through two books and are already over halfway through a third book. My kids are asking me to read them Life of Fred so often that I'm going to have to order some more books for the coming semester!
Classic Audio Books on USB Sticks
During our daily afternoon quiet time, my children have been enjoying listening to audio versions of classic books.  We invested in a couple USB memory sticks that can hold many audio books (as I was tired of burning audio books to CD's), and I downloaded a bunch of free classic audio books from Librivox. My kids have been listening to books ranging from Tales from Shakespeare to The Adventures of Johnny Chuck to Swiss Family Robinson to Book of Dragons.

2016-17 Midyear Review: New Curriculum for the Coming Semester

United States Trip
I had planned to start studying Ancient History this coming semester, but that is going to slide to the next school year. My children loved our World Trip so much that I decided to do a United States Trip for Spring 2017. Some of the resources we are using for our United States Trip are:


2016-17 Midyear Review: Notes from Mentoring Conversations

 9&1/2 year old daughter Alina
In addition to pursuing the interests I already knew of (Native Americans, horses, and animals), Alina set a goal for herself to start learning cursive. She also decided to start working on correct capitalization and lower-case usage in her handwriting. With the help of the Project Inspire - Learning Log Book, she chose a few new books to read, and set a few goals of places for us to visit including White Sands National Monument and Fillmore Canyon.
Nearly-7-year-old son Ian
In addition to learning more about his obvious interests (vehicles of all kinds), Ian wants to learn more tricks on his bike, how car jacks work, and how to whistle. He wants to continue his reading lessons and learn to make more Lego creations.  He selected some more classic audio books to listen to, and set goals for us to hike at Picacho Peak and Dripping Springs this semester.

Not Just for Home Schoolers

Mid-year reviews are not just for home schoolers. Any parents who are fostering a love of learning could benefit from periodic planning and mentoring sessions. These are wonderful tools for focusing our efforts on the things that our children need and desire in order to find their own personal missions.  

Do you have a mid-year educational review? Do you like the idea of being a mentor rather than a teacher to your children?



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M Leonard said...

Love this! We do our school year January through Thanksgiving and take the last 1.5 weeks of November and all of December off instead of a big summer break. We take a couple weeks off in summer but otherwise work through. I've been slowly reading through the Thomas Jefferson Education books and have only partially implemented it. One thing I'd been lacking is the weekly mentoring sessions...I wanted to make the form but had yet to get around to it. Now here you've gone and linked a perfect form. Thank you!!! Now I just need to print it then start working on implementation. Homeschooling is MUCH easier this year because I'm more organized, we've got semi-structured curriculum and my daughter is FINALLY reading mostly on her own.

Sarah Smith said...

Glad you found it helpful! I, too, am working on trying to implement the regular mentor meetings. I'm going to start with once a month with my eldest and see how that works for us. She tends to like things less-structured, so I'm thinking once-a-week might be too often, but we'll see how once-a-month works out. :)

Elizabeth said...

Hi Sarah!

How do you kids listen with the USB sticks? Do they plug them into the computer or is there another way to use them?


Sarah Smith said...

We have a portable CD player that has a jack for the USB memory stick. It looks like a smallish Boombox. So one kid uses that. Then, our DVD player also has a USB port, so often, if they want to listen to different things, or if they just want some alone time, one kid will use the Boombox in their bedroom, while the other will use the one in the living room with earbuds.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks! I've been looking for a way to listen to audiobooks that aren't on CD without a screen!