On Setting Goals

by | May 9, 2008 | Conference, Home Education, Personal Goals | 12 comments

As I mentioned earlier, the hour consultation I had with Laura Berquist was one of the highlights of my trip to the Northwest Catholic Family Education Conference.

A few months ago, I was ready to put all my kids in school. I felt like such a failure as a mother and a home educator. No matter which program I used, I could not teach Captain to read… No matter how many hours we spent each day on “school work,” we could not get to it all… And no matter how hard I tried I could not achieve my goals.

My hubby began to get really worried that I was serious about putting the kids in school decided I needed a break, and agreed that I should attend the conference. I was reluctant to add on the optional consultation with Laura, since I only used her program, Mother of Divine Grace, for one year, a few years back… However, I figured that she might have some good pointers for me on scheduling… And boy did she!

As I sat there telling her how unorganized I am, while showing her my binder containing my schedules and curriculum lists, pointing out what we have done in the past, the goals I had set for this year, and how little of those goals were achieved, she listened, and then responded by saying:

You ARE organized. You ARE teaching your children. And, you are SETTING GOALS that you CAN’T POSSIBLY ACHIEVE!!!

She went on to say that, if I continue at this rate I will burn out last year long before High School, when it will be more important to set these high goals and expectations, and that my children will burn out as well.

What we did achieve this year, was more than enough, especially given the circumstances, namely dealing with an Auditory Processing Challenge, and when I look at the overall year, even though we didn’t finish everything I set out to achieve, my children have been learning and they have made wonderful progress! I should be a happy with our accomplishments!!

Laura told me that in the future, I need to set realistic goals, so that I can feel good about our progress, especially when we are able to go above and beyond those goals. Imagine that!!!

The problem is, that I want to do it all!! I want to design my own curriculum, and pick my favorite courses from each provider, and then add to that all the fun crafts that we do as we celebrate the liturgical year, and so on… But, I am finding that there are reasons that this program has extensive history, or that program has more science… It’s because you CAN’T specialize in it ALL, every day.

Laura and I also talked about the various curricula. She basically told me that at this stage (K-3rd) the important thing, is that we are focusing on three things:

  • Memorizing
  • Sequencing
  • Observation

At this age, what they are memorizing is not so important as the fact that they ARE DOING IT!! Work on memorizing whatever: Baltimore Catechism, Popes, Presidents, States & Capitals… whatever you’d like!! It is also very important to train children in observation!

If we are doing these three things every day, it won’t matter so much which program, or mix thereof, that we are using — since the content is great in all the Catholic Curriculum’s. (Content will matter more in later years.)

As far as scheduling goes, she suggested that I start our day with my youngest children. This will help these children to not feel neglected, as well as get them started on something to keep them busy while I am working with the older children. She suggested spending 15 minutes working of some sort of memorization work: memorizing a poem or working on art appreciation., and then getting them started on a workbook, coloring, or learning game. She also recommended having certain toys available to them only during “school” time — which I do already.

The one thing that our current curriculum is lacking in is music. She told me that I need to work on making music a priority. I am not a big fan of Classical Music… I know, I should be!!! Laura actually game me a summer assignment. I am to start listening to Classical Music on a regular basic so that eventually I will be able to complete the chart of page 177 of her book. (Determine whether certain pieces are Baroque, Classical, Romantic or Modern? Can you tell who the composer probably is?) This should be interesting! She said that unless I can develop a love of Classical Music, it will be very hard to pass one on to my children… That makes sense. Luckily, my hubby loves Classical!

One of the biggest changes I plan on making this coming year will be cutting back on the quantity of subjects we are studying daily. I have decided that each morning we will focus on our core subjects, and then each afternoon we will work on “One Thing.” I haven’t planned it out yet, but I am thinking along the lines of History on Monday, Science on Tuesday, Art on Wednesday, etc… That way, we can delve into that one subject, and study it well for the week, rather than working on multiple subjects quickly and poorly.

Anyhow, this post is getting long, but I had told you all that I would share a bit about the conference… I will try and share a bit more later, but this is all I have time for now. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

God Bless!


  1. Cheryl

    tHANKS FOR WRITING ABOUT YOUR CONSULTATION. iT WAS VERY INTERESTING. Sorry about the caps. My dc were on the computer.

  2. Mary @ Cheerios

    Hi, great ideas -thanks for being so homest and open about it all. I wondered….what are those “toys” that you take out only during school time? I struggle with getting my younger kids- 5, 4, 2,and 1 to leave me alone to work one on one with my first grader. We use Seton-which he loves and it so fits his personality and learning style. I am also VERY tempted and desire very much to set my own program, do goals, make it all seem great for the kids. but reality is, I cannot even try to find the time to do it, let alone actually do it. I learned too, that when I have these high expectations, I am very sorely upset with myself b/c I cannot get to them, I get upset with God-thinking why can He not let this happen the way I think it should? isn’t it good enough?
    anyway, Seton helps out so much b/c they just send you the box of books, lesson plans, have quick call up/email questions-which I use a lot. I am not trying to put a plug in for Seton-to each their own, but the style that Seton has makes my vocation as a mom, wife and teacher, a lot easier to understand and accept. Kinda what you said-burnout-I don’t feel that way too much. I know by the tests that he takes from Seton, that he is up to par. and that is that.
    We look at homeschool every year to see if its the best for each of our kids. ideally, we’d like to homeschool throughout HS too, but in reality (I am learning this a lot lately!) that it could turn out differently.
    another program that was great is called Five in a Row- i think it is Christian based. I used it for the first year I did homeschooling kindergarten and it was great. It focused on that one big subject once a day- as you mentioned. It requires a bit more work on my end, that is why I choose Seton. But, i really enjoyed it and think i may do it for my kindergartener next year…maybe!
    Another Question: what type of things do your kids memorize and what do you use to help them memorize it? videos, tapes, cd’s? I have a friend that teaches her kids to memorize poems but I cannot seem to do it or get the time to focus on it. ANy ideas?
    Also, observation? what do you and Laura mean? such as bird watching? hum….
    SOrry i have so many questions and ideas to shout out. I have not yet been to a Catholic Homoeschool conference and would LOVE to go to one ….but too far from any around here.
    Thanks for any input you have.
    God bless…

