Finishing Well | Reflections for Parents at the End of the School Year

If you have school-aged children, I don’t need to describe to you how the end of the school year can be particularly full, and hurried. Even as someone who attempts to banish “hurry” from her life—I’m affected too. In my hurrying from one event or activity to the next, I cut-corners on the one person who won’t complain out loud about it: myself. I shortchange myself of the time I need to pause and reflect, and as I do, I feel my peace slipping away, replaced with shallow breathing and an accelerated heart-rate.

If you’re in the same boat, I have a tool for you today that will support you in intentionally slowing down and finding your bearings as we transition from the drum-beat of the school year, to the wide-open summer.

Why reflect?

Whether we’re looking back on a specific event, a single conversation, or a season of life, personal reflection is valuable tool for learning, growth, and maturation. When I don’t make the time to pause and consider what just occurred, I curtail my own potential, and rob those experiences of their teaching value. Those experiences become nothing more than grains of sand passing through the hourglass of my life, when in fact each one is like a little pearl of undiscovered wisdom—if I’d only make the time to look closer at it.

And consider this: have you ever bungled a conversation—maybe an important meeting or a job interview—and replayed it in your head over and over again for hours on end? Our minds need no prompting to reflect on what we immediately recognize was uncomfortable, or embarrassing, but our minds tend to skip over the conversations that go well. How would our outlook about ourselves improve if we trained our minds to reflect on the good, as well as the bad? (I’m looking at you, Philippians 4:8)

Saying a peaceful goodbye, and moving on

So lately, in an effort to build a more consistent and edifying reflective practice, I’ve taken to asking myself a series of questions whenever I finish a project or a season of life (and when I transition into a new project or a new season, but I’ll talk more about that another day). This type of reflection makes the space for us to evaluate what worked (and what didn’t work), and gives us a satisfying bookend to the season, as we transition into whatever is coming next.

We can peacefully put the 2017-2018 school year to rest, knowing that we’ve captured the best and worst of it, and will have it to look back on when the next school year begins.

Below, I’ve included the guiding questions I ask myself at the end of a project or season. If you like to write things down by hand (which I do), there’s also a printable for you to enjoy. You can print these guiding questions out and tuck them in your journal to refer to, or you can print as many sheets as you need if you’d like to do this activity with a group.

Guiding reflection for finishing well

 

 

Click here to download the Guided Reflection for Finishing Well

 

Sometimes it’s helpful to have an example, so I’ll include my recent reflection on our 2017-2018 school year, since that’s fresh for me. (For context, we do a homeschool/at-school hybrid.)

  • Looking back on this experience, what gave me life?
    Moments where I really heard Ellie synthesize what we had been studying—her randomly translating latin phrases at the grocery store, or drawing parallels to classic myths in in contemporary stories. Long slow breakfasts and lunches all together.
  • What drained my energy?
    Repeating myself dozens of times a day on our home days, calling Ellie’s attention out of daydreams and back into our work.
  • In what circumstance(s) did I struggle/where was I challenged?
    Getting into math games was tough for me, with Graham running around. The only time we could really play was when Graham was down for his nap. Not sure how we’ll handle that when he’s no longer napping.
  • In what circumstance(s) did I experience fluency and ease?
    Literature and history—helping Ellie clarify her thoughts for history narration.
  • What did I learn about myself?
    I’m an energetic and curious home-teacher! I can lovingly homeschool Ellie while caring for a 12-24 month old baby.
  • What did I learn about others? Ellie still has a near photographic memory. When she is intrinsically interested in something, she can lose herself in it for hours.
  • What were my expectations? How were they met, or not?
    I expected our home days to be more difficult, with the baby running around, and I was pleasantly surprised that wasn’t (generally) the case. I expected support from Mrs. P., but I was not prepared for what an excellent communicator she is, and how connected I felt to her classroom, and the work they did in it.
  • What were my hopes? How were they met, or not?
    I hoped that Ellie would transition back to our hybrid school easily, and she totally did. I hoped for a better social experience for Ellie with the girls at our hybrid school than she had had in her year of public school, and I’m blown away at the contrast. These girls are kind, and loving, and have such sensitive hearts to each other. They communicate well, and are always mindful of keeping others included. My heart is so happy to see their friendships thrive.
  • Were my gifts and abilities used well? How so?
    Yes! It turns out that I’m find some ease in home-teaching. I deeply enjoy literature and history, and coming alongside Ellie in this history cycle has allowed me to share that with her, and see her own curiosity come alive in it.
  • If I could do it over again, I’d ________.
    Spend more time outdoors in the morning, while it’s still sunny and there’s no wind. We could do more of our reading and narration outside on the warm mornings. Also, I would be more firm about making time for German and cursive on our home days.
  • I didn’t expect this, but I’m grateful that it occurred:
    The King Tut exhibit coming to LA! What amazing timing! After studying Egypt for so long, and King Tut specifically, what a treat it was to go down to the California Science Center and experience the exhibit in person.

Final thought

The idea of a reflective practice is common, so I don’t want to give the impression that I invented it. I’ve cobbled together elements from a lot of different sources into a practice that works for me. You’ll have your own preferences so I expect that you’ll make alterations that will afford you some ease in adopting this new practice.

Let me know what you think! You can comment below, send me an email, or PM me on Instagram. And stay tuned for another tool specifically for transitioning into NEW seasons (i.e. Summer) and projects.

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