Have you been thinking about the importance of goal setting for students? I started thinking about this when setting my homeschool goals for the 2023/2024 school year.
And honestly, as a long-time homeschooling mom, I realize it’s easy to overlook teaching the basics of setting goals alongside the “hard” subjects.
Yet learning to set goals as a young child helps teach children how to plan for success.
Learn why teaching your child how to set a specific goal helps set the foundation for future independence and planning in homeschool, work, and life.
The importance of goal setting for students
The most important reason for teaching students how to set goals is to foster independence. Other reasons include teaching the power of mindset and fostering confidence, discipline, and focus.
Why it’s important to teach homeschool students how to set their own personal goals
It may seem hard to believe now, homeschool momma, but one day, your child will control their own life. So think about how to teach them the skills they’ll need to manage it.
One area in which I definitely feel I would have liked more lessons as a child was time management skills and how to create a plan to achieve bigger goals.
Learning how to set effective smaller goals also helps with time management and organizational skills, which are especially important in the workforce.
Elementary students also learn how to establish good study and planning habits when they learn how to identify and plan for important goals throughout the year. They also learn about the importance of a good homeschool routine to stay on track with their plans.
Understanding the importance of goals in academics, types of goals, goal-setting strategies, and how to set clear goals also helps set them up for success in post-secondary school when you aren’t there to help them.
SMART goals for homeschool students
The first step in teaching homeschooled students about effective goals is to teach a particular way of setting them.
SMART goals have become a popular framework that younger kids (middle to high school) often easily understand.
The acronym for SMART (goals) is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
Students use SMART goal setting to develop the new skill of setting clear, achievable goals that show real results from measurable outcome goals.
Setting actionable goals, specific behavior goals, and then achieving them also goes a long way to boosting confidence and nurturing a growth mindset. As homeschooled students learn new skills, younger students also gain a better understanding of how to create long-term plans to achieve their lifetime goals.
Use academic achievement or extracurricular activities to show your homeschool students how SMART goals work.
For example, maybe you’re focusing on reading titles from a book list, such as a list of books for middle school boys. Assign your student the task of setting a goal to read for a certain amount of time each day. The end results include reading better, faster, and/or with more comprehension.
How to set short-term goals as a student
To help elementary students learn how to set short-term goals, start by looking at their current activities and interests. For example, an online course, a homeschool curriculum with specific lessons, or even mastering a new sport.
The first thing to do? Establish a specific plan to reach the desired outcome for the student goals. Then work backward. (Note: make sure to start with attainable goals aligned with realistic student achievement.)
For example, a short-term goal could be something that is accomplished by next week. For example, maybe they want to finish reading a novel with seven chapters in seven days.
Show your child how to schedule reading one chapter a day (as long as your child can read independently.)
My kids love seeing their goals and progress in visual representations. So I create useful tools like Daily To Do lists, planners, and goal-setting worksheets. One even shows a race track and finish line as part of the goal setting process!
We make a big deal about it when they cross that finish line!
Identifying specific outcomes, creating a timeline, and tracking progress help foster good habits and new behaviors. And setting, working, and achieving short term goals gives the kids a sense of purpose.
How to set long-term goals as a student
Does your homeschooled student have big goals for the future? Older students may have Major goals like attending college, getting a certain job, earning a certain number of credits, or even saving a large sum of money. Young children may want to learn their alphabet or their multiplication tables.
These can also be seen as life goals or ambitious goals. Similar to setting short-term goals, long-term goals need a clear plan and review regularly. Goals in this group are tied to future success and may undergo several changes over time.
For example, maybe your 13-year-old daughter in middle school wants to attend a prestigious college. She knows she will need to achieve a certain GPA, SAT, and/or ACT score. Knowing what is expected at the end will help her to monitor her progress and establish a to-do list of learning goals along with performance goals.
As she begins working towards her goal, she may find she underestimates how much time she needs to study. Perhaps she identifies new areas to work on, such as leadership skills or personal development.
Combined, they’ll be able to see how much hard work is needed each school year and map those out into smaller tasks. The result will be based on the set goals reached over time.
When kids miss academic goals
The time will come when your homeschool student won’t meet an academic goal. And that’s okay – as long as they learn an effective way to create a better outcome the next time.
Show your student how to adjust their behavior and timelines when they fall short of a goal. Start by acknowledging any progress made. No matter how little.
Remember, whether it’s learning the 12 times table, mowing the lawn, or setting up a first business like a lemonade stand – your children are learning how to take the actions necessary to reach their goals.
Goal setting as a life skill
If your homeschool includes a middle school or high school student, I recommend adding student goalsetting to their studies as one of the important life skills we all need.
Begin with the suggestions above to get started teaching smart goal setting. Ask your child to identify a small goal and the first step to achieving it. Then slowly start allowing them to take more control over setting realistic goals.
If you find that they are not reaching them, help them reassess what needs to change as part of learning how to set goals.
Every goal set may not get met, but doing so provides an opportunity for students to learn how to pivot when necessary.