I always love the first weeks of a new semester, don’t you? It’s especially exciting when you’re starting a new homeschool year. Ripping into the brand curriculum, books, new notebooks, and markers is always so fun! But whether it’s a new homeschool year or a new semester, you’re full of plans and excitement about the days to come. Especially if you have a built-in system for keeping yourself and your kids on track. And if you don’t have a system, you need to know how to do a mid-year assessment!
You know most of us begin our homeschool year by just jumping right in, assuming we’ll be able to finish our books and plans by the end of our school year. And then when it’s spring and the weather gets balmy and bright…everyone’s ready to be finished with school. But what do you do when your fourth-grader still has a third of his math text to finish? And your 9th grader needs to read one more book and write an essay on it before she can finish her high school English?
That has sure happened to me, and more than once. Has it happened to you, too?
After we had to continue our homeschool year into the summer for a few years, I realized I had to learn to manage our time better. And not wait until the end of our homeschool year to discover we were behind.
Getting through our books and lessons always seemed to take longer than I thought. And there were illnesses, unexpected company, sudden trips to help family, and the other interruptions that just come from living life.
And it seemed as though I either overestimated what we could do or I underestimated how long it would take to get done. Or both.
First, look at the big picture.
The longer I homeschooled, the more I realized that I had to address the way I managed everything. I had to consider homeschooling, home management, my work life, and my personal life and figure out how to make it all work together in a do-able way. Not that I could make changes everywhere at once, just that I had to make it all work together.
So I discovered that if I was more proactive about how I managed homeschooling, home management, my part-time work, and life in general, when the unexpected came, we were more prepared. If I knew early enough into the year that we were getting behind, it took a much smaller adjustment to get back on track than it would have if I’d waited to the end of the homeschool year.
If this is an issue for you, too, click on the link below to get my 10 Best Homeschooling Hacks for lifegiving homeschooling without losing control of your home. It will not only give you actionable tips for lifegiving homeschooling; it will also give you bite-sized actions that will help you get your home under control.
But aside from these hacks that help you homeschool and manage your home more effectively, let me tell you about something else you can do.
Secondly, learn to do a mid-year homeschool assessment so you’re not homeschooling all summer (unless you like to do that.)
By learning how to do a mid-year homeschool assessment with my kids, I no longer came to the end of our homeschool year with lots of homeschool work left to finish in the summer. (Now if you’re a regular reader, you know I’m a big proponent of practicing math, reading, and writing during the summer. Summer learning loss is a real thing! Read more about it here and here.)
But ideally, getting your kids to continue doing some reading, writing, and math during the summer doesn’t mean just continuing your regular lessons. For one thing, YOU need a break! Secondly, your kids need a break, too. When you can keep their skills up more by “real life” activities than by using the curriculum they’ve been working on for almost a year already, they’ll feel they’ve had more of a summer break.
So think of doing a mid-year homeschool assessment as an antidote for “summer school”!
But what if you already homeschool year ’round? Then the summer doesn’t matter so much. But if you find yourself getting further and further behind, you might consider doing a homeschool assessment mid-way through your year just to course-correct more easily if you want to.
Keep reading to see how to do it and see how to create a form to help you do it!
How to do a simple mid-year homeschool assessment and what you’ll find out by doing one.
Doing this mid-year homeschool assessment will help you:
- Look at exactly where you are in terms of accomplishing your academic goals.
- Evaluate if your kids are mastering and retaining what they’re learning.
- Analyze what kept you from being where you wanted to be by now (if you’re not where you would like to be).
- Create strategies and tactics for improvement: make a plan to work through the problem areas so you can have a more smoothly running homeschool and household.
- Be more organized and therefore more be more peaceful and confident.
You’ll feel so much more energized and organized instead of flying by the seat of your pants and hoping you’ll get done with school on time.
Also, you’ll have a chance to identify and fix some of the issues that held you back last semester or at the beginning of this semester.
So, instead of constantly putting out fires, you’ll be able to be so much more intentional in the way you spend your time.
You will feel calm, confident, and more in control.
So, let’s get started!
Mid-year homeschool assessment: Step 1 – how are you doing at accomplishing your academic goals?
Let’s start our homeschool assessment with the academics. How’d everyone do last semester? You’ll want to discover how your kids are progressing in each subject.
