Setting Goals with Your Teen or Pre-teen: 5 Tips for Success

My husband is very successful in his work. He manages time well and has great working relationships with his colleagues and direct reports – evidenced by the many farewell emails, heartfelt inscription in cards, and often tearful good-byes that have been shared with him these past few weeks.

We have both heard friends exclaim, How do you do it all? How do you get so much accomplished? They are often surprised when we reply that we simply set goals and take measureable steps to achieve them.

Goals are critical. They keep you focused on what’s important to you, and allow you to make the best use of your day. When tackled correctly, they force you out of your comfort zone and help you to grow more each day than you would without them. Most importantly, goals put us in the driver’s seat and give us control. By setting a goal, you are taking an active role in driving new and better results in your life. What could be more important than that?

Setting Goals with Your Teen: Five Tips for Success @EvaVarga.netTeaching our pre-teens or teenagers to set goals effectively can be life-changing. However, as we teach goal-setting to our children, we need to make sure we’re showing them how to use goals to have the greatest possible positive impact on their lives.

Specific

The most important thing to remember is that goals are personal. We as parents have experience and should try to impart our wisdom. However, we need to provide guidance around the process of goal-setting. Try not to determine the specific content of the goals. Keep in mind these are their goals, not yours.

Everyone will have different goals. The question is what are you excited about? What do you want to do? What passions drive them? What are their areas of interest? Support their process of self-discovery and encourage them to follow their hearts.

Encourage them to also be as detailed and specific as possible. Saying “I want to be a writer.” or “I want to be a concert pianist.” is too vague and thus more likely to fail.

Answer the questions: What are you going to do? Why do you want to do it? When are you going to do it? I am really interested in ____, so my goal might look like this: ____.  I want to do this to help me ____. 

Measurable

My daughter has aspirations to write a novel. She has several notebooks with pages and pages of stories that are beginning to emerge. She has typed out numerous fan fiction spin offs and has shared them on Wattpad. Most recently, she has asked to be excused from her other lessons in the month of November so that she can participate NaNoWriMo, the annual novel writing project whereby each participant aims to write a 50,000-word rough draft in the 30 days of the month.

A key step in setting goals and achieving the desired result is to make your goal measurable. A number of pages per week or the number of words per month is a measurable goal. You will be able to hold yourself accountable and measure your progress. Remember, it is a numbers game. If you want to be a writer, for example, the best way to get better is to fill more pages.

Attainable

Setting goals can be a double-edged sword. It can drive purposeful action in our lives and allow us to achieve more over a shorter period of time. Setting goals can also be a source of anxiety. They have the potential to create a hyper-focus on future circumstances.

Relatedly, goals need to be attainable. Continuing with my daughter’s goal writing a novel, if she sets out to fill 100 pages a week, she will probably fall short of her goal (at least I would). To assure success, choose a number that you can do but will push you a little outside of your comfort zone.

Setting Goals with Your Teen: Five Tips for Success @EvaVarga.netRealistic

Life is always throwing curve-balls in an attempt to derail us from our path. We may fall short of our goal but that doesn’t mean we throw in the towel and give up. Perhaps you need to be more specific in your goal statement or quantitative measure. If 50,000 words in a month seems far too much, perhaps 25,000 or 10,000 words is more attainable?

Celebrating small milestones and accomplishments along the way can help maintain enthusiasm. Take heart and trust you will get better, just give it time. Do not judge yourself on how pretty a painting is, but attend to what you discovered, or how much richer your memories of the experience have become.

Timely

One of the goals I have had in the past that I look forward to revisiting once we get settled in our new home is to keep a nature journal. I loved documenting my discoveries alongside my children when they were younger. Somewhere along the way, we stopped journaling regularly and I really miss it.

When and how often are we going to open my journal? Every moment of my day is already filled. How can we fit in something new? These are just a couple of the questions that have been going through my head as I begin to formulate my goal.

Another key to successful goal setting is to connect routines you already have in place. For example, when we go birding or hiking, I can bring our journal materials along with me and start to journal on these expeditions. Journal entries need not take hours. We can get out our journals to catch fifteen minutes here and ten minutes there.

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We all want what’s best for our kids. Teaching them to think in terms of setting and accomplishing goals will help them discover that their best source for fulfillment is within themselves. Experience with setting goals will provide the recognition that they control the outcomes in their lives. Through the process of setting goals, we can give our children the most important gift any parent can give – the ability to thrive in life without us.

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly Truth About Homeschooling

We officially began our homeschooling journey in the fall of 2007 as a trial. My daughter’s birthday fell after the cut-off for enrollment in our state and yet her friends were all starting kindergarten. “I want to go, too!” she exclaimed.

I thereby spent that first year doing a lot of research as I began to pull together unit studies and hands-on projects. I followed my heart and did my best to meet her needs and interests as we continued along the road less traveled.