  3. Margaret

    The fact that you are home schooling at all means you deserve a gold star in my book!

  4. Erin


    So pleased to know your consultation helped. And intrigued to read about it;)

    Your one thing at a time is a great idea. If you find it choppy to go from subject to subject every day another option is to spend 5 weeks or so on one subject and then rotate to the next subject.

    These years when you have all littles are wonderful years, I look back with nostalgia at them. Gentle learning with lots of great literature. Treasure the time it really does go too fast:(

  5. The Brownies

    Thanks for sharing this. It has been insightful and helpful. We are at the point of really starting serious lessions this year, and I am still trying to get things together and figure out what should be done and how much…

  6. Anonymous

    I just happened onto your blog and love it! My DIL’s and I have been talking about whether or not to home school our grandsons when the time comes and you seem to be doing a wonderful job with it. It would be good for them to see how you are going about it. You have wonderful ideas and resources and apparently a great support system in place, so wonderful for you!

    By the way, St. Teresa is my patron Saint!

    Have a great day!

  7. Jessica Gordon

    Thanks for all the comments everyone!! I’ve enjoyed reading them!

    Thanks Erin for the suggestion — I am going to have to consider that!

    Monica — SO excited you will be home educating! You’ll do great!

    Jeannie — Thanks for visiting! How great for your DIL’s to have your help and support in homeschooling!

    MomDaBomb — Your questions and ideas are great. THANKS! I will try to answer them soon– I’m sorry it is taking me so long! We had a bunch of furniture arrive yesterday and I have my hands full with a huge rearrangement of my school room :S Eeek!

    See you all soon! 🙂

  8. Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing this Jessica! This helps me to remember to focus on some of these things rather than just feeling like I only succeed if I get the entire workbook done or lesson plans finished. This helps to hear what you have learned, thanks!

  9. Christine

    Homeschooling is a calling. Like you gals told me.

    I like the Catholic school that we attend. The classes are small. They are tested and are above the public schools at this time. The teachers are there – not for the pay—but because of their faith and they like to teach.

    Homeschooling is wonderful. Lots of people do it because of the public schools.

    My oldest is going to a publie middleschool next year. I am worried but I will keep a very very close eye on him.

    I really believe what goes on in the home will matter the most. We actually live our faith. We are the ones that teach our children. The church tells us too.

    I think you do such a good job. I have seen your “lap books” and they look like fun.

    Just hang in there. Those babies grow up fast!

  10. Jessica Gordon

    MomDaBomb — since we have so many favorite learning toys, I think I will post about them soon!

    Seton is a great program! I wish it worked for us, but it didn’t… Our first year Homeschooling I used a mix of Little Saints Pre-School and FIAR. (I do like FIAR!) We then used MODG and then switched to Seton (where I enrolled for a year). Nothing was working for us! In fact, Captain was growing to HATE school. I switched gears and focused on lots and lots of read-a-louds, and more of a “real learning” / Charlotte Mason approach, incorporating lots of manipulative’s. This was working, for the most part. I now know that that was due to Captains AP Challenge. Whew!! Rascal is learning so much easier!!! At this point Seton doesn’t work for Captain, though it does for Rascal. (I use quite a few of their books for him!)

    As far as memorizing, Seton incorporates quite a bit into their lesson plans I believe, don’t they? I know the Baltimore Catechism is memorized. My boys work on memorizing various songs, poems and bible verses. It all works! 🙂

    And by observation, I am talking about encouraging the children to notice the details. If they say “Mom, look at that car!” I would say, “What color is that car?” Or if they say, “Look at that red car!” I would say, “How many wheels does that red car have?” This way they begin to train their minds to notice as many details as possible when they are observing things. Does that make sense??

    I hope this helps! God Bless!

  11. Christy

    Okay, I just got my notebook out from the conference and started taking notes again! Thanks for sharing about your consult! BTW–GREAT to meet you! I had a fabulous time–you are wonderful.

  12. The Wades

    Oooh, this was a good one. You could almost make me crave homeschooling! Really, a part of me wants to.

    Her suggestions sounds great. Good luck.


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Hi! I'm Jessica, a Roman Catholic wife and home educating mother to our nine children. I was home educated myself, along with my eleven younger siblings. I have a special devotion to St. Therese, through whom I have been given much help and many blessings--the beautiful "Shower of Roses" that she has sent my way! Here I will record a few of the blessings I treasure. Please remember that what you see here is just a little glimpse at our lives, so please say a prayer for us, as we continue to strive for holiness.

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