By this time next year (how I measure progress in our homeschool)

Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.

“There…in the…wa…wa…water was a boy.”

My youngest son struggled to read the sentence.


I tried to encourage him, my heart sinking.

“Good. Keep going.”

As he worked harder than any eleven-year-old boy should have to just to read The Story Of Ping, I thought to myself, “Surely by this time next year he will be able to do this.”

‘This time next year’ has been a constant, lingering, elusive measure of success in our homeschool for six years now.

I mutter it to myself when the math concept is not clicking.

I think it constantly when someone questions my dyslexic son’s reading ability.

I comfort myself with it when we are having a tough day.

‘By this time next year’ has somehow become my method of measuring progress and instilling hope in our homeschool. And it is not serving us well.

Looking ahead to what I assume or hope my children will be able to do in the future, causes me to lose sight of the progress they are making today.

Always looking to what they should be accomplishing in the future sets all of us up for feeling like what we are doing today is not enough.

And that’s just not true.

In an effort to really see the growth my children display every day, I am working to change my perspective entirely.

Here’s how –

Measuring progress in our homeschool

Focus on strengths

I have already written about how important I believe it is to focus on our children’s strengths in their education.

And I do focus on their strengths when planning our days, buying curriculum and giving them feedback. But when it comes to measuring progress?

For some defeating reason, I forget everything I know and tend to focus only on the areas that need improvement.

Instead of noting how far my child has come in his ability to build computers from scratch (which, incidentally, is mind blowing), I think about how far he still has to go in life skills.

Instead of doing a little dance over my son’s newfound ability to share his knowledge of reptiles with other children in engaging ways, I worry about the chapter book he still can’t read.

I may focus on strengths in my approach to my boys’ learning, but I have not done it in my measurement of their learning.

And this leads me to …

It all counts

I truly, wholeheartedly believe that my son’s ceramics class is just as important in his overall learning and development as his math lesson.

I know, without a doubt, that my oldest’s interest in the WWI YouTube channel matters just as much as his ability to complete a math lesson.

I know this.

But I have not been measuring success in the areas that are easy, in the same way that I measure progress (or the lack there of) in the subjects that are difficult.

In fact, sometimes, I am ashamed to say, I don’t even see the progress in the areas of strength. I take them for granted.

Which leads me to …

Documentation matters

In an effort to change the way I measure our progress, I have changed the way I account for our learning entirely.

In addition to the annual individualized development plans I create for each of my boys, and the records that substantiate daily learning, I have added one quick but valuable step in documenting my sons’ education.

I make a list.

(Nothing earth-shattering, I know.)

Every day, at the end of each day, I make a list by child. It includes their learning activities for the day – all of them. Practicing phonics is listed right next to watching a documentary on dangerous creatures in the Amazon.

Turns out, it’s kind-of a long list.

Doing this allows me to stay focused on all of the learning that is happening, instead of being so concerned with what still needs improvement.

It allows me to see how much my sons are progressing in their strengths.

It keeps me from worrying about ‘this time next year.’

This change in perspective has made a significant difference in my overall ability to enjoy each day.

Seeing so much evidence of learning, right in front of me, list after list, day after day – it has removed the worry and desire for next year’s progress, and instead shown me the good that is happening in our normal learning routines.

The good news is, by this time next year, I’m certain my boys will be just fine.

How do you measure progress in your homeschool?

Want to hear how other homeschooling moms do it? I love this podcast from The Homeschool Sisters. They share their perspectives and experience with strengths, weaknesses, and homeschooling.

About Shawna Wingert

Shawna Wingert is the creator of Not The Former Things, a blog dedicated to homeschooling children with learning differences and special needs. She loves finding out-of-the-box ways for out-of-the-box learners to thrive. She is the author of two books, Special Education at Home and Everyday Autism. You can follow Shawna and Not The Former Things on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.


  1. I have recently just started making lists at the end of day too and I’m blown away by how much learning takes place that we don’t even register, let alone acknowledge. It has been a game changer!

  2. Hi Shawa! I really appreciate this post. Thank you for sharing so candidly and being so vulnerable about how you measure progress. This has been very helpful to me as a homeschooling mom who struggles to know how to gauge progress.

  3. I started my blog as a way to document all the little learning activities that happened each day. I’ve lost of sight of that a bit and definitely related to this pose because I too have started to focus more on those areas that need improvement; taking their strengths for granted and fretting over their struggles. I’m trying more and more to think back to a year ago and see the progress that we have made; however small since any progress is good.
    Mother of 3’s latest post: Art Project #79– Minecraft Digital Art

  4. I just started doing this- mostly as a way to cope with the season we’re in (2 grade schoolers, a toddler and 5 month old). I noticed by the end of the day the only stuff I could remember were the things we didn’t get to. And I was feeling so defeated. The lists are helping tremendously. Apparently my days aren’t all bad 😉 I’m so glad to read that other people are helped by it too – it’s amazing all that can happen in a day.

    Also I sooooo appreciate your candor and insight and wisdom Shawna. Your writing has made such a positive impact on our home life and homeschooling. Thank you!

  5. Laura Thorndike says:

    This resonates with me as well. We are just beginning our school journey in a way, as my two are 5.5 and 3. My littlest has severe allergies and chronic discomfort from allergic skin reactions and eczema and he requires a lot of attention. My daughter is amazing and is his biggest supporter but some days are more tiring than others and it can be too easy to feel defeated by ‘not getting enough done’. I too have begun marking on a monthly calendar the activities we do each day and it is tremendously reassuring to me that I am able to provide for both of my children’s varrying needs. Looking at the whole month at a time is also refreshing because it reminds me that I don’t need to do all of the things everyday, the rule of averages applies to homeschooling too! Thank you!

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