History tells us that the basis of State of the Union addresses comes from the Constitution. Yes, it’s right there in Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
I like to think of the State of the Union as sort of a list of what has worked well, what is not working, and what the vision is going forward. Every year since 1790, our government has had some form of this report, whether called an “annual message” or “State of the Union” as it officially became known in 1947.
My thinking is that if it’s good for our country to take stock and assess how things are working, it might also be good to evaluate my homeschool state of affairs.
Here are a five ideas on assessing your “Home School State of the Union.”
1. Taking Stock
Now is a great time to ask yourself, “What is working well? What needs fixing in our school environment? What needs to be addressed?” Ask your family members what they think about this too. My Challenge-age son said he really wanted to work on his planning efforts for the weeks ahead and came up with some ideas to do that. I decided I needed to work on my health more. Knowing my goals, he would encourage me to take some time for exercise. By having his schedule organized, I felt more free to leave—it was a win-win!
“Ask yourself and your family: How are things going? What little things would make life go more smoothly?”
2. What Systems Need Tweaking?
When I surveyed our homeschool environment, I realized there were a lot of things I meant to do each day that our system wasn’t set up for. For example, this spring, we are planning on taking the SAT. I went ahead and got the big fat review book, planning for us to take five minutes every morning to do one math problem and one reading problem. To help this happen, I put the study book where we could see it and use it every day. Putting the book where I could see it every day was just the system tweak I needed.
Ask yourself: “What simple thing would help your systems work better?”
3. What is Bugging You?
Where in your homeschool environment are things getting on your nerves? This may sound dumb, but I have a homeschool closet that is a complete mess. It has all sorts of good supplies in there like markers, paper, art supplies, glue. But it is such a mess that I cannot find a single thing. I decided to set the timer for 15 minutes and organized it a bit. Now when my son asks, “Do we have a copper-colored Sharpie?” I can say “Yes!” and know exactly where it is!
Think about what is bugging you and take 15 minutes to see if you can improve it.
4. Where is the Fun?
A friend of mine recently told me that she lets her child read his Challenge literature books in bed in the morning with a delicious hot drink. I thought that was brilliant. I’m sure when that student is a grown up and friends ask him what he remembers about homeschooling, he can say, “I got to read great books in bed in the mornings in my pajamas with big mugs of hot cocoa!” As homeschoolers, we can dare to be different. We can mix up the learning; we don’t have to do school like everyone else.
Ask yourself: “What simple things can I do to make our day more fun?”
5. What Can You Celebrate?
Now is also a great time of year to consider what you are most proud of in your homeschool. My son is older now, and I’ve felt that perhaps I should stop reading aloud with him. However, I read Night by Elie Wiesel over the summer, and I felt like it was an important book, one I wanted my son to experience with me. It was a haunting, penetrating account of the Holocaust unlike any I had read before.
One day, I listened to the “Read Aloud Revival” podcast by Sarah Mackenzie, and she talked about taking five minutes of reading time each day. Everyone has five minutes. My sixteen-year-old has five minutes. So, we read Night together and just finished it this week. My son was riveted to the story, and it inspired some powerful conversations. I am so glad that I persevered and that we read this important book together.
Ask yourself: “What can we celebrate in our homeschool?” Even if it’s just five extra minutes spent doing something you love each day.
Whatever Your State, Give Yourself Grace
Now is the season where we are about to dive into some of the hardest months to homeschool. Treat yourself with kindness and grace as you assess how things are going and where you see things ending up. Trust that even if things aren’t going as planned or if it all falls apart, God’s got it. In my experience, some of the most fruitful seasons were those that felt the barest, even I didn’t know it at the time. Trust that the Lord works out all things—both success and “failure”—for our good. Whatever your state of homeschool, God sees you in the midst of it all and will see you through.