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This fall I’ve been spending some time with a great group of teens in a Career Explorations class. As part of the class, each student utilized an assessment tool called YouScience. This tool is more than just researching careers, but includes exploration in aptitudes, interests, values, personal qualities, and interpersonal style.

One area of interpersonal style examined is preferred Timeframe Orientation. Timeframe Orientation affects the kinds of goals you set for yourself and how you approach them. It indicates whether you’re more focused on the present activity or on how it fits into a long-term plan. Some people are content to work years toward a goal without any immediate reward. Others prefer closure and work best with short-term deadlines to stay focused and motivated.

The three categories of Timeframe Orientation are Future Focuser, Present Focuser, and Balanced Focuser. YouScience describes them as follows:

Future Focused people are able to plan and work toward goals that may take years to come to fruition. They are able to keep an eye on a long-range target. They will make efforts that might not be rewarded in the near future to reach goals in the distant future. They’re good to have around when others get off track or lose motivation toward a long-term goal.

Present Focused people need goals that can be accomplished in a shorter period of time, so breaking a long-term process into smaller “bites” makes goals doable. They understand the concept and benefits of working toward a distant goal, but they may not have specific plans to get there. The immediacy of present-focused goals (one to twelve months) can be very helpful in jobs demanding quick completion, such as sales.

Balanced Focused people often find a middle ground between focusing on their current activities and a distant goal. They are likely to need regular, short-term achievements within a longer-term focus. They help coworkers or teammates stay on track with a goal, but can also switch gears if the goal is no longer viable. Given their desire for clarity about the direction and outcome of a project, they can point out when a goal is becoming too costly or risky. Balanced Timeframe Orientation can be very helpful in jobs requiring relationship building, such as developing community coalitions across diverse interest groups.

Everyone has a leaning toward one of the above, with each having unique strengths and weaknesses. All types are needed, and one isn’t better than the other. What is important is that you understand your own learning.

Throughout this exploration process, frequent reminders are shared with the students that what they learn about themselves can be applied to anything: work, school, or daily life. This idea isn’t just for students. Sometimes adults need this reminder, too.

What does this have to do with homeschooling? Plenty. Knowing what type of focuser you are, and if that type will be more challenging for the task you have at hand, helps keep your homeschooling days in perspective. This isn’t to say that you need to be one type of focuser over another to be successful at homeschooling. Homeschooling is a multi-focuser event!

For example, being present-focused is helpful when it comes to breaking down the daily lessons and assignments of your student’s math curriculum. When your student successfully completes the lesson that day, it gives a sense of accomplishment —for both you and your student. That sense of accomplishment appeals to all, but particularly to those who find satisfaction in focusing on the here and now. When approaching a task one lesson at a time and finding joy in checking off that item on the daily checklist brings you joy (as it should!), you are being present-focused.

However, if your student is taking a bit longer to grasp the concepts of math and is struggling with the lesson, you may need to take a balanced-focus perspective. At what point should you re-evaluate the current goal of completing all of the practice problems? Is that goal becoming too “costly or risky” to the student’s learning? Is it affecting learning in other subjects? Is completion taking longer than planned because the student has missed a concept or needs more instruction? Perhaps you need to adjust the short-term goal (finish the lesson’s homework to stay on schedule) to provide balance to the long-term goal (master math concepts). This shift is more difficult for some than others, depending on your preferred timeframe orientation. Instead of getting frustrated that a lesson isn’t getting completed that day, be willing to switch gears if needed.

Then, there will be days — or multiple days — that math Just. Isn’t. Happening. Tears may be involved (including from parents!) There will be rough patches where it just seems like you and your student are spinning wheels. It will seem like nothing is getting done and learning isn’t happening, making you question why you are doing this. During these times of struggle, focus on those goals that “may take years to come to fruition” and “keep an eye on a long-range target.”  Sometimes things are so out-of-balance, that a homeschooling parent needs to shift full force into future-focused to get through the present moment.

What is your ultimate reason for homeschooling? What are your long-term goals? Is it to spend more time together as a family? To provide an individualized education for your learner who is outside of the box? A desire to have more control of what your student learns and when? Homeschooling is about more than getting the daily lessons done. Whatever the reasons your family has for stepping into homeschooling, keeping sight of those long-term goals will put things in a better perspective when those short-term goals go a little astray.

If you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time, you have probably experienced seasons of highs and seasons of lows. Fall can often be a season of lows in the homeschool year. The excitement of the new year has dwindled right along with the warmer weather and sunshine. What you thought would be the perfect curriculum or class is proving to not be so perfect. Maybe your student is getting a little behind and you are wondering if this whole homeschooling thing isn’t for you.

Consider your timeframe orientation. If you are present-focused, it could be very frustrating when a lesson isn’t done to completion, if your student is struggling with a concept, or is having difficulty with time management. Not all tasks are can be accomplished in the present, and the bigger picture needs to be viewed to see the path. If you aren’t able to see down the road or over the hill, it can be disorienting and difficult to discern success.

When you are struggling, shifting your focus to those future goals will help put things in perspective for you to see you are not failing. Pause and take a step back for a broader view. You may not see your efforts immediately, but they will be realized in the future.

Keep moving forward and have a future-focused fall.

Additional posts on this topic:

Fall Chaos

The Season of Self Doubt