Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How Do You Know When You Are Done?

Even though we homeschool, we are in our final push towards the end of "school."  Now, most of the homeschoolers I know consider that they homeschool year round.  However, at least in our community, most of the organized classes and coops and sports and such are organized around the traditional school calendar of August/September through April/May/June.  To some extent, that is just a practical economic decision--lots of facilities that host homeschoolers during the day when most students are in school can make a lot more money over the summer by running camps.  But I think most of us enjoy the break from the scheduled events and having to prepare classes and events for multiple students beyond our own, and use the summer to just homeschool on our own and to do the typical summer things with vacations and swimming and the like.  At least for us, summer is a good time to catch up on some of those things that we don't tend to do in groups--things like grammar and spelling and such.

But how do you know when you are done?  When you are homeschooling, which means you basically have the same teacher in the same "school" for as many years as you homeschool?

In our case, our local homeschool group holds an annual student showcase on the first Saturday in June each year.  Participating families get a table on which to display whatever they want to share about what they have been doing for the past 12 months.  We invite family members, friends, neighbors, and the general public to come, which helps the community better understand all the things that homeschoolers do. In addition, our children get to hear from someone besides US about the quality and interesting nature of the work they have been doing for the past year.  It is also an opportunity for the parents to assess all the things we have accomplished over the year (given that, overachievers that we tend to be, we tend to focus on all the things we HAVEN'T gotten around to doing), and that is a really good feeling.

Everyone does their showcase exhibits differently, but for the past several years, our family's focus has been on creating an electronic portfolio.  We create a DVD of me interviewing my son about what he thinks are the highlights from the past year in the different disciplines---language arts, history, science, math, art, etc.  The visuals behind his discussion of favorite or most valuable aspects of the past year's learning are photos or videos that relate to the project he is describing.  For us, that is the best way to remember, re-evaluate, and record all the many things we've done over a year of homeschooling.

However, since he is now in middle school (hence the name of this blog, right?),  I'm also starting to think about how to know when we are DONE done--as in, done with homeschooling and ready to move on to college or employment (or some combination of the two).    There was a great article in the Washington Post about that yesterday in their education section.  Entitled "How high school should really end," it describes one high school's graduation requirements beyond the typical standardized test.  Seniors at this school must develop a portfolio that demonstrates (1) their plans for the coming year; (2) proof of their competency in the major subject areas; and (3) the positive impact they have had on the world.  They must also present the results of a senior year project in which they show major learning through a significant project in the topic of their choosing.

I love this kind of thing as an end to our pre-collegiate education, and plan to do something like this when my son gets to an appropriate age and level.  I think that any student who can pull off the above will be ready to take on the world, whether it is through college, work, travel, volunteerism, or the other paths that young adults follow.


  1. Since we don't do school, it would be hard to know about being "done." I don't want to tie it to financial self-sufficiency either, because I like mesh/network economies and extended families living together. However, K does have financial goals or milestones she works toward. We are tied by laws and regulations, as well - for example, she can't travel by herself as much as we would want. Tough question, lol

  2. It is a tough question, especially for those of us who are doing our own thing. Of course, as a firm believer in and practioner of lifelong learning, on one hand we are never done. But some students, like K, have concrete goals or plans, but others don't. And, of course, some teachers have concrete goals, and others don't. So it's not necessarily an easy answer.