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Want to Improve Success in Homeschool Teaching? Use Mastery Goals

By Lily Iatridis  January 12, 2021

mastery goals, mastery learning, mastery objectives, homeschool, homeschool goalsSo, it’s the new year. Not an auspicious beginning, would you say?

I say we move the new year forward to February 1, and pretend that’s the start of 2021.

Who’s with me?

The truth is, we can’t wait until Feb 1 to start homeschooling again after the holiday break. (As much as the kids might be into it.)

You’ve got to get going again. And the new calendar year — or the middle of the traditional school year — is a good time to revisit your goals.

Do you enjoy doing new year’s goal setting activities? I do, especially when they’re done with friends. Vision boards were my personal favorite. But nobody has enough print magazines in their homes for that anymore.

Nowadays the term for new year’s resolutions is new year’s intentions. That term makes you feel like less of a failure if it doesn’t come true.

Last year, I went to a new year’s intentions Chakti yoga class with some friends here in Charlotte. Chakti yoga is a sort of combination of yoga and dancing to music. You combine yoga poses with what feels like belly dancing to loud hip hop music young people like.

We ladies in our 40s and 50s joined the young women. We meditated, jiggled our hips, did our downward dogs, and wrote down our intentions on a tic tac toe chart. Then we lit a candle and blew it out to send our intentions into the universe.

Of course, the evening finished with appetizers and wine at a nearby restaurant. That’s the best part!

From time to time over the past year, I pulled out my tic tac toe chart from that evening. Did any of those intentions come true? No! Some did to some degree, but there were no concrete results.

You can say you intend to do this or that, but that lacks focus. You only get concrete results with concrete goals.

When it comes to your children’s education, you need those concrete goals.

Your homeschool learning goals need to be clear, specific, and measurable.

Vague intentions won’t cut it.

This is your children’s education we’re talking about!

The right types of learning goals will tell you what your kids need to know and be able to do. They tell how you’re going to get them there.

These types of learning goals are called mastery objectives or mastery learning. They focus your homeschool teaching and make your homeschool time more productive.

Does Your Homeschool Curriculum Contain Mastery Objectives? 

There are several types of learning goals you may see in the curriculum you’re using in homeschool.

1. Coverage goals. This goal simply tells what subject you’re going to cover. Examples of coverage goals can look like this:

-Social hierarchy of the Middle Ages
-Add and subtract fractions

2. Activity goals. This goal refers to the activities you’re going to do with the kids to cover the subject. Examples of activity goals can look like this:

-The Middle Ages- use text to take notes on the social hierarchy of the Middle Ages.
-Watch video on how to add and subtract fractions and do practice worksheet.

Now, let’s convert those into mastery objectives. First, there are two components to the mastery objective:

1) What the kids will know and be able to do at the end of the lesson,
2) How they’re going to demonstrate 1).

Mastery objectives of the goals above look like this:

-Kids will take notes on the social hierarchy of the Middle Ages, study their notes, and draw a chart of the medieval social hierarchy from memory.

-Kids will learn to add and subtract fractions and pass a quiz on the subject.

The coverage and activity goals go a step further, so that an assessment (evaluation) is part of the goal. This extra part to the goal works to clarify and cement the learning.

Coverage and activity goals are fine, but they need to lead to a mastery learning objective. Please visit this post to learn more about assessments.

Remember, mastery objectives answer two questions:

What do I want my child to know and be able to do when the lesson is over? How will I know if they know it or can do it?

Does your homeschool curriculum contain mastery objectives? You should find them listed at the beginning of a unit or lesson.

What To Do If Your Curriculum Doesn’t Contain Mastery Objectives? 

It’s best if your curriculum has the mastery objectives written out at the beginning of a lesson or unit.

But if your homeschool curriculum doesn’t have mastery learning goals, check the summative assessment at the end of the lesson or unit.

Will this assessment show what your kids have learned and are able to do?

A summative assessment is an activity that evaluates what your kids have learned. For example, a test, quiz, writing assignment, project, or performance of some sort is a summative assessment. 

What To Do If Your Kids Don’t Achieve the Mastery Learning Objective? 

This is going to happen!

First, know this. Sometimes you’re just going to have to move on. As a homeschool mom, you have lots of flexibility and choice in your kids’ education. All the same, you still might face a few deadlines along the way.

Remember, mastery objectives are a way to set clear and specific goals for your kids’ learning. They’re also a mindset. They make you think about showing proof that your kids have learned what they need to learn.

But when your kids struggle with a mastery objective, there are a few things you can do to help them.

1. Change the activity to better match their learning style.  Check your curriculum for alternate activities that reach the same goal.

2. A multi-year curriculum builds on content introduced in prior years. If you have one, go back to the prior year when the concept was first introduced and revisit those lessons.

3. Add an enrichment activity if the mastery objective is content-based as opposed to skills-based. Go more into depth on a subject with a project or activity that will enrich their learning and help them grasp it better.

Set Mastery Objectives for Independent Study 

Is there a subject that your kid is madly in love with? That they want to know everything and anything about?

Let them go for it!

Together, brainstorm mastery objectives on their subject of interest. This will give them focus while they pursue their independent study.

What do they want to do with their new learning? Is there a problem they want to solve around it? Mastery objectives will help them decide what they need to know and be able to do to solve that problem.

A Final Word 

As a homeschooling mom, you’re the steward of your kids’ education. Mastery learning objectives give them a strong education and prepare them for the future.

You’ve got this! May all your best homeschooling intentions become concrete, measurable goals.



P.S. I’d like to give credit to my learning on mastery objectives to The Skillful Teacher program developed by Jon Saphier and Robert Gower.

For more information on our Essay Rockstar online writing program that’s also based in mastery learning, please visit www.essayrockstar.com.


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