Finishing things is hard.
Writing an All That’s Left List can help make those last few weeks of school feel a little more hopeful by defining the endpoint.
When you just want to be done, but the finish line feels so far away…
I don’t know about you, but our family is at that season of the school year where we all just kind of want to be done.
Instead of finishing school, I have projects I’d like to accomplish. Forget creative writing or personal development, I’d just like to clean my closet, declutter my bathroom drawers, and deep clean the bathtub. (Seriously, please don’t look in there. I’m so embarrassed.)
The kids are running out of steam, too. They’ve been working hard, and it can feel like work is Always Looming and they will Never Be Done so Why Even Try and Are We There Yet.
The Homework Snowball
I don’t want us to moan and groan our way through the end of the school year. I don’t want us to lose any more of the joy and delight in learning. And rather than having my kids feel discouraged, I want them to be excited by the perspective of what they have already accomplished. They’re almost there! Don’t give up now! Finish strong!
Some subjects are already or almost completed. For example, my oldest finished his Latin two weeks ago and will complete his outside-the-home writing class this week. My daughters only have 2.5 chapters of science remaining.
With each goal for the year accomplished, the snowball grows larger and rolls down the hill faster! We gain momentum, devoting our energy to fewer subjects, enjoying more freetime, and potentially getting an early start to summer.
Forget the Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball! This is the Homework Snowball!
This is what “Done” looks like
Each spring when malaise hits, we write out our All That’s Left List…
We have done this the past couple of years for the older children. It is incredibly helpful and motivating in these last few (sometimes dreary) weeks of school.
I sit down with each older child, a stack of their books beside us, and the year’s goal lists in front of me. On one single piece of notebook paper I write out what is required to be considered “done” in all of their subjects.
“Done” is sometimes, but not always, finishing a textbook
Please note: “done” is not the same as “finished the textbook.” One of my children has been accelerating rapidly past grade level in math for the past year and a half. Within the past couple of weeks, we hit a developmental wall. Rather than pushing forward to ruthlessly finish the textbook, we are stopping right where we are. Instead she is continuing with daily facts drills and other mathematical games.
Another child was unable to do the next level of Latin when we started up in the fall. They just were not ready.
We are not in a race. We do not have to keep up with anyone else’s schedule.
The point is to understand.
So we took a few months off from the textbook and did tons of review and basic drills. By the spring semester, we were able to resume the Latin textbook and it’s been going swimmingly ever since.
But guess what? It means we won’t “finish” the textbook by May. So our “All That’s Left List” looked at where we are currently in the Latin textbook and set a reasonable chapter goal that can be completed in the next 6 weeks or so. When we finish that chapter, we will be “done” for this year.
Finishing Strong with Joy and Hope
Suddenly, the Are We There Yet and Work Will Never End feelings seem a little smaller. As I exhorted one of my older children, “Tell the truth to yourself about what is really left. What is left is hard. But you’ve already finished or are close to finishing half your subjects! Do not give up now. Finish strong.”
Having a definite “you’re done” feeling is important to me. One of the things that sometimes frustrated me as a child was not knowing when I was “done” with a subject or with “school.” While learning and education is something that happens year round, our family really looks forward to the break from our normal routine each summer.
I understand that this is totally a personality issue, and attempting to create a similar list may be something that frustrates you rather than helps you.
If that is so, please don’t try this at home! I’m not prescribing this as something everyone should do! But for our family, the All That’s Left List has been a help since we implemented it, and perhaps it will be an encouragement to you as well.
For our family, an All That’s Left List
- helps us see that the finish line really is in sight!
A small dose of hope and encouragement (and a few snack breaks, extra outside time in the finally-spring-weather, and crazy music dance parties) help any long journey feel a little easier.