Goal setting is the key to success in so many endeavors. Let us help you create some SMART goals for your homeschool that will keep you on track through the remainder of your academic year. This skill will be essential for your students as they move beyond their homeschool time.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:04.899
Welcome to the Demme Learning show, our mission here is to help families stay in the learning journey wherever it takes them. This bonus episode was previously recorded as a webinar and was not created with the audio listener in mind. We hope you will find value in today’s episode. Welcome, everyone. My name is Gretchen Roe and it’s my very great pleasure to welcome my esteemed colleague Sara Donovan today to have a conversation about goal setting with your students. If you read our description, we talked about smart goals and we’re going to dig into that a little bit today. We might even change the acronym for you, and I think you’ll find that to be beneficial. By way of introduction, I am Gretchen Roe. I am the community relations coordinator here at Demme Learning. My husband and I have six children, five of whom were homeschooled 21 years. The caboose in our train has been homeschooled to middle school and then he’s been in public school the last several years. And he is looking down the gun barrel of about four months to graduation and he’s very excited about that. And I will be at the end of my homeschool journey at that point in time, and that will be hard. And my colleagues like Sara will support me in that endeavor. Today, I’m really delighted to have Sara join me and I’ll let her introduce herself, Sara.
Sara Donovan: 00:01:27.506
Thanks, Gretchen. Yes, I’m Sara Donovan. I am the secondary math curriculum writer at Demme. And I was a high school math teacher for almost two decades and then I call myself an accidental homeschooler because I currently homeschool both of my two children who are in upper elementary and middle school and those were basically the ages that I thought I would never teach and now I am loving it with my own children. So I am so excited to talk more about goals with you all. And yeah, thanks for having me, Gretchen.
Gretchen Roe: 00:02:08.585
I am just delighted that Sara was willing to join me today. Sara and I are on polar opposites as far as our love of math. Despite the fact that I work for Demme Learning math is not my strong suit, I’d rather diagram sentences with you. But Sara has learned in the last couple of years of homeschooling her children that you have to be adaptable in that process. And what we want you to take away from this time together today is that you can do this, it is very constant when we homeschool to hear that little voice of doubt and what we want you to leave this conversation today with is an I can do attitude. So we have lots of things to talk about today. We have lots of terrific information to share with you. And I think, Sara, probably the place we should begin is a conversation about what is the business definition of what a smart goal is because that probably is a good place to begin.
Sara Donovan: 00:03:13.191
So smart goals are something that in the business world and often in education, we use to help us decide if our goal is going to kind of work and make sense. And so it’s an acronym that sometimes is difficult to use with homeschoolers. But I’ll just tell you what the business acronym is just to give everyone an idea. So S is for specific, M is measurable, A is achievable, R is realistic, and T is timely. And some of those you might say, “Well, isn’t specific and measurable maybe the same thing? Or if I’m being specific, isn’t that timely?” Yes. So they are kind of interwoven on purpose so that you keep checking back with yourself to say, “Can I actually do this or is this just something wild that is not possible?” It would be kind of like asking your first grader to read War and Peace. Well, that’s a very– I mean, great if they can handle the verbiage, but really then do you say, “Well, I want them to read War and Peace in a week.” Well, that’s not realistic. I don’t think most grown-ups could do that. So it’s specific, we can measure it, but we can’t achieve it. That’s not realistic. And certainly, we don’t have enough time to read War and Peace in a week. So that’s kind of where business goes. But then in business, we’re not considering the age of our student and our learner and our child. So that’s where Gretchen and I talked and we were kind of like, “Does this work for every kid?” Not really. So what could we do to help this make sense for those of us that are homeschooling our kids at home?
Gretchen Roe: 00:05:04.692
Right. And Sara has said a really important thing. If you take nothing else away from the conversation we’re having today, we want you to take away that you are the best observer of your child. And being able to teach your child the goal set has as much about you observing them and knowing where their skill sets are and how to encourage those skill sets and guide them as it does about really nailing down what you want them to do. So every child is going to be different and however you determine to goal set for the first child in your household may be entirely different for the second child. Sara, are your boys different in their learning styles?
Sara Donovan: 00:05:51.862
Oh, my goodness. So much. My older son is so different from my younger son in so many different ways. Just their personalities, their willingness or unwillingness to attempt a new task. So it’s very different goal setting. My older son loves to write. My younger son, asking him to write a sentence, it’s offensive to him sometimes. [laughter] So there’s different goals where my older son, I might say, “You’re going to write 12 sentences today.” And then he’ll say, “But I need to write 10 more. Is that okay?” “Of course. Keep going.” My younger son, I will say, “You’re going to write 3 sentences” – and I have to give a very specific idea – “and you have to do it in this amount of time.” I mean, when I started homeschooling, did I realize that? No. Because usually when I was teaching, it was one grade level and one group of students. So it was easy to say, “Okay. All of you in the next 10 minutes are going to do these five problems.” But when you’re teaching, especially two different age children as well, you have to think, “Is it realistic for me to say to a 12-year-old, ‘you’re going to do the same thing as a 9-year-old or a 5-year-old or whatever grade’?” So you just have to make sure that you think, “Well, they might have the same goal of doing their math work or their reading assignment for the day, but what other details, to be specific, can I add for my 12-year-old that’s going to change slightly for my 9-year-old?”
