Are We There Yet? - a Road Map to Successful Homeschooling
© Sept., 2014
Dr. Ruth R. Martin, Educational Consultant

"Are we there yet?" These words are usually whined from the backseat of the minivan shortly after departing for a trip. How do we know we're "there yet"? We usually have a destination. We may have charted it on google maps; we may have punched it into our GPS instrument, or we may have "asked Siri". Some of us still go "old-school" and actually have an atlas! Whatever the method, we've usually figured out our route to get wherever we're planning to go. My new car has a feature in the Sync system that shows me how many miles I have left to travel and how long that it estimates my driving time to be. I find that reassuring. I know the trip won't last forever. There's an end point.

The trip into the academic year should really be no different than any other trip! We need to know where we're headed so that when we get there, we know we've arrived! Is it possible to know that you've actually accomplished something at the end of the year? How do you know you've finished your school year? Is it just a date on the calendar or can it be more than that? Would you like to be successful in your home schooling venture? Then, make a plan. Every successful business sets goals - sometimes years down the road. These goals include financial goals, production goals, employment goals, etc. Have you set goals? Are you successful in what you’re doing? How do you know? Do you know where you’re going and why?
Have you ever really thought about the reasons you are doing what you're doing? My husband and I realized that, in order to be successful, we had to develop our own philosophy of education - a road map that would guide our children’s education. We asked ourselves some questions and wrote down the answers. These answers became our overriding educational philosophy. One of the challenges in being a successful home educating parent is to develop your own philosophy. Ask yourselves, "Why are we doing this? What do we hope to accomplish? What do we want at the end?" Your answers may be similar to some of ours, but you may have different ones depending on your family make-up and your lifestyle. Ours were something like this:

Primary Goals of Home Education:
· To instill in our children a life-long love of learning
· To teach them how to learn independently
· To have a strong family bond and relationships
· To teach them to know their God.
· To help them be productive citizens
· To teach them to get along with others in real life situations.
After establishing an educational philosophy, take a look at each of your children and observe the areas that need the most work right now. The primary goal may change from year to year. One year the primary goal may be to build a relationship with you or a particular sibling or with God. The next year, the goal may be more academic in nature. Or, one child may need to work on a particular behavior or emotion or character quality. That becomes the primary goal for the year. Write these goals down. How are they doing? Is what you’re doing daily helping to meet those goals? 
These goals should include:
academic goals (multiplication tables, reading comprehension, memorization, spelling),
spiritual goals (salvation, baptism, grow in spiritual areas),
emotional goals (exhibit greater joy, handle frustration easier, learn to control anger),
social goals (be able to use correct manners at dinner at grandparents’ home
, shake hands without prompting, open doors for others, speak to others clearly, look at someone in the eye when speaking),
physical goals (learn to ride a bike, tie shoes, run and kick a ball at the same time, skate).

I stored these written in the back of my plan book and periodically took them out to check on our progress in each area, usually during Christmas break, then again in the spring and once more at the end of the year. If you don't use a plan book, then put them in a Mom's Binder or something similar. Just make sure you can find them easily.

Academic Planning

Remember those successful businesses? Every single one of them has a written plan that includes both long- and short-term goals. Some homeschoolers have adopted the “I don’t really need to write anything out” philosophy. I disagree with this approach. How do you know you’ve met your goals if you didn’t write them out to begin with? How do you know you accomplished what you set out to do? (It's very similar to your child thinking he can solve all his math problems in his head when you
know he needs to write them down!) This written record also provides a running history of what you finish during the academic year and keeps you accountable to yourself. It also helps you remember what you were thinking when you have a black-hole moment (all your thoughts got sucked away and you can’t remember anything about anything!).

You should have an objective to work toward. Your plan gives you direction and keeps you on course. Philippians 3:14 says we are to press toward the mark. Without a plan, you tend to drift – no mark. But, don’t get all bananas about the planning. It usually takes about 2-3 hours each week depending on how many children and the methods and materials you’re using. Try to do your planning alone. (Husbands, this is where you can be a HUGE help!) Remember that one of the advantages of home schooling is the flexibility. So allow for it! Also, remember that you can use alternative educational methods. For example, games count! Take nature walks, do science projects, go on field trips, listen to music, do scrapbooking, photo journaling. Enjoy being with your children. Everything becomes a school adventure.

Also, remember that you don’t have to do every subject every day. You can alternate them daily, weekly, by six-week periods, by semester, whatever works. Everyday have some form of reading, writing, and math. Beyond that, you can be flexible. Alternate your science and history or geography. Read something every day. Do some form of math every day. Write something every day.

In the midst of all this academic planning, keep in mind that you are not a school. You don’t have to look like one. You don’t have to operate like one. In fact, you shouldn’t! Traditional schools are not your model. Get out of the habit of thinking like a traditional school. Remember, if they were doing the job they should be, you wouldn’t even be reading this!

Be willing to adjust your course as your family’s needs change, as your family changes - in size or in lifestyle! Each year is different, but you should have an overriding sense of purpose. Be willing to cut back on activities that don’t fit your goals. God did not intend for us to go through life haphazardly and be lost. He is a God of order. He is a God of purpose. He gives us a mission to accomplish. Do you have a road map? Do you know where you’re headed? Are you there yet?

Ruth Martin began homeschooling in 1983 and continued until all three children had graduated in 2005. All three of her children graduated with unaccredited diplomas and have gone on to college and beyond. Her oldest son is a corporate attorney and professor at Liberty University; her second son teaches at a local private Christian school and is an associate professor at Luther Rice Seminary; her daughter is a classically-trained chef.  Ruth has a master's degree in learning disabilities and a doctorate in Christian Counseling.  She is an educational consultant in private practice and teaches classes for high school students in her home.  She serves on the board of directors and as the State Support Group Coordinator of the Georgia Home Education Association (GHEA). Ruth can be contacted through her website: