Is yours the ‘Russian’ approach to setting and reaching goals – ‘Crime and Punishment’? Or are you more aligned with Lao Tzu, who wrote that ‘he who has no ambitions cannot fail, and he who never fails is all-powerful.’?
As the end of the school year approaches – or perhaps you’ve already begun summer holidays – it is inevitable that we evaluate how it went, and take note of what did and didn’t get done. There is likely a list somewhere in your home, perhaps with a wrinkled corner or a few scribbled notes in the margins – a summary of your best intentions for the previous school term, perhaps with a satisfying array of checks beside each item. Or perhaps you have a list that looks a bit more like the one at the top of this page – a record of attempts and failures, adjustments and changes.
They do say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions! Merely intending to do something is utterly useless – you have to do it in order for it to count. But they also say that in order to jump over a hurdle, leap higher than you think you need to, and you’ll be more likely to make it. In other words, make a list of ten things in order to get five done. (I think someone also said that chocolate was good for everything – but I might have made that one up.)
Making lists and having concrete goals can be a very useful motivation for Getting Things Done in the homeschool. But discrepancies between what we want to do and what we actually accomplish can be food for discouragement and insecurity – for parents and teachers, anyhow! I have yet to meet a student who was really concerned that we ‘skipped that chapter’ of a textbook.
Sometimes it’s helpful to evaluate both the goals that were aimed for and missed and to look at the Bigger Picture, including giving ourselves a pat on the back for our ability to adjust and deal with everything in our lives – not only school. What can you do when your student catches a cold, other than take it easy to recover? What can you do when the neighbours crank up their music in protest of the piano practising – without causing a big upset in your family? Sometimes being too attached to a goal only teaches a student that Life Is Difficult and you Have To Suffer. When penpals don’t write back, extended family cause friction, growth spurts mess with sleeping schedules and Things Just Happen, taking a step back from some expectations can be the best choice.
Celebrating our ability to be flexible might reduce the amount of stress we experience as a result of unfinished tasks and missed goals. The definition of ‘flexible’ is ‘to be able to bend without breaking’, according to Merriam-Webster. When we are too rigid in our expectations and plans, we could reach ‘breaking point’ more quickly, but when we take a gentler approach to goals and ambitions, we might better be able to cope with The Unpredictable and survive the very real emotional challenges that are part of everyone’s life.
There is a suspicious similarity between the word ‘goal’ and the old spelling of ‘jail’ (gaol). It makes sense that both students and teachers should not feel entrapped by goals. Confined, punished, restricted – these terms can apply both to ‘gaols’ and ‘goals’! Shouldn’t aiming for a goal excite you – as in ‘sports’ – not terrify you – as in ‘prison’?! If you miss a goal, shouldn’t you want to try one more time to reach it – not run in the opposite direction hoping never to be faced with it again?
Summer sun and that sense of freedom many young people cherish about the warm season can be a wonderful opportunity for everyone to step back from iron-clad expectations, shake off the shackles of ambition, flap the wings of enthusiasm, and soar off into . . . well, you get the idea! 🙂