Gretchen Roe: 00:07:47.020
And Sara, we talked a little bit about this yesterday in that when you began homeschooling, you were kind of thrown as my German dad would say, into the “mittendrin” of it. So as an accidental homeschooler, all of a sudden, here you are going oh, how on earth am I going to do this? How did you find you had to adapt from thinking about teenagers and almost adults, 18-year-olds, to adapting to your voice? And how old were they when you started this adventure?
Sara Donovan: 00:08:17.864
Let’s see. So they were 7 and 10, maybe 6 and 10. [laughter] So yeah, I mean, they were young kids. They were both in pretty much lower elementary school. And that was the one kind of group of kids that I never taught, other than when I was in middle school helping at summer camp. So my expertise is in six through upper level through early college. So I had to learn in teaching elementary students that just saying, “Page 42” is not enough to tell a first through really sixth grader what your expectations are. So I needed to kind of check myself and my expectations, “What do I want them to do on page 42?” So if it was a workbook page, I might look at it beforehand. If it was something that I knew that I wanted them to do independently or at least with minimal help, I would maybe go through and put a star next to the directions or underline something that I really wanted them to pay attention to. Or sometimes, depending on what day of the week it even was and if I knew that they were maybe not loving the thing that we were doing – grammar was a real struggle for us at the beginning – I would just write a note in their notebook or in their workbook, like, “I love you. You got this,” because I knew that just that little thing would let them know that I was monitoring what they were doing, I was paying attention to their learning. And it wasn’t more of a business-transactional relationship where I was like, “All right, I’ll see you at 5:00. So we’re in this together. I often say they’re my office mates or my work buddies, too, because we’re working together to learn. So yeah, I would kind of preview what they were going to do and give them some points, and like, “Hey, here’s a pointer. Remember to circle keywords if that’s helping you,” or “Get out your index card so you’re only looking at one word or one line of text at a time if it’s overwhelming to you.” So that’s something that I definitely learned. And then I also kind of learned that it’s important for me to check that they know what the directions are. And that they are doing the directions I expect and not just kind of going off on their own. And that was something that I also had to learn in teaching. It’s more valuable and a better use of time if I read the directions to you. And we have a one or two-minute conversation on the directions instead of that being the argument that starts the beginning of the lesson, right, “Read the directions” “I don’t want to. Why can’t you just read the directions to me?” You’re like, “Okay. If I want you to read the whole other page and do a complete reading passage, I’ll just read the directions to you.” And now we’re both hearing it out loud. We’re both looking at it on the page. No one’s surprised. At the end of the lesson, whatever the direction said didn’t actually get accomplished.
Gretchen Roe: 00:11:51.270
Yes. And I think that’s a valuable thing. Sometimes, as homeschool moms, we assign tasks and assume that the task assignment will actually come to fruition the way we envision in our head, and where conflict arises is because what I see in my head is not what my child sees in their head. So like I said before we began today, I think one of the most valuable things we can do when we have a conversation with children about setting a goal to accomplish an assignment or a lesson is to say, set our expectations in the beginning and then say, ”What did you hear me say?” I laugh now in retrospect because so often when I ask that question, what comes back to me is so wildly different from what I actually asked of them that I think it’s always great to develop the habit of setting expectations that I’m going to check with you to make sure we’re all on the same sheet of music. And if you’re interested in talking about habit formation, let me say as an aside that we did a terrific round table discussion last week on forming habits and good habits since it’s the first of the year. And you can find that in our blog, Demme Learning.com/Blog, and let me encourage you for a little bit of homework or further encouragement to go there and take a look at that. After we conclude today, Sara, we had talked about being able to provide feedback to children. And when feedback is timely and relevant, and one of the things that you had said, I think was so important is that failure with feedback is so much more valuable than moving the goal improvement only happens with a deadline. And I think this is a message that so many homeschooling moms miss because we’re with our kids and we’re sitting across the table from them. We’re willing to be sometimes Semper Gumby, super flexible on this deadlines. Can you talk about why improvement with a deadline is important?
Sara Donovan: 00:14:10.236
I think that if you think about teaching your children to be ready for what most of us say, real life, right? Even though it is real life right now, but let’s say real life when they are grown and often independent, most of the things that you’re asked to do as a grown-up are timely and have a deadline. So to try and teach that to my children without being punitive because I don’t want the goal to then turn into a punishment in most cases, I should say there are some caveats, but when we have set goals at our house, it’s things like when my kids were younger, it was ”You will do silent reading for 20 minutes every day.” Right? So when is it happening? How long is it happening? And what are you going to be doing? Kind of like the who, what, where, when, how kind of thing. So I tell them those parameters, but then the ”What are you reading?” I let them pick for that silent reading assignment. So any sort of thing that they’re reading, and for our House, it’s device free. So you have to read and open a book and has to turn pages. If you want to read a comic book, great. If you want to read the newspaper, if you want to read whatever there are with words, a technical manual, go for it.
