It’s a very busy season here in the Roberts household. One of the things we are busy doing is prepping for the new homeschool year. Even though we homeschool year round, I still spend a lot of time in late summer going over what we will be working on in the upcoming year. As I’m researching, putting together orders, and working on schedules, I always take the time to have a Parent-Student Conference with each of my school-age children. This is one of the best things I’ve ever done to help our homeschool year start off on the right foot, so I wanted to share this idea with you!
Before you begin, you will need to do a little homework. You will need to know what subjects you plan on doing and have those plans written down in some form that makes sense, so you can easily convey your plans to your child. I typically start with a brain dump of all the ideas I have for each child (or group of children), and then I start sorting from there. Eventually, I end up with a list with each child’s name on it and subjects/ideas that are individualized to that child. This isn’t an extensive list, but rather a “highlights” list that looks something like this:
Child’s Name –
Subjects (highlight of materials to be used for each subject)
Ideas (plans for special events, feasts, trips)
Next, decide on a time and place for your Parent-Student Conference. You can be as low-key as simply having them come to a quiet room or the back porch, or as elaborate as taking them out for a meal while you have your conference. We usually make coffee or tea and go to the parlor where we can shut the French doors and discuss without many interruptions.
When you discuss the upcoming school year with your child, be sure to present the subjects and plans in a non-stressful way. Don’t plow through them as if you are stacking bricks on your child. Give the highlights and take it slow. You know your children well enough to know which onces can handle a pile of information and which ones need you to give an overview without getting too elaborate in your plans. (My 17 year old loves all the nitty-gritty details. My 14 year old gets bogged down by too much information.) This is one big reason you do not want to do Parent-Student Conferences corporately! It will be information overload for some. Plus, you want this time to be special!
As you go through your list, explain certain subjects – what they are and why they are important. For your older students, explain what requirement they fulfill and why these requirements are important. You need your child’s “buy-in” for the upcoming school year, and to get this, they need to understand where these things fit into the grand scheme of school.
As you present your plans, keep your eyes and ears open! Listen to your child’s input. How are they feeling about certain subjects? What are their worries? Do you detect excitement or dread? What can you do to help them in the upcoming year? Not only are you presenting the material to be covered next year, you are also collecting valuable data on your child. As you gauge your child’s response to each subject and idea, you can consider what (if any) tweaks might need to be made, and you can start thinking through what you can do to help them navigate the difficult subjects while also playing to their strengths. This is also a really good time to soothe any fears your child might have about their academic performance. Do your best to avoid criticizing.
Also, do not be afraid to ask for your child’s input. This can be a scary prospect for the homeschool mom who has poured herself into the upcoming school year plans, but please don’t neglect doing this. Bringing your child to a place where he or she owns the responsibility of his or her school work, starts with a parent willing to listen to their child’s ideas. A child who feels a part of decisions is more likely to WANT to work diligently and responsibly. Not every subject needs to be to the child’s liking, but if you are willing to listen and compromise on some things, you will find your child much more engaged with all of their school work.
I’d also encourage you to host these Parent-Student conferences regularly throughout the school year. I do them about 4 times a year. It helps all of us to touch base with where we are and where we are going. It is super important now that I have 2 students in high school that we keep on top of their work and figure out how to box our non-traditional methods of study into boxes that neatly fit state requirements. It also helps me to evaluate anything new we are doing and decide what things are working and should be taken advantage of and what things are not working and need to be discarded.
In many ways, these Parent-Student Conferences are like the big, deep breath you take before you jump into the swimming pool. They are cleansing, they are timely, and they are life-sustaining. So, as you jump into your new homeschool year, take that deep Parent-Student Conference breath and jump in together!