I recently had a request to reprint this article. Knowing how useful this information has been to so many people for the last several years, I decided to make it available to you on my website.
For many years I measured our homeschool success by the number of books we completed and what academics we managed to get done each day. I didn’t really know how to evaluate our year. I spent valuable time grieving over what I thought was failure, unsure of what to change to improve our children’s education. Before I could begin planning for our next school term, my year-end evaluation always loomed before me, casting the shadow of a menacing giant.
Whether your state law requires annual evaluations or not, it is to your benefit to learn to look objectively over the past several months. Take the information you glean and make it productive in planning for the next year.
Questions to Answer
The following questions have helped guide my thinking as I considered our school year, making evaluation a more valuable tool.
- What scripture passages did we memorize this year? God’s word never returns void, and His wisdom should be our supreme priority. *
- In what positive habits did each child show progress? Yes, even potty training can count on this one. Cleanliness, character, conviction, and cognitive habits are all part of educating the whole person. We are training in habits, whether purposefully or not. Cognitive habits, which include the ability to attend well to a lesson (mental focus), and the abilities to observe, visualize, and make connections between the disciplines, are dependent on the child’s age and development. Make a list of those good qualities you see in each child. Then add the habits you will consider as priority work in the next year. Plan to concentrate on one habit at a time. *
- Was our schedule too busy this year, causing strain on everyone, or did we have time to rest each day? Did we, both children and mom, have time to sit quietly and think, to hear the Lord? What changes do we need to consider for next year’s schedule? *
- What were the unplanned learning experiences we encountered this year? Examples might include an extended illness, Dad losing his job, an unexpected move, or a difficult pregnancy. What are some of the lessons each of us learned?
- This year, what did I learn about (insert name of each child individually)? This question will be fun to consider as you think back over the surprises you encountered with each child as he developed. Record the delightful changes as well as the challenging attitudes or tendencies.
- What curriculum changes do I need to consider for next year? What worked, and what didn’t work this year?
- What was a crowning moment this year? Note the obvious successes you saw in each child. *
- What was our greatest challenge this year? Will this challenge carry into next year? *
- What do I need to change, as parent/teacher, in my approach next year? Are my expectations realistic? Was the workload realistic for the age and development of each child? Do I lecture and/or moralize too much? Am I too intense? Do I look for joy in each day? Do I need to change priorities? Are the most important things getting the least amount of time?
- Was there anything I really hoped to do this year that didn’t happen? Why? Should it become a priority for next year? *
- What can we do to celebrate each child’s progress this year? Ideas might include a special honors night at dinner or an end of the year party with certificates of accomplishment. Accomplishments could include any progress, spiritual or academic, that each child has made.
- Make a list of the academic progress of each child; recognizing strengths and weaknesses will help you plan for next year.
- Make a list of what was really good about this year. It is easy to forget. *
- What changes would you recommend for next year? *
At about age twelve or thirteen, your student can be involved in your evaluation, specifically his part. The questions marked with an asterisk could be asked of an older student. It will encourage him to begin to take responsibility for his education, moving him toward self-education.
Give yourself time with these questions to encourage thought and reflection, whether you write down your answers or not. Remember, you cannot teach your children everything in one year. Take the knowledge you glean from your evaluation and bless the Lord for the work He has done. Then, with prayer and confidence, start your plan for next year, resting in the fact that He who began a good work in you (and in your children) will complete it.
Note from the author:
In the years since writing this article, many home educating moms have experienced the advantages of timely evaluation. In addition to annual assessments, end-of-term evaluations have proven useful to more clearly reveal what is working and what is hindering the progress of their children. With this fact in mind, I developed a resource which makes the evaluation process easier to accomplish. The questions have been refined for ease of use and better organization of thought. To learn more about the digital and printed versions of this resource, go to The ABCs of Looking Back.