Gretchen Roe: 00:15:45.382
I think you said the Pennysaver yesterday. I thought that [crosstalk]. Okay, I’m going to get it by. But.
Sara Donovan: 00:15:52.579
Right. And now they’re up to 45 minutes. And they would probably go longer, but I also know that they have other things that they need to do. So the 45 minutes is now our benchmark. And if they finish their other assignments and want to go back to reading, I mean, I’m never going to stop my children from reading books, but I also want to say, “You can’t read for three hours and then get the other things done they are expected.” So some things we also have in our house like, “This needs to be completed before lunchtime. This needs to be completed before dinnertime.” One of our goals is to have the table set. And that has to be done before dinner because we want utensils before dinner starts. I know all of you can commiserate with that rather than after. So that’s how I try and be specific like we said, and it’s monitored, obviously, because we’re saying, “Okay, you decided on this time. But there needs to be a little bit of wiggle room so that your children feel like they are part of the goal too.” If you take all the decision decision-making out of their Wheelhouse and make it only your goal, then your child is not going to feel ownership and see how goals can benefit them. So now that my kids are a little bit older and we’ve been incrementally increasing their reading time on incrementally increasing responsibilities for chores and things like that. Now they’ll say to me, “Oh, my goal for this week is to get all my work done on Friday by noon because my friends in the neighborhood who are at public school, they have a half day, and I want to be able to play with them.” “Fantastic. I’m so glad that you shared that with me because now we’re partners in goal setting. You just told me your goal, what can I do to help you reach that goal?” And they do the same thing to me because if you have elementary children, I’m sure all of you know there is no more honest person than an elementary school student. They will look at you and they will say, “Why are you wearing that? Why did you do your hair that way? What is happening?” So if you say, “Hey, guys, my goal is to help you practice your math facts, and we’re going to do it together for 10 minutes and you forget they’re going to say, “Mom, Dad, you told me you were going to practice math facts with me and you forgot.” So it’s good to have an accountability partner and children love being their parents accountability partner because they like that back-and-forth nature and it gives them some autonomy in the goal setting.
Gretchen Roe: 00:18:57.457
Right. So we wanted to take smart goals a little bit and adapt them to the homeschool universe because we think that there is a little bit of merit in changing from a business model to a homeschool model. And so Sara, we had talked about making that first S of smart to be specific because we think that has merit, but you said knowing exactly what they need from an assignment. So can you give a little bit of depth and detail into how you would make a specific assignment maybe for one of your kids?
Sara Donovan: 00:19:35.760
Sure. So for my younger son, when we’re writing, he really needs really specific details about what he’s going to do. And oftentimes, I’ll give it’s kind of like making a menu or a choice board, “Okay, do you want to write about–” let’s just keep it really simple, dogs or cats. Okay, so he picks almost 99% of the time, dogs. So I’ll say, “Okay, you’re going to write three sentences about dogs,” right? “And you have to have a noun and a verb in every sentence.” So that’s one of our focus areas. “You have to have an adjective in a sentence. And then you have to–” and I’ll pick something else like capitalization or punctuation or make it a compound sentence or something like that. So I usually pick maybe three things that I’m looking for. And notice, I didn’t say spelling because spelling is also something that we argue about, even though I usually know how to spell the words correctly. [laughter] But if I want him to write in bulk, which some days is three sentences; some days, it’s ten sentences. But if I want him to write, I’m not going to focus on the spelling for that day. That can be day two or three when we say, “Okay, that was a great story. You finished it. Now we’re going to edit,” right? So I give him chunked information. “Today, you’re going to do this,” and maybe I’ll say, “Hey, tomorrow, here’s the follow-up.” But I don’t say, “Well, this week, you’re going to write a five-paragraph essay” because, I mean, he would be so worried and so anxious about that. But if I’m chunking it into pieces, and I say– I usually also give a time frame as well because he’ll like to stretch it as long as possible. [laughter] So I’ll say, “You need to write three sentences or ten sentences in a realistic amount of time, like ten minutes” or something, or, “You have to brainstorm and journal for 30 minutes,” right? We’re not doing anything longer than really the cognitive load of a kid in that age group. I’m not going to say, “Please write a dissertation over the next 90 minutes.” Forget it. Unless it’s some computer game, that’s not going to happen. So that’s how I give how many things. Elementary kids really go and really appreciate “How many things” and then kind of “Tell me what you’re looking for.” And those are kind of the rules, then, that they are going to follow. And that means that you and your child also know what are the directions and what are we agreeing upon. So it’s kind of the terms of agreement. [laughter]
Gretchen Roe: 00:22:36.865
So those terms of agreement, also, when Sara is meting out those to her son, it’s also important for her to get feedback from him to make sure that he understands those terms of agreement. So that makes a difference as well. Monitored, we talked about changing that M from measurable to monitored. And there was a reason for that. I’ve been guilty of it. We’re all guilty of it at some point in time where you give your kids an assignment and then you fail to check back that same day. And maybe the whole week goes along, and then Friday, you look at the assignment and you say, “Well, you didn’t do this right.” And that becomes discouraging. So can we talk a little bit about how monitoring them flows, particularly in your household because you now have one elementary- and one middle-schooler. So how does that monitoring work in your home?