First, across the top of your spreadsheet, table, or paper, figure out and write down how many days of your school year you’ve completed so far. Then divide that by the total number of school days you’ve planned for the year. Doing this will tell you what percentage of your homeschool year you’ve completed.
Then list your kids’ names in the left-hand column. Leave some spaces after each child’s name for the subjects they are studying. (Again, check out the example if that’s unclear.)
In this example, this family has completed about 50% of their school year.
By looking at how much of their curriculum your kids have completed, you can see if they’re on track with the homeschooling time you’ve spent so far.
Ideally, you’ve done about the same percentage of schoolwork as the percentage of the year you’ve finished.
Do I hear you laughing?
Unfortunately, you’re not always as far along as you planned. You get busy. Life happens.
I’ve found that in the subjects kids like, they’re often right on schedule. In the areas they (or you) aren’t as crazy about, they can lag behind.
And there are other reasons to be behind… we’ll look at those in a minute.
Now you know in what subject areas you need to spend time catching up.
But that’s only part of the picture.
Mid-year assessment: Academics Step 2 – Are your kids retaining what they are learning?
It’s helpful to know how much of your planned content or curriculum your kids have completed. But there’s another part of the academic picture to think about and it’s more important than how much of the math book is finished.
Do your children actually understand and remember what they are learning?
Are they getting their lessons done, but not retaining much?
Or does it seem like they are understanding and remembering what they’re learning?
To see mastery, look for the following:
- Your children are showing in their conversations and narrations they understand the vocabulary of their science topics.
- Your primary-aged students can’t WAIT to tell your husband when he gets home all about what they learned that day.
- Their written narrations and reports show improved grammar, spelling, and sentence construction.
- Your highschooler is using simple algebra or ratios to decide how much of an ingredient to use when tripling a recipe.
- When playing a game or having a discussion, your students exhibit their knowledge of a historical figure or time period.
- At the library, your students ask for extra books about a subject you’re studying that intrigues them.
If they’re showing mastery, that’s fantastic! Great job, Mom!
But what if they’re not retaining what they’ve been taught?
They’re getting through their material, but you don’t see any evidence of actual learning.
They aren’t going to learn and remember everything… but you should see some evidence that learning is happening. Here are some ideas per subject to think about before next semester:
- Math: Do you need to spend more time going over examples? (Or take lessons more slowly, spreading the tougher ones out over two days instead of one?) What about another curriculum that better matches the way your child learns? Do you have a hands-on learner? Try Math-U-See. How about an Auditory/Visual Learner? Try Teaching Textbooks. (We loved this program.)
- Do you need to add more activities or experiments to your science to help your students grasp a concept? Put away the science textbooks and read some REAL books. Especially books with activities.
- How about making history more real by incorporating more excellent children’s historical fiction into their studies? Or try a literature-based curriculum for a more interesting alternative to textbooks.
- Or maybe your kids would enjoy more high-interest, hands-on activities into their schooling. (This is especially good for kinesthetic learners.) Activities such as cooking meals from the time period or culture they’re reading about. Or dramatizing a scene from a story. Or working as a group to throw an authentic Middle Ages banquet.
Overall, if your kids aren’t retaining what they’re learning check out my series on teaching methods that work with how your children’s brains’ learn.
And here’s another idea.
Ask them what they’d like to do.
You can also ask your kids for their opinions about what they’d like to be doing. When my youngest said, “Play more games!” it gave me insight that he would learn better if I created more game-like lessons.
For example, for your kindergarten student, you could make a “Memory” game with capital and lower case letters each on their own cards. Then mix up the cards and turn them facedown. Each of you takes turns turning two cards over. If they match, save them in your pile and take another turn. When all the cards are matched, count your piles to see who won. Or if you don’t want to make this yourself, you could just pick up this game.
You could also make a memory game like the one I just described, but using math facts (the equations on one card and the answer on another), the Periodic Table (the element’s symbol on one card and the element’s name spelled out on the matching card), or even as simple as a match game using fewer cards overall and having pairs of cards that are the same color for your preschoolers.
Using dominoes is also a good game for helping children understand that numerals stand for groups of numbers.
I don’t know why we never think of asking our kids what they would like to do!
What do your students like (and not like) about what they are learning or how they are learning it? What ideas do they have for making particular school subjects more fun?
Mid-year homeschool Assessment: Step 3 – If you’re behind… analyze WHY.
This might be the most important part of doing a mid-year assessment.
If you’re behind schedule, think about WHY that’s so.