At the time, I didn’t know ANYONE who was homeschooling. My friends all thought I was nuts. At book club one evening, the women cornered me and in a snarky voice inquired, “So you’re still homeschooloing, Eva? How’s that working out for you?”

Over the years I have learned a lot. We have tried on different homeschooling styles and have adapted different approaches to learning to best suit our life goals. Today, I share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly truth about homeschooling.

The Good The Bad & The Ugly Truth About Homeschooling ⎜ @EvaVarga.netThe Good

Masters of Color, Music, & Words

Charlotte Mason describes living books as the stories that touch our mind and heart. Timeless stories of people, places, and events that come alive as we read. As homeschooling parents we have the incredible opportunity to immerse ourselves in these worlds and spend our days alongside our children.

Relatedly, we can surround ourselves with wonderful art and music. We can dive deep into a study of Beethoven or Georgia O’Keefe. We can read and watch in wonder as their messages slowly influence each of us and mold our hearts and minds.

Freedom & Flexibility

Homeschooling also provides us the freedom to make our own choices in ALL aspects of our children’s education. We are in control. If the kids don’t like the curriculum, I can change it. If they are lonely, I can organize activities. If they are missing something vitally important in their education, I can remedy the situation and help them find a way to learn WHATEVER they need to know. We get to make this adventure into anything and everything we want it to be.

We have the flexibility to pursue our interests in depth. In our home, fluency in a foreign language is very important. We thereby spend hours each week studying Mandarin – time that wouldn’t be possible if they attended a brick and mortar school.

Life Long Learning

Our homeschool isn’t based on the traditional style of schooling. It’s based on life learning that happens all day, every day. We seek out learning opportunity in everything we do – as we go about errands and particularly as we travel.

Yet homeschooling isn’t just about my kids and their education. I want to model a love of learning to my kids. I model this through my own studying and reading. I continue to set goals for myself, to work towards learning new skills, and to accomplishing big projects.

The Good The Bad & The Ugly Truth About Homeschooling ⎜ @EvaVarga.netThe Bad

In comparison to public schools, where education is free, purchasing curriculum and teaching tools can be very expensive. To counter this, some families choose to partner with a homeschool charter program or umbrella school. Such programs often provide curriculum and materials for you – however, you’ll have to jump through their hoops (meeting regularly with an assigned facilitator, turning in assignments, & standardized testing).

Financially savvy parents seek out used curriculum (book stores, online vendors, other homeschool families). There is also a tremendous amount of curriculum and lesson materials available online. You just need to seek it out – which can be time consuming. To help, I’ve compiled an extensive list of Free Science Curriculum for Middle School.

There are also other costs to keep in mind, like project materials, stationery, books, computer software, and field trips. However, we spend significantly less money on clothing (as we don’t feel the pressure to have the latest fashion trends) and meals (we cook more often together and enjoy our meals as a family). We also travel during the off season when tickets are less expensive.

Networking also plays a huge role in homeschooling and does wonders to reduce the cost. We reach out to adults to mentor the kids in their areas of interest. We collaborate with other homeschool families to share our talents and skills through our homeschool co-ops.  We partner with resource specialists to enrich areas of our curriculum – the relationships we’ve developed even allow us to borrow equipment that would be otherwise too costly (just last week we borrowed a soil auger from a local engineering and hydrogeology firm).

The Good The Bad & The Ugly Truth About Homeschooling ⎜ @EvaVarga.netThe Ugly Truth

Homeschooling isn’t easy, don’t let all the good cloud your impression. The ugly moments, however, will vary with each family – but that is just what they are – moments. Fleeting thoughts of inadequacy.

In my family, we are all very driven. This doesn’t always translate well when it comes to getting lessons completed, however. The ugly truth in our homeschool is that my son and I often butt heads.

He is a hard worker. He’ll occasionally drag his feet when it is time for Mandarin class – particularly if he was engaged in one of his passion projects before class begins. However, once he is underway, he puts forth a 100% effort. He strives to always do his best.

Getting him to do his other lessons (math, writing assignments, etc.) though is like pulling teeth. I try to encourage him to “slay his dragons” early in the morning but he always drags his feet. As the day slowly marches on, I continually remind him of his assignments. “You’ve been watching this man play Beethoven’s 5th on YouTube for quite a while now, Buddy. How about you take a break and do a math lesson with me?”

It is difficult to argue when his retort is, “I AM doing schoolwork, Mom! This helps me learn how to play it myself.” We have tried different strategies over the years and yet we continue to struggle with this.

Even so, I can’t imagine educating my children any other way. Even though I admittedly threaten that I will enroll them in public school on occasion (my ugly days), I know in my heart of hearts that homeschooling has been the best decision we have made.

iHomeschool Network bloggers share more of their loves & dislikes about homeschooling.