Sara Donovan: 00:23:34.963
Monitoring is definitely something that I need to work on more too because I trust–
Gretchen Roe: 00:23:41.905
We all do.
Sara Donovan: 00:23:42.340
–them sometimes too much. [laughter]
Gretchen Roe: 00:23:43.984
So let’s give everybody a grace and [inaudible] a little bit.
Sara Donovan: 00:23:47.040
We all get grace on that.
Gretchen Roe: 00:23:48.394
We all need to be better at that, so. [laughter]
Sara Donovan: 00:23:51.009
But I think that’s things like reading the directions with them so that they don’t go off somewhere that you didn’t expect right from the get-go especially with assignments that are over the course of a week or two weeks or however long you take it. If you are expecting this five-star project at the end of the week, but you never say, “You have to spell all the words right because this is your best copy. And you have to have it color coordinated and whatever,” you’re going to get probably a piece of paper with pencils on it. I mean, it depends on your kids’ level of love of art, too. But it’s almost giving them that check-in point to say, “Hey, I’m checking on you. You check in on me. And we’re both going to talk.” So monitoring doesn’t always mean you’re sitting right next to them, staring at them as they’re doing their work. It’s meaning you are making sure that when they start an assignment and they end an assignment, there is clarity and you know what they’re doing, too. It’s not just, “See you later. We’ll talk at the end of the week,” because then, it shows your child that you value the work that they’re doing and you’re not just assigning them busy work, too, because whether you’re home or in public school, kids are very well aware of, oh, you’re just making me do this because you want me to have something to do. And I think that’s why so many of us homeschool, too, because we don’t want them to have to do that busy work. We want that authentic learning to happen as much as possible.
Gretchen Roe: 00:25:47.148
Correct. And I think one of the things that you’re seeing here is you have boys who can work with a degree of independence. I’ve had six kids who have been wildly different in the degree of independence they could generate. And I talk about this because my eldest son at the age of 4 taught himself to read, but he couldn’t be left alone to do a single math problem until he was 16 years old because left to his own devices, he would wander off into what we laughingly refer to as Lucas land, and that wasn’t math. But my youngest son, different personality, different kind of learner, said to me in fourth grade, “How about you give me a list of what you want done and I’ll come to you if I need your help?” So every kid is a little bit different. So that actually leaves leads me into the next point, which, “A”, is achievable, and that is setting goals with a specific child because you know the usual suspects, so to speak. So can you share any valuable observation about that, which in our notes is in italics? So I want to see that this gets into parents’ heads because I think it’s really important.
Sara Donovan: 00:27:04.454
Well, first, I just want to remind everyone, too. If you are not used to goal setting – and this goes back to habits also – don’t set a goal for every single aspect of your life. It will be so overwhelming. And you will cringe every time you hear the word goal. So start with maybe– I would say and I started myself with math and reading because those are the two foundational things that I think everything branches off of. And that kind of also matches achievable because if I wrote a goal for every single thing, I wouldn’t have time to do the thing, right? So if we’re trying to set goals for our children, we need to leave the goalpost where it is and not move that goalpost. But if it’s not working, that means we have to change our plan or our course of action to get to that goal to make it achievable, right? So if we want all of our– I don’t know. Let’s say, if you want your third grader to have all of their multiplication facts memorized, and you say on Monday, “I want you to have all your multiplication facts memorized by Friday,” well, that’s not– I mean, that’s specific, but it’s not achievable, right? We can’t do that. So we need to say, “Okay, let’s think about this a little more realistically,” because that’s also the R, and “how can we make this achievable?” Well, the goal post needs to be a time specific thing, and saying, “memorize all your facts in a week” is not going to work, right? So that’s not achievable. So we have to rethink our goal. Okay, how about I say, “I would like you to memorize seven math facts this week.” And I’m picking seven intentionally too because, if you think about phone numbers before area codes, they were seven digits on purpose because that’s kind of the maximum amount of information a human brain can kind of take in in short order. So you don’t really want to go above seven things. And really, for most elementary students, it’s three, maybe five. So that’s why, if you rattle off a list to your kid and you’re like, “They only remembered the first thing, and I told them five things,” that’s because they can’t handle it. So if something’s not working–
Gretchen Roe: 00:29:45.588
You just described my husband, by the way. [laughter]
Sara Donovan: 00:29:50.467
If something’s not working, we aren’t going to change the goal, though. So if your goal is to learn everything you can about your multiplication facts and that takes a full school year for you, that’s fine. But you can’t just say, “Oh, we got to the end of the year. We still don’t know our facts. Oh, well, let’s go to the next thing.” We still need to keep that goal in mind, and then we need to change the plan. Okay, maybe we need to, instead of doing math for 15 minutes a day, we might have to make it 30 minutes a day and part of that time is facts, part of that time is application. But we can’t change the goal of having our students know their math facts, because we all know that’s so important. It’s the same thing with reading. If the goal is to be able to read, that could just be the goal, right? And maybe we don’t have a specific time for that one because we all know reading is so important and it’s hard to say, “You will read chapter books by age seven or something.” That might not work for every child. So that’s where knowing your own child and saying, “Is this achievable for my son or daughter?” That’s where you’re having that realistic conversation with yourself. And then you say, “Okay, this is my goal. I want you to be able to read Go Dog Go by the end of this month or something,” and you practice those words with your child. And if they’re still not getting it after a week or two, that’s when you as the parent instructor have to kind of reflect inward and say, “Oh, this is really hard, and it is not working. What else can I do to help my child?” And that’s where usually I go to Google or my homeschool Facebook groups or Demme blogs and say, “Oof, I don’t know what to do about this. Has this ever happened to anyone before?” And that helps me also set my realistic expectations too and realize that I’m not the only person and parent that doesn’t know what they’re doing some days. And it’s really good to ask for help because other people have had the same or similar experiences as well.
