On Back-To-School Interviews

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A reader asked me about our back-to-school interviews. 

Honestly, they're so simple that it's never occurred to me to write about how we do them.  But here goes. :)

We have these interviews because my older kids work almost completely independently these days.  They just pick up their crates of school stuff, go to work, hand their crates back to me for me to check stuff, and repeat the next day.  I can completely lose touch with what's on the kids' minds if I don't make a concerted effort to listen.  They will often offer their opinions about their work as they do it, but I might not be actively listening if they're complaining while I'm in the middle of a reading lesson with H5 or making dinner before Dad goes to work.  The interviews give me a chance to focus on one kid at a time and take their opinions seriously. 

Mid-year Interviews:
After any break from school I sit down individually with each kid and her (so far they're all "her"--our only "he" is too young for this tradition so far) crate of school stuff.  I make sure I have a notebook and something to write with.  After writing the child's name at the top of the page, we start going through her books.  I ask questions like:

*Where did you leave off before the break?
*What's good about this?  Why?/Why not?
*Is anything not good?  Why?/Why not?
*Is there a reason to keep using this?  Why?
*Is there a reason to stop using it?  Why?
*What were your goals the last time we talked?  (It helps if I have the notebook I used the last time we had an interview, but sometimes that notebook has disappeared.  I try to transcribe my notebook scribblings into computer documents, and that helps, too.)
*How have those goals changed?  How are they the same?  Why?
*What should we keep doing? 
*What should we change?

Our interviews are not formal--we just sit on the couch or at the table and talk (M12 just read this over my shoulder and said, "You talk.  The rest of us moan and groan about what we have to do."  Which just goes to show that not everyone has positive feelings about these interviews!).  I don't have a questionnaire that I follow or anything.  We just look over what we have and talk about it.  (I find it hilarious that E14 looked over my shoulder and said, "We had back-to-school interviews?"  "Remember that day I sat on your bed and we went through your school crate, and you told me you wanted to start Latin . . .?" I asked.  "Oh, yeah," she said.  That's how informal these sessions are!)  As the kids talk about what's in front of them, our conversation hopefully also includes some of their wishes and dreams that we might not be currently working on.  I make notes and turn the notes into a plan for the next semester or next month or next season or whatever time period we're facing.

Interviews for a New School Year:
With a few modifications we do the same thing for a new school year . . . right at the end of the old school year.  We pull out the crates of current school stuff, but we also pull out the boxes full of finished work, and we go over what's been accomplished (or not) and figure out how to try to achieve new goals for the new year.  That gives me time to assess what we already own and make decisions about what we ought to purchase. 

As we get close to starting school we do it again--checking to see what's changed in their hearts and minds since we last had formal school days.  There's a limit to what we can and can't do, but they at least get to talk out their hopes and dreams.  They also get to check out whatever new purchases I've made and dig through boxes of supplies and books that I've set aside for their use during the upcoming year.  Usually having a box to go through helps them focus on what we have rather than what we don't have, and they start to be excited to dig in.

Then at the start of a new school year we have our interviews once again, but this time they have a completely different format because we're implementing plans already made rather than putting plans together.  I still meet with each child one-by-one; I still have a notebook and pencil at hand; we still just talk together, but we don't know what's working or not because it's new!  So we look over the books and supplies and get familiar with them.  We discuss what we hope is a doable level of work.  We decide how much and how often school subjects need to be done--with me madly making notes the whole time.

At the end of the interviews I type up their plans, turn them into check-off sheets, give the kids copies of their check-off sheets, and we all go to work.

I hope that answers the question.  :)


  1. Thank you for posting this!! I was wondering about that! :)


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