- Have you had a lot of illness in your family? Or have things outside your control happened that have kept you from being able to keep up with school? Like moving or having a baby?
- Are you behind because you have one or more children that aren’t willing or motivated to get their work done?
- Maybe you’re out of balance with the amount of time you’re spending on field trips, sports activities, church activities, or music/art lessons.
- Could the reason you’re behind is that you’re too busy juggling other tasks to focus on keeping your homeschooling time from being absorbed by other activities?
- Or maybe the household or school materials are too unorganized. You know – you’re ready to do math but who knows where that math book is?
Take an honest look at your last semester and write a list of things that are keeping you from getting school done as you’d like. Be specific.
The things that are getting in the way
Now take a look at your list of things that have kept you from getting more done this last semester in your homeschool.
If your family had a crisis of illness, extended family issues, or other circumstances outside of your control… I’m so sorry you had a rough semester.
Please don’t beat yourself up about it. It was outside your control, so just be as consistent as you can from here on out.
It would still help to do this assessment, just to see exactly how much school you have done and have left to do. And knowing that may help you decide to change your overall plan for the year.
For example, you can:
- Double up on some lessons
- Add a short schoolwork time to your weekend
- Use part of a long weekend or other holiday time to get some reading or schoolwork done
- Decide to work in the summer for a certain amount of time per week or per day to catch up
- Lower your expectations considering the season you’re in (Especially if you’ve had a baby, have a special needs child, or you’ve lost someone close.)
Again, don’t beat yourself up about it. That doesn’t make it any easier for you to catch up.
Do you have things on your list that ARE under your control?
Make plans to start working on them, one at a time.
Hear me: One at a time. Work on one thing awhile before adding anything else. Otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed.
But you’re already overwhelmed, right? Sadly, it doesn’t get any better leaving things the way they are, so please start somewhere.
Mid-year homeschool assessment: Step 4 – Create strategies for improvement
If you have character issues in one or more of your children that keep from getting work done, make a specific plan to deal with it. Don’t get so busy that you neglect it. It won’t get better on its own.
And believe me –what is difficult to deal with at your child at age nine is going to be a lot worse at age 13! Or 16!
- Look at your time management. How much time are you spending in the car versus home getting school done? If you need to cut down on activities to get your school done, do it!
- Do errands on the weekends or group them and listen to audiobooks in the car. If you need to get out of the house, try doing school at a park, the library, or even in the backyard.
- Do you work at home (or outside the home)? It’s a juggle, isn’t it? Can you manage your time so that you can get both homeschooling and work done?
- Perhaps in that case, you can trade childcare with another working mom. That way you can each work for a concentrated amount of time without interruptions. Or get your husband or a friend to help with watching kids and work on the weekends.
Or maybe it would help to go to bed earlier than you’re used to so you can get up and get some work done before your children get up.
Common Household Issues
Not planning meals in advance
Do you stand in front of an open fridge every night about 5:30, wondering what you’re going to be serving for dinner? Take a little time on the weekend to make a meal plan for the following week. It will save you a ton of stress. And time.
And money, if a common solution to this problem is to jump in the car and go out to eat!
This is a tough one. Especially if you weren’t raised in an organized home. (Like me!) But you can learn to do it. It’s just a skill that you develop, like any other skill.
- Start by having a specific place for your school stuff. Then put everything back at the end of every day.
- Spend a few minutes at the beginning and end of your day hanging up clothes or putting your rooms in order. (See this for help.)
How to start getting organized.
First, you may have to take a day or two off school and work together to get the house in order and find places for your school stuff.
But you can do that. After all, you are in charge of your schedule! Getting organized is worth your time for things to go more smoothly.
Please understand that I’m not trying to minimize your issues. I’m not saying that there aren’t obstacles that can be really tough, like homeschooling as a single parent, living in a very small space, or with a non-existent budget, teaching kids with learning issues, or dealing with chronic illness. Just to name a few.
So, should you make time for a mid-year homeschool assessment?
Maybe you’re already back into the swing of a new semester and don’t want to stop and do a homeschooling assessment right now. That’s okay. But please consider doing one sometime this month. You won’t regret it.
It will be worth your time, I promise!
So have you ever done a mid-year assessment before? What’s kept you from doing it in the past?
P.S. Don’t forget to get my top 10 Homeschool Hacks for lifegiving homeschooling without losing control of your home by clicking the graphic below.