Homeschool Goal Setting 101

The Importance of Setting Goals in your Homeschool

            No matter what type of homeschooling you practice, setting goals will supercharge your homeschooling experience. We developed our free apps (unschoolportfolio.com and unschoolhighschool.com) with a goal-setting feature and have been surprised by how little it is used by students and parents. So, here’s our pitch for setting goals! Give it a try and see if it really does improve your homeschooling experience – research in many fields has shown that it probably will!

The Lowdown on Goals

So what is a goal, exactly? A goal is something that you want to achieve, a place that you want to get to, or a skill that you want to master. When we think of goals, we often think of our hopes and dreams, or in homeschooling that might translate to our hopes and dreams for our kids. Our goals might be for them to graduate from high school, become a marine biologist, or just to happily navigate the 5th grade. But what if we broke our goals down further? Goals can be day long (“I’d like to get through the entire day without having my child quote a meme!”) or week long (“I’d like to be done with this book by the end of the week.”). They can be related to scheduling, social-emotional learning, or academic achievement (see more below on achievement goals). Setting goals helps us to reflect on what we actually want to accomplish through homeschooling and keeps us accountable for working in that direction. We recommend spending time thinking about monthly, weekly and daily goals.

Daily goals can take as little as 5 minutes to establish… think of them like setting your intention for a meditation or yoga class.  You don’t even really need to write these down, just have them in mind as you move throughout your day.

Weekly goals may take 30 minutes or so to think about as you organize your materials for the upcoming week. Setting aside this time each week helps you to focus yourself for the upcoming week and gives you a chance to celebrate and re-evaluate your goals from the prior week. If you are unschooling, have your children set their own weekly goals, then spend some time comparing and contrasting their week’s activities and the goals that they set.

Monthly goals are a great time to sit down and really take stock of your progress as you move through your homeschooling year. You can evaluate the strategies and curriculum that you are using and move in a different direction if you need to. Don’t be afraid to completely change your direction, or re-evaluate your goal setting process if you are continually not meeting your monthly goals. After all, homeschooling is about you and your child… if something isn’t working, it’s ok to throw it out the window.

Some Goals are Better than Others (read this if you truly want to geek out on goals)

So much research has been done of goal setting and how it influences learners, athletes, employees… pretty much everyone. If you want to write goals that will really work for you, here’s what you need to know:

Mastery vs Performance (achievement) Goals

A mastery goal is an intrinsic (internal) goal of gaining a skill or accomplishing something that is important to the goal setter. Mastery goals are usually judged by the goal setter, not by someone externally. For example, a mastery goal might be to “perform 10 pushups” or “recite my 5x times tables”. A performance goal is external – it is usually judged by someone else. This might be a goal to get an “A” in a class or to win a long-distance race. While either type of goal is ok (having a goal is better than not having a goal), many studies have shown that students (or teachers) who set mastery goals are more successful than those who set achievement goals.

Proximal vs Distal Goals

Proximal and distal are just fancy words for near and far. Proximal goals are those that are within your grasp of achieving right away. If you are regularly setting goals, your proximal goals might be set (and accomplished) on a daily basis. Distal goals are goals that you just aren’t going to reach today, but that you might work towards over a course of time. These might be monthly or even annual goals. Here’s something interesting – researchers have found that it is actually best to have BOTH proximal and distal goals (thus our daily, weekly, monthly idea). The idea is that you should have a grand plan, but in order to make your grand plan work, you need to be motivated by the baby steps leading up to it.

So, set some goals! Give it a try! Just remember to:

  1. Set goals that are based on mastery, not achievement.
  2. Use your goals to hold yourself accountable.
  3. Use your goals to evaluate your homeschooling path and CHANGE IT if you need to.
  4. Set goals daily, weekly and monthly to help yourself succeed!
  5. If you are unschooling, have your unschooler set their own goals and have amazing conversations about time management, goals and dreams!

Happy Goal Setting! And don’t forget to check out free tools for planning and managing your homeschooling experience (unschoolportfolio.com for K-8 and unschoolhighschool.com for self-directed teenagers).

Annie Graham

Annie is a mother of six and has experienced having children in public, private and home education settings. Annie is an avid believer in the power of child led, interest based education, and feels that this type of learning is possible in any educational environment.

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