Gretchen Roe: 00:32:20.197
Right. As a homeschool mom and an only child with six children. Sometimes my expectations were unrealistic because I was born a tiny adult. So I made assumptions about my kid’s capacities that they were really yet ready to deliver on. And it took me several years of homeschooling to recognize that just because I had one child who was a visual learner, it didn’t mean the next child was a visual learner. And just because I could goal set with one child, and we achieved those goals, it didn’t mean those same set of goals were applicable to the next child down the line. So keeping realistic is always a really important place for us to be as parents, so. And then we changed T from Time bound to Touch pointed, so. And one of the reasons that I think we did that is because we feel like you need to define touch points for your student. And when we had this conversation, we were talking about the student who feels defeated on Friday because they’ve done five days of math. And you didn’t check any of that math until Friday. We’ll absolve you of that, but one of the things that perhaps might be a goal for you to set is to be able to check daily. So how frequently do you intend to check in with them, and maybe as part of the goal setting, create that check-in when you set the goal? So how do you do that in your household, Sara?
Sara Donovan: 00:34:03.999
Well, we’ve tried a couple of different things. Some with the success and some not so much. My kids each have their own lesson page for the week. So I kind of give them a really broad paper of, “Here’s what your assignment is for each subject for each day.” And I know many of us do that, but they have to check it off. So that’s kind of like their list. And I mean, I’m a list person, so that’s why that exists. But I said to them, “Do you like to have a check box, or do you want to use highlighter?” And we went to the store, and it was like, “Okay, you can pick out your highlighter or your colored pen that you use on your paper.” And then the other thing that I’ve done to help my sanity is I’ve gotten my husband involved. And he goes through in the evenings with them and goes through their lessons for the day. And he reviews it with them as well. And we only just started that this year because I said, “I need you to take a little bit more ownership of their education because then they’re seeing you as an equal partner in this as well.” And I said, “If they were in school, this would be their homework time, and we would both be okay, you’re with this kid, you’re with the other kids. And now we’re doing homework together.” So I said, “This is going to help them see you as another partner in their learning experience.” So that list and that kind of check-in of here’s the frequency that you’re going to talk to a grown-up about your learning. And then also I will enlist any person that I know to do this as well. So if I know that they’re going to be working on a project about the Constitution, I make them call my cousin who teaches Constitution history. If I know they’re doing a science project, I will find a scientist. So I will engage the community in their learning so that they know, at any point in time, they could meet someone and they’re going to ask them about what they’re learning. And I’ll prompt the other person as well and maybe say to my own children, “They might ask you about this.” But I think that makes it also nice for me as the parent who’s writing the lesson plans and all of the things and putting all those goals in place. That there’s somebody else that’s touching in with them and checking in with them that’s not just me. Because I’m sure many people who are most of the instructor of their children feel sometimes like the judge and jury because you’re– well, I gave you this and you didn’t follow the directions. And now, I have to judge you on not following the directions. And it becomes this struggle. And you’re like, “I just wanted you to learn. That’s really all I wanted.” So I think that having other people involved if you have that option is really nice. I mean, when we’ve done money, I just try and find some super nice cashier that looks like they will be willing to help my children count out their money and their change when they’ve earned enough money and go to the store and purchase something. So I’ll be like, “They’re going to count out their own money. Is that okay with you?” I just ask that to the cashier. And if they’re having a bad day and they say no, thank you for your honesty. We’ll go to a different line. I’m prompting other people to kind of help me educate my children also.
