Marking the End of the Year – Do Homeschoolers Really Have To?

For parents whose children are in school, the beginning of summer can cause mixed emotions. Suddenly your children are at home full-time, and your uninterrupted time during the day is over. For homeschoolers, there is usually no change in routine, though some parents may go lighter on the school work during the summer or cease altogether.

Having grown up going to traditional school, it’s in my psyche to mark the beginning and end of each year. That’s why recently I decided that I would look over my son’s progress, decide on a stopping point and give him a Kindergarten graduation during the first week of June – right before the summer camps begin. (Summer camps make our summers the busiest time of the year.)

As soon as I put this self-imposed deadline on myself, I felt my blood pressure rise. To “finish” school work that’s ongoing, and to put together the slideshow and progress report that I like to have ready for our “graduation” on top of all my other household, childcare and writing that I do – that’s a lot. I don’t take many breaks as it is. If anything, sitting down to write my column is a break, but it’s just different work. For a stay-at-home mom, “different” and “sitting quietly” can sometimes feel restful, but not always.

I’m getting better at realizing when I’m being stupid. Almost as soon as I started to feel overwhelmed by all that extra “work,” I stopped it and then some. I took my first break from writing my column (ever), and I stopped worrying about doing a Kindergarten graduation. I’ll still do one, but it’ll be whenever – June or July – who cares? Because…

We’re homeschoolers!  This is one of the reasons I wanted to homeschool – for the flexibility and relaxed lifestyle.

How relaxed is it if I keep giving myself deadlines? I’m not a lazy person. I get an amazing amount of work done. I don’t need to make it worse by adding my own deadlines.

So eventually I’ll write our end of the year review, about my record keeping this year, and about our Kindergarten graduation, but it’s not going to happen all at once. It’ll happen when it happens.

But guess what? Since I took away my “deadline” I have actually made very good progress on some of these goals. Yep, things get done well even when you impose a relaxed and easy manner.

Note: If you’re looking for ideas about how you can mark the end of your school year, you might want to refer to the post I wrote last year about our pre-Kindergarten graduation. I’ll be doing something similar this year when we get around to it.

However, you don’t have to do any of that. Do it if you want to. (I like stuff like this.) Do it if you think your children would enjoy it. But the purpose of homeschooling should be to create the life you want for yourself and your family. 

Don’t mark occasions that would add more stress to your life. Mark the occasions that celebrate the life you’re living.

I challenge you to get rid of those self-imposed deadlines and relax…about everything! And then come tell me about it. 🙂

A Homeschool Pre-Kindergarten Graduation

{Part 3 of Recording A Homeschool Student’s Progress: The Homeschool Portfolio} {Free print out}

So after my practice year, recording everything we did, and completely changing my mind about my son’s grade level, I wanted to wrap it all up with a graduation celebration.

Why a graduation for “pre-kindergarten”?

The main reason I did this was because I wanted my son to feel a sense of accomplishment.  But more than that, I didn’t think he completely understood what his “homeschool” was all about.

He knows he’s being homeschooled, and he even tells other people this.  He understands that many kids “go to school,” and I think he has a rough sense of what school is through television and books we read.  He also knows that those short, formal reading and math lessons are “school.”  But what I’m sure he didn’t know is about all the other stuff:

(Note: If I don’t have a link to a post on these topics yet, I plan to write them in the future.)

For a while, I had planned not to tell him that these things were “schoolish.”  He loves everything, and he’s naturally curious!  I didn’t want to spoil the fun.  But then I realized that he should be commended for his natural curiosity, and he should know that all this cool stuff….Yay! It’s school!  And I hope that because of that, commemorating the end of the year will somehow motivate him to get through the stuff that isn’t as fun like those reading and math lessons.

The second reason I wanted to do the graduation was because I wanted to showcase my son’s accomplishment’s to our family, and I hope that this will soften any concerns they may have about homeschooling.

There was also a third reason to do the graduation, but I didn’t realize it until after it was over: Having a graduation for my son and our family was the best way to get me to summarize what my son accomplished and showcase it in an interesting way.  In turn, this was the best way to teach me what I should be doing for our future record keeping!

I prepared three things for the graduation:

  • A progress report such as the Georgia law requires for a homeschooled child after the age of 6.  (Note that this progress report is for your records only.  You do not have to submit it to anyone.)  This report was about six pages long (bullet lists for each subject, and I used the “course of study” list to know what to highlight).
  • A 15-minute slideshow of photographs that I took of many of the workbooks, artwork, games, projects, classes and outings my son did as he worked through a typical course of study for a preschooler and kindergartener.
  • A completed “pre-kindergarten” course of study certificate  (For a free, blank pdf of the certificate that you can use for your own needs, click here: Completed Course of Study Certificate)

On the morning of the graduation, I put these out in our living room:

  • Various projects (posters, books etc) that my son had done throughout the year.
  • The portfolio or 3-ring binder with all the goodies I mentioned in my record-keeping post.

But ultimately I realized that all anyone would ever look at would be the progress report and the slideshow.  So this is what I learned about my record keeping:

All I used to write the progress report was my photographs and my blog’s Table of Contents.  That’s it!  (UPDATE: Upon greater reflection, I realize that I do use my charts/summary on occasion to help me write blog posts, however.)

I didn’t need to consult my beloved charts or that lengthy summary I wrote every week.  So was it all a waste of time?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I’m glad I have them because if I had to, I have plenty of evidence of our daily work.  It also fills out his portfolio quite nicely, and it makes a really nice keepsake.

Will I continue using the charts and weekly journal?  I’m sure I’ll use the charts.  They help keep my own peace of mind since I’m not using a curriculum.  As for the weekly journal, I may not be as diligent about that now that I know I probably won’t use it much, but I think I’ll try to keep it up because it, too, gives this homeschooling mama peace of mind.

In conclusion

You must think I’m a maniac especially in the light of the fact that in Georgia, we do not have to keep portfolios and we only need to write a progress report and keep it for our own records for three years!  (Same with the standardized tests that Georgia homeschoolers are supposed to take every three years starting in the third grade.)  Even if I were to put my son in public school at some point, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will ever review these materials.  From what I’ve heard from other homeschoolers, schools test a child and place him/her where they think he/she should go.

Yet I do it because 1) perhaps I am a maniac, 2) it’s how my mind works – I’m a writer and organizer on paper, and I only wish my house were as organized, and 3) for me, it’s important to teach my son goal-setting and let him feel the reward of accomplishment and also show his family what he’s done.  In short, it’s all about having peace of mind about this homeschooling journey.