"The writers of this book don't want kids to understand math!" my then seven year-old said to me. That proclaimation came up in a series of conversations about math that started with one of our year-end evaluations. My son told me that he hated math--which I knew already, but I started asking what made it hard, and then I began to realize that the program I had chosen used a discovery-oriented approach when he wanted to be shown how to do something (by the book--not by mom!) instead.
This became crystal-clear one day when I showed him a different book. He looked through it, and then came to me with his old book and made the statement that still makes me laugh today. I feel confident that the writers DID want kids to understand math--it was just the wrong approach for this child. As we talked, I did have to tell him, "No, sadly, we can't get rid of math as a subject--but we can work together to find a better curriculum and a style that makes more sense to you." The result was that his very negative reaction turned into a positive journey that we took together to find something that would work better. That's actually one of my favorite homeschooling memories, and it set me on a new path. Instead of feeling defensive and adversarial, I joined him on his team and together we found solutions.
We often think about evaluating our kids--but do you also have your kids evaluate themselves and their school year? I started doing this because of my son's math struggles early on, and I learn so much from my kids through this! When they were little, we would do this orally. We'd snuggle up on the couch with a snack and just start talking. What did they like about school? What was hard this year? What made it hard? What was their favorite subject? and so on. My kids have given me valuable information that has helped me improve my teaching style, learn more about their learning styles, helped me make simple changes that meant a lot to them, helped me in choosing curriculum, and improved our relationship with each other. They know that I really care about what's important to them and that I want to help them and walk alongside them. I have often told them, "This is YOUR education," because I really want them to take ownership of it.
One year my son wanted to learn about sharks, and the local children's museum just happened to be holding classes where they would disect a 2' shark! Amazing! But had I never asked my son what he wanted to learn, I might never have known about that fleeting interest (fleeting because of the smell I think...!)
Now that my kids are older, I have a written form that includes these questions:
What subjects are your favorites, and what do you like about them?
What subjects are not favorites, and why not?
What area did you improve in the most this year?
What area are you struggling with or would like to improve in?
If you could change something in how we do things, what would you change?
What would you most like me to understand about you?
What is one goal you hope to achieve next year?
How about you, do you have your kids fill out an end of the year evaluation? What questions do they answer?