Gretchen Roe: 00:38:15.981
Absolutely. One of the things I did in the years that I homeschooled is I had a friend. We used the same curricula. So on Fridays, we would get together, her children and my children, and we would trade kids. So her children had to tell me what they had done during the week. So that forced them to think about, “Okay, on Friday, I’m going to have to tell Ms. Gretchen I’ve done these things.” And my kids would think, “Okay, on Friday, I’m going to have to tell Ms. Tracy I’ve done these things.” And that accountability was very helpful. In the digital age, now, you could even create that accountability in something like we’re doing today. So your child could have a conversation with somebody who’s not necessarily physically in the same room. That they could have that accountability conversation. And I think that’s a terrific way to be able to do that. One of the things that I wanted to ask you about was a sentence you said about, “I can. I can name the individual steps, make that order list.” Is that something that, as your children mature, you’re asking them to make the ordered list, or are you still ordering the list for them?
Sara Donovan: 00:39:34.125
Oh, that’s a good question. I typically still write the list for them. I feel like they’re not quite at the maturity level that they can write their own list most of the time. But now, they’re responsible for checking it off themselves and being able to prove that their check mark has meaning. So they have to– if there’s something that’s checked off on their schoolwork or their chore list or something, I am able to say to them, “Okay. Show me. Prove it. What was the rule for doing this? Did you meet that expectation of the assignment?” I’m trying to get them more into make your own list, but it’s more of a conversation at this point than them actually writing something down. So where we’re making inroads is, they help with the menu and grocery list, and that’s something that they actually do write down. It’s because they said that we eat too much cauliflower and broccoli. And I said if they wanted to have that be changed, then they would need to provide other menu options. And so they get out the cookbook we have with pictures, and they look at the pictures, and then they say, “Oh, that looks good.” And then they go to the page, and they will make a list of ingredients, which is also just good practice using an index and all that. Then when we have dinner and they say, “Oh, well, I didn’t want to have cauliflower again,” well, “You did not finish making the menu this week, so this is what I picked because I like it.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:41:35.299
That’s brilliant, Sara. And what that does is, it makes the ability to create the list and make some choices in their hands, so then you don’t get pushback when they don’t get what they want. So that’s pretty awesome as well. So there’s different kinds of goal-setting that we need to talk about. Sometimes there’s a goal that a student needs to set that is outside the bounds of their academics. For instance, one of the things you talked about is memorizing your math facts. And I always encourage parents to sit down with their student and choose a reward for that goal. “You’ve memorized all your math facts now. Here’s your reward.” Once upon a time in my kid’s world, it was going to Chuck E. Cheese. I don’t think that’s even a thing anymore, but. Having that kind of attainable goal, you also need to, when you set that kind of goal for your student, be realistic in the fact that you’re not going to say, “When you memorize your math facts, I’ll take you to Disney World,” because that’s probably not financially tenable. Or maybe it is. It depends upon what your family’s means and resources are. But being able to set those goals so that there is a reward orientation at the conclusion is also a really helpful thing for a student to be able to do, and I think parents don’t always think about that. We have about 15 minutes left, and I wanted to turn my attention to some of the questions that parents ask. And really, every question that a parent asked was, “How do I do this?” So I think we’ve kind of given them a framework here as far as how, but now what I want to talk about is motivation. And so I think a lot of you mentioned that you were having trouble being motivated as far as goal-setting is concerned. And, boy, we certainly know what that’s like here in January. It seems like we’re in the middle of a very long slog as far as the school year is concerned. So, Sara, how do you continue to stay motivated to stay on top of your kids as far as helping them set their academic goals?
Sara Donovan: 00:43:58.248
Well, I think it’s different for every child. So some kids really do like extrinsic rewards too when you say, “Oh, you finished this. We’ll go and do something. We’ll go to the movies,” or, “You get to pick dinner,” or something like that. And some are internally motivated where they just want that high five or something like that, or even just a “good job”, right? And so to keep motivated and to keep our goals kind of top of mind, we go over them frequently. So that’s one thing that you can do. And we don’t change them all the time, right? So my kids use Spelling You See, and we started in enough time that they were able to finish the first book before Christmas. And when we counted it out and I said, “Hey, if you stay on track, you’re going to finish this first book at Christmas, and we’re going to go into the new year, and you get to crack open a new spelling book and how great is that going to feel?” My younger son was like, “That is amazing. I am all about that. Let’s do it.” My older son was like, “Yeah, whatever.” But he’s also in 6th grade. And he’s in the last book, too. So he’s kind of like, “Am I old enough– am I too old to do