Inspired by Charlotte at Waltzing Matilda, here are some of my lessons from the school year which we are about to finish:
Keep: Skiing: I will treasure the ski season, especially fresh powder on weekday mornings and long sessions reading Heidi in the evenings, I will cherish those months always. That sort of flexibility is one of the major benefits of homeschooling.
Trash: Overscheduling: For the past 8 weeks I have had children’s activities outside the house 7 days a week. 7! While grandparents and carpooling neighbors were a help, we used that when we had several children with commitments in different places on the same night, so I rarely had a night off. Ballet is finally wrapping up, and baseball was rained out tonight, it was just a huge relief to be at home! The fruit of this time is exhaustion, ill behaved preschoolers, and a lack of effective home systems. We can’t do this again. I’m going to have to figure something out, but because of age gaps, even children in the same activities weren’t on the same schedule, and it was just too much.
Keep: Explode the Code: These inexpensive workbooks are a great beginning phonics package, and combined with Primary Phonics primers, we used them to hatch another reader! This is one of the few school materials that has been successful for every single one of my children.
Trash: Lack of structure: My little guys are capable of more than they are doing, but I need an organized way to give them instruction. Just today I implemented a drawer system for my four year old, and I think that might be the route I take with him in the fall.
Keep: Saxon Math: I couldn’t love this program more. My oldest child has begun algebra, and I am seeing now that he has a conceptual understanding of math that will ease the transition to higher learning, something which I totally lacked at his age. As I watch my second graders solving math problems with smudged out numbers and my fourth grader look at number patterns, with the bigger picture in mind I know understand how they are really laying the foundation for high school mathematics success.
Keep: Seton Full Enrollment WITH TWEAKING: My older two have done really well studying independently with Seton lesson plans this year. Along the way, I made some adjustments to fit our family learning preferences. In history, I added our corresponding history cycle book baskets so that they would have lots of supplemental historical novels, picture books and primary sources to read, and I required some writing. In Religion, I did not require them to memorize all of the questions and answers from the Baltimore Catechism and take tests on them, rather, I had them read and discuss the chapters. In Reading, I eliminated the reading comprehension work, but did give a lot of attention to the book report/essays in the Reading lesson plans. Seton English is EXCELLENT, I love the grammar and diagramming. My children really liked doing the weekly Art assignment. We skipped the Music and Phys Ed, since we do plenty of both in supplemental activities. The science is not great, but I didn’t have the energy to replace or supplement, so all I can say is that it is better than nothing. I’ll have to figure out something else for the future for science. I used Saxon Math in place of Seton’s program (Seton does use Saxon in the upper grades). After wonderful, creative years of planning my own lessons from scratch, with seven children at home and a busy life outside of the home I am now ready to just accept my own limitations and take a boxed curriculum. While it is not perfect, it gives us structure and consistency, and this is the boxed curriculum for us.
Trash: Lack of personal discipline in routine: We went from summer with a newborn to school days with a nursing baby to a very free ski season, so by the time March came around my children were not in the habit of much of anything. They are GREAT about getting their school work done, but this year it was often done in pajamas while bedrooms were messy and beds were unmade. I even got some pulled faces when I would ask children to clean their rooms or brush their hair! We didn’t used to have that problem, so I am going to have to go back to designated school clothes and a morning routine next year.
Round these parts, summer swim team switches to morning practice when the public school lets out, so we have just a few weeks left of regular school days. After that, it will be pool time all the time. We usually have a long summer read aloud, I am thinking of choosing The Secret Garden since the last time we read that was in the old house, about 5 years ago, and some of my children weren’t even born yet! I also like to use the summer to read a classic which I am embarrassed not to have read before; my kindle is loaded up with Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but I’m also thinking about the new translation of Madame Bovary.