Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hitting My Stride

The school year is coming to an end. How is it that this school year is almost all in the record books?

The days required by the state will be completed in just a handful of days and now begins  "mommy days." The kids don't know it, but what the state requires is different from what I require. I'm not about to shut the books when I see my kids on the edge of a break through in math. Or when they are in the middle of a fabulous science until. Or when the history book that the beg to read is almost finished, but the days have already been crossed off.

So we are studying on.

And it's a good thing too. I finally feel like I've hit my stride. More than 170 days later. This year has been a roller coaster of a school year. We started early, I knew I'd need to build in some days with a newborn around. (Was it really just a year ago she was still kicking my ribs?)

We started in July. With a days old baby, caterpillars were ordered and math books were cracked open. Diagrams of the habitat were drawn, labeled, colored and proudly shown to Daddy. VBS interrupted (HA!) with it's stories, songs, crafts, and history/economic/social background of India - the kids worked (I'm a mean mom) to earn pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters to donate. The proceeds went to buy chickens and help pay for Indian children to attend Bible school.

Through the year, my mom - who still teaches at her local homeschool co-op - graciously sent the lesson plans, and study guides that she wrote over email for Ty and Becca for science. They loved reading what Grammy wrote for astronomy, oceanography (field trip to FL anyone?), weather, geology and more.

A few months ago I went to a Charlotte Mason conference. It was a small informal meeting in a friend's home, but it has changed my approach to homeschooling so much. I never had a "teaching style". Our days were loosely organized. I knew the kids were learning what the needed, but I still felt incomplete as a mom/teacher. Since that meeting early this year my approach to school and our days have changed so much. Especially in the last few weeks. Part of it I know is answers to prayers from dear friends. This has not been an easy year outside of school life. Our family has had big changes. Some good - Doug was promoted at work. Some wonderful - the addition of Breeley. Some heartbreaking - Jim's death. 

I think the biggest change this year has been the way I look at our school.  When I began to teach I said I would homeschool as long as I could still be a good mom. I've been blessed to be around families where homeschooling made the familial bonds stronger. I've also watched as families grew apart and didn't get back on track until school choices changed. My commitments are God, wife, mother, homeschooling mom... Keeping the third and fourth roles of my life straight are important to me. So this year I put that into practice. Up all night with a fussy baby? I had a choice: try to do school sleep deprived and grouchy or snuggle with my kids on the couch and watch a movie, listen to them read, get out the paints, or other activity that would build a family bond. I chose the latter. The kids need time to grieve? Let's do Bible and call it a day.

It may be later in the year than I would have liked, but I'm finally hitting my stride. It's so affirming of our decision to keep homeschooling. I know that each year will have it's challenges. Breeley's two naps a day are saving my sanity. What's next year going to look like with only one nap? We found a weekly co-op that the kids love. How will that fit into our schedule? I'm can't wait to see what next year looks like. I'm so excited to be finding my way down this crazy, fun, wild ride called homeschooling.

*The rest of the post is the kids progress this year. While I'm in the mode I thought I'd write that down too!

Tyler has grown leaps and