spelling now?” Like, “No, you’re not. You still have to know how to spell right].” So that’s one thing where I think if you kind of say, at least for my kids, like, “Okay, we’re going to keep on working at this until a certain calendar date,” they get really excited about that kind of stuff. So we had a trip in October, and then there was Thanksgiving in November and Christmas in December. And so I’d say like, “Well, if we can do this– ” and I know some of that’s, oh my gosh, we’re trying just to get to this one date. But we need some external motivation here. So let’s talk about how we can make our goal happen by October 15th or whatever, or by Thanksgiving, or by Christmas. And then I would just print out a monthly calendar for them, just the month, and they get to write on it whatever they want like, “I want to do this by this date,” or, “Oh, here’s our trip. I better get this done.” Or something like that. You have scouts on Tuesday night. And they’re, “I don’t want to tell my– ” because I tell them, “If you’re not finished your work when you have scouts, you have to call your leader and tell them why you’re not attending.” And they’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to do that.” Like, “Well, I’ve given you 12 hours to finish the assignment because you woke up at 7:00 AM.” They’re like, “That’s true. I did have enough time.” And I think having those conversations with your kids too about motivation and why are you not motivated to do it, that’s a little bit older. I would say 4th grade and up just based on my own experience, like why do you feel that you are not able to handle this right now? And sometimes it’s realistic. Maybe some family situation happened and they just are so sad about it and they need that time to have an emotional day and decompress. Fine. If your goal or the date needs to change because of something like that, absolutely. That is so much more important to have an emotionally well-rounded child than to say like, “You didn’t memorize your math facts by Friday.” Move that date, but the goal is still memorize math facts. Or what I’ve really found – and this is crazy and it’s even funny and true of children that are older, even in high school. I just have a box of those stampers that you get that’s a star and a smiley face and a thumbs up and– just watch out for thumbs up if you mean thumbs up, and you turn your stamp over because I’ve done that accidentally, but I have a little arrow like, “This is thumbs up.” But they love it. And even when I taught in high school, if I was like, “Okay, we’re getting out the stamper.” Absolutely love seeing that feedback of just, “Oh, you’re acknowledging my work. And it’s good.” And I love it. Or if we do editing, or they check their own math work, and then they get to use the stamper themselves, I mean, they are on cloud nine. You would have thought I gave them a million dollars.
Gretchen Roe: 00:48:56.359
Well, you said something early on that I think is important. And I think sometimes as moms, we fail to do this. You said you made notes in the margin of, “Hey, I know this is going to be a little bit challenging for you, but I’m proud of you for sticking with it.” and those kinds of things. And I think sometimes when we’re with our kids all the time, we fail to recognize that we should be articulating to them, “Hey, you’re really doing a good job. I’m really proud of you for hanging in here with grammar when you don’t like grammar” and those kinds of things. So I think that that makes a really important lesson for us as parents to be able to help our kids learn that stick-to-itiveness because that is definitely something that has to be learned. We don’t come by that naturally.
Sara Donovan: 00:49:50.087
And it’s okay to also stretch them a little bit. You can give a– something that I do or I used to do when I taught high school is a stretch goal. So you’re going to say, “This is our baseline goal.” And this is kind of as you practice goals a little bit more. So this is your challenge if you’re already a goal-setter. So you’re going to say, “This week, we’re going to write ten sentences” or something like that. “Our stretch goal is 15.” And maybe if they get to that 15-sentence mark with the parameters you set, “Okay, you get, I don’t know, bonus computer time, or you get to pick dinner, or whatever the thing is,” but if you have a couple of stretch goals in there as you get towards getting used to giving yourself goals and your children goals, then that also is going to push them a little bit more, and you might see something that you didn’t even know they were capable of, which is really cool. I mean, when we started, we started doing that with silent reading and the book choices that they were making. I’m like, “Okay, I know you really love graphic novels and Dog Man, but is there a book that we could stretch ourselves a little bit? How about Wednesday be our stretch SSR day, and you pick a chapter book and go for that instead of reading a graphic novel? Now, I think graphic novels are great, but I’d like you to read a little more sentence structure, so when we get into writing, you’ve seen a little bit more complex sentence than our thought bubbles.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:51:41.034
Right. And I think that’s terrific. So can we talk a little bit more about establishing those stretch goals for high schoolers? As a math teacher, how did you create that? Because I know that math often becomes a source of conflict for homeschoolers in high school because parents don’t feel equipped And so, they leave their kids a little bit to their own devices, and then they don’t get the best results they want. So, how would you recommend a parent who, like me, is not mathematically confident I can do this parent, create those kinds of stretch goals mathematically for their student for high school?
Sara Donovan: 00:52:27.819
I think you need a stretch goal as the parent and also as the student, in that case. Because that can be intimidating for sure. And so, I think as the parent instructor, your stretch goal would be to really check in with your student. Even if they’re independently working, you need to check in with them daily. Because if they’re doing all this work, or let’s say they’re getting all of the answers correct. But even with– you haven’t taken Algebra I in 15 or 20 years, you’re like, “Something just seems strange in this work,” but somehow you got the right answer. Maybe they’re just writing down the right answers. That’s possible. A really simple stretch goal for parents could be, “I need you to check your work.” And that means if you’re in Algebra I, in most cases, you take your answer, you substitute it back into the question, and you multiply, add, divide, whatever. And those answers on both sides of the equal sign should be the same number. And if you get 7 equals 12, your work does not check. So, you can ask your student, “Please check your work.” Or you can say, “Pick any problem on the page and please explain this problem to me.” So there’s the teach-back. We’re making sure they’re mastering it. Do you have to know every single step? No, you do not. It was the same with me when I started teaching my children grammar. I was like, “I don’t remember what a subordinate clause is.” I was like, “Pronouns. There’s three of them, right?” I mean, it was crazy. But I was like, “Why don’t you tell me what–? Can you tell me why?” Or, “Can you tell me what you did?” Asking those questions, even if you’re not 100% sure of the answer you’re going to get back, at least gives you a window into what your student is doing. So, that’s the stretch goal for the parent. “Can you tell me why? Can you check your work? Can you explain this problem?” Those are really good questions that you can ask. And also, you can’t just let them get away with a yes or no answer. So, I guess, you should say, “Please, instead of just can you,” because then they might just say yes or no. For the student, the stretch goal could be learning how to communicate what they’re doing, especially in math, back to their instructor. Because a lot of times they just want to say, “Well, it’s on the paper. Why don’t you just read my work?”
Gretchen Roe: 00:55:21.925
[crosstalk] great teenagers’ intonation there.
Sara Donovan: 00:55:26.79
1 I have some practice. Or they say, “Wait.” “What are we waiting for? Tell me, let’s go. Go for it.” So, a student learning how to explain their work is a critical life skill. I mean, it’s going to carry over into all facets of their life. because they might have just written a ten-page term paper. But if you say, “Can you tell me about your paper?” You do not want them getting it out and reading word-by-word. You want the abstract. So, same with math. You don’t really want them to say, “I added 7. I added 7. I divided by 2. I divided by 2. I multiplied by 3. I multiplied by 3. You want them to say, well, I used order of operations, and here’s my steps. And you can see this, but you want them to provide the dialog or something like that. So you’re having a conversation, and then even if you don’t remember all the math, you’re still checking with them and making them get that deeper understanding of the math by learning how to teach it back to you. And then hopefully you’ll be so excited and you’ll love the math so much as an instructor, then you’ll just keep wanting to do more math, but that’s my lofty goal for everyone.
Gretchen Roe: 00:56:47.073
This is why you [inaudible] sides the coin, because I feel that way about grammar, but we can always agree to disagree. Sara, we’re almost at the top of the hour. I can’t believe how quickly this time has gone. What would be your closing thoughts for our parents today? What would you like them to take away from our conversation?
Sara Donovan: 00:57:08.147
I would say I hope that you take away that goal setting, while it sounds really lofty when people say, oh, I have all these goals, it’s really very doable. And the more specific you are, the easier it is to achieve the goal because it’s not so vague and out in the open. So if you just say, I want you to just know math, right, I don’t even know what that means, and I’m a math teacher. But if I said, I want you to tell me the five steps in graphing an equation, there we go. That’s a much more specific goal. So make your goal specific and start small. Don’t do it for everything. And you’re going to find that your student can be your accountability partner for the goals that you and they set together.
Gretchen Roe: 00:58:06.047
I think that’s a terrific words. Remember, we adapted smart goals from the business community to the homeschool community, saying that they should be specific, monitored, achievable, realistic, and touch-pointed. And we believe that you can accomplish those goals as you go through your lessons with your students, teaching them how to goal set in small pieces that enlarges their world and allows them to set goals for themselves in larger increments. We want to thank you all for joining us today. It’s been our very great pleasure to spend this time with you. We want to thank you for trusting us with this information. We have lots of good content on deck for you next week. We’ll be bringing you a wonderful opportunity to learn. And we hope you’ll join us for that adventure too. You can go to DemmeLearning.com/Events and see what’s on deck, and we hope you’ll join us. Thank you, everyone. Take care and have a wonderful day. This is Gretchen Roe for the Demme Learning Show. Thanks for joining us. You can access the show notes and watch a recording at DemmeLearning.com/Show, or go on our YouTube channel. Be sure to rate, review, follow, or subscribe wherever you may be hearing this, especially if you really enjoyed it.
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SMART Goals (according to the homeschool world)
It’s not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.Ann Landers
- Specific: Your child knows exactly what to expect from a particular assignment (no surprises). “I can name when and how long we are going to do ____ subject.”
- Monitored: You know what your child’s individual capacities are, and you set goals within those capacities. “I will read the directions with you as you start the assignment so we are both sure what needs to be done, and I will check your work upon completion.”
- Achievable: You set the goals with the specific child in mind to create success for them (because success breeds success). “If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, but never change the goal.” “I will rethink the plan with my student if we don’t feel we are making progress towards the goal.”
- Realistic: As a parent, you know what is upcoming. Are your goals achievable within the time frame you are setting? “I can complete the goal we have set in a reasonable amount of time.”
- Touch-pointed: To teach the goal-setting process, you need to define touchpoints for your student along the way so they know they are making progress. How frequently do you intend to check in with them? “I can name the individual steps, or make an ordered list, for what I am expecting my student to do.”
If you find merit in what Sara and Gretchen discussed, we suggest you also review our conversation about habits.Upcoming Episodes
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