Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Setting Goals is the 2nd Step

After getting all my random thoughts and ideas down on paper, the next thing I do to plan is set some goals.  In all honesty, I have to admit that I often start looking at curriculum way before I set goals, but I try to have the goals in mind once I start the process of actually choosing curriculum.

There are several ways to set goals.  Some like to use the great forms available from Donna Young's website.  I'm sure there are other sites and programs with goal setting forms.  This year, I'm just writing them in my notebook.  I try to keep my goals very general.  In some cases I leave the nitty gritty to the program I'm using for a particular subject.  An example would be math.  I have always been very confident in the Saxon and Abeka math programs.  I know that my children are getting everything they need if I follow one of these.  I think I would find it too overwhelming to set specific goals for math.  I admire those who can do this and then use various resources to help them meet those goals.  English grammar is another example.  I tend to use Voyages or Easy Grammar and I believe, once again, that both of these programs provide the content my children need to learn.  So my goals are more general.

An example of a general goal would be  last year's reading goal for Jetter.  As a fifth grader, Jetter was able to read, but his stamina for reading was low.  A few minutes and he was done, moving on to climbing trees and wrestling with his brother.  So, the goal for Jetter this past school year was to increase reading stamina. We accomplished this by simply finding series of books that Jetter was interested in.  I started with the Bush Boys series which I found at CHC.  I bought just the first book because I didn't know if he would like them.  After one book he was hooked and I ended up buying all the rest.  He has also read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and several of the Red Wall books.  He is currently waiting (impatiently) to get the next in the series.  He reads mostly before he goes to bed.  He enjoys the privilege of staying up after lights out so he can read a while.  And read he does!  I am delighted that it was so easy to accomplish this goal of building reading stamina!  Next year, the goal is to increase his writing stamina!  I'm not sure that's going to be as easy.

I try to set goals for each of my children in the five areas below.  Sometimes, it works better if the whole family works on one particular goal.  This is usually in the case of a virtue that I see lacking in my children and myself.  I'll describe each briefly below but I think the one thing that is so important, and that I need to really work on, is the act of REVISITING these goals that I have written.  I have, in the past, gone to great lengths to write out wonderful goals for my children and myself, only to stumble upon them in say, April, and think "Oh wow, I forgot we were going to work on that!"  (Yes, I can be that scatter-brained! :)  So the goal for keeping these goals always in mind is to revisit them on a regular basis.  Since I will be dividing our school year up into 6 six-week terms, revisiting goals (and adjusting if need be) will happen at the end of each term.

Early Morning Academics
Academic Goals - I touched on this above.  When possible, for the subjects like math, grammar and spelling, I try to use a program that I trust is going to cover the important objectives for each grade.  Sometimes I will need to add, like in the case of memorizing multiplication facts, but for the most part I can list the goals for these subjects in terms of pages completed.  So for Math I can list the academic goal as "Complete one lesson daily."  At the end of the six week term I know my child should be at lesson 30, or close to it.  Other subjects require more thought though.  For example,  I wrote about Jetter's reading goal above.  For Social BF, the goal for reading is to read more challenging literature, not necessarily a greater quantity.  I am including a Family Goal for Writing this year.  I think this is an area that we as a family need to work on.  I've ordered The Writer's Jungle that I hope to read for inspiration to help us reach our goal in this area.  So, in similar fashion, each child will have goals written for each subject that they will study.

Remorse (?)
Behavioral Goals are more difficult for me to write.  I think that is because I have to admit the misbehavior that is going on, and then make the efforts to correct it.  I think most moms  know the necessity of discipline, and I don't think I'm the only one that finds it difficult.  To take away a child's privileges in order to teach them to follow the rules, or be kind, or respect property (or whatever it is) is not just a hardship on the child being disciplined, but on the parent doing the disciplining.  Here is where the many prayers for grace come in!  I have to pray in order to be the consistent, loving parent I need to be.  Once again, writing these goals and then revisiting them each term helps us to stay on track.  The beauty here is when the goal is met and you can give a great sigh of relief.  ("Whew!  Thank you Lord, that little Beany has learned to stop hitting in anger"!)

First Communion and Confirmation!
Spiritual Goals are most often family goals.  Perhaps we want to make attending Adoration weekly a goal or maybe we need to work on more reverence during our family prayer times.  Or, maybe we're seeing the need to pay more attention at Mass.  The latter was one that we accomplished a couple of years ago.  It was quite simple:  After Mass my husband would ask the kids what the Gospel was about, or the homily, or the first reading, etc.  Since they new the question was coming they listened more intently.  I also listened more intently because of the conversation that often began after the question was asked.  This is also the area in which goals regarding virtue come in.  Areas like self control, obedience, fortitude, etc. can all be spiritual goals.

A terribly blurry picture!
Social Goals are being added to my list for the first time this year.  I think my children have done well in the social area so far.  They see their friends on a regular basis and they all seem to do well in making new friends, although some are a little more quiet than the others.  Also, one of the many advantages of having several children is that there is usually someone around to do things with.  Jetter and Builder are together 24/7.  Beany sometimes joins them or sometimes he and Patch play.  Social BF is the one I worry about most in this area though.  As she matures, she doesn't seem to want to play the same games as her brothers.  She needs other girls her age to talk to.    So we are making plans for guaranteed time with her friends on a regular basis.  One of these plans is to continue the book club she started last year.  It was quite a hit.  All her friends came over once a week and discussed a book that they were all reading.  It was simple, easy, and the girls just loved it.  This year we are also talking about a co-op which will be a new experience for me.  Boys Scouts is on the list of possibilities for the boys as well.  All of these things take effort on my part (driving here and there, making sure to take the time to arrange for kids to come over, planning events like field trips that groups can do together ...) but social interaction is part of the whole development of a person, so, in my opinion, it's just as important as math or spelling.

Builder is now a "Camo-belt"!

Physical Goals are pretty easy to cover around here!  I am blessed (although at times it might seem more like a curse ;) with active children.  But even though there is no lack of physical activity, there are  specific physical skills a child should learn.  Some of them are picked up by playing with their siblings and friends, but I usually try to involve my children in at least one sport each year.  The fall is usually our busiest time of year with soccer and football.  This year  we are also considering Tae Kwon Do for the boys which will be more of a year round activity.  Builder started last year and did very well. Social BF discovered her love for dance, so we will continue that for her.  Even though we live in a small town, the list of opportunities is really quite extensive.  Once again though, it takes that effort to get the kids to practices, watch the games and competitions, wash the uniforms, etc.  It helps that my  husband and I both see the need for this so we share the load. 

So, in ending this rather lengthy post, I will confess one of my goals!  My goal for this coming school  year is to not only prayerfully write the goals, but once again, to revisit them each term and adjust when necessary.  I love the feeling of crossing a goal off the list once it is reached!

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