- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Can you believe another school year is almost over? Our home school ran relatively smoothly this year. How was yours? Did you have a good year, or do you wish you could go back and do some things differently? As you wind down your studies and anticipate summer, this is an excellent time to reflect on the past nine months. Reviewing your home-school year, be it good or bad, can be a beneficial experience for you and your children.
Take some time in the next few weeks to sit down with your children. Ask for their thoughts on the school year — often it is interesting to listen to their perspectives. Chances are, they not only will share the years highlights, but also will have insights on how the school year could have been improved.
I remember one year when our youngest son, Zachary, then a first-grader, told me the school year could have been improved if I had stayed off the telephone. Ouch — that was not the sort of suggestion I had been seeking, but to him, this change was needed to make our home school better.
With your childrens constructive suggestions duly noted, you can share the areas of their work where you feel they could improve. Commitments to improving their handwriting, being more diligent in their math studies or even changing their overall attitude toward school may be on your list.
Another way to look back over the year is to create a portfolio. In Pennsylvania, keeping a portfolio of each home-school students work is a requirement under state home-school law. In essence, the portfolio is a giant scrapbook, a sort of year in review. Portfolios can be as elaborate or simple as your children want to make them. You may want to include workbook pages, written reports, projects, photographs or anything else that will highlight the childs best work and activities.
I have found portfolios to be worthwhile in a number of ways. They have been morale boosters. When I have felt we have not gotten enough schoolwork done for the year, we have looked at the portfolios and seen how much we really have accomplished. Personally, I think the biggest advantage to maintaining a portfolio has been the opportunity our children have had to showcase their schoolwork to skeptical relatives and friends.
If you would like to review your school year with added fanfare, why not plan an end-of-the-year program? The first year we did this, we invited grandparents and aunts and uncles to join in the festivities. Our two oldest children, then 10 and 8, planned, prepared and served a meal. After dinner, I presented awards to each of the children in areas where they had shown the most improvement. With the presentations made, all the children sat down with their grandparents and looked over their portfolios.
Until that time, my parents had been questioning us continually about what the children were doing in school. In the 1980s, home-schooling was a new idea in education, and my parents didnt want their grandchildren to be uneducated or odd. Each child talked about his or her school year and showed pictures of field trips and samples of his or her schoolwork. Through this special time, my mother and father saw that their grandchildren were indeed learning. They have been home-school fans ever since.
For your grand finale, you might choose to include a musical recital, art display or even a drama presentation.
Finally, make time to sit down with your spouse to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the past year and consider changes for the year ahead. In our 18 years of home-schooling, my husband and I have never once sat down and said, "Well, we had a perfect year." We always see academics, attitudes and discipline that need improvement. Does this mean we have failed at home-schooling? No. Making changes does not indicate failure. As home-school parents, we should be willing to change our teaching style, curriculum, schedule or even our lifestyle to provide the best education we can for our children.

Kim Huber, a mother of four, and her husband serve on the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvanias board of directors. She can be reached by e-mail ([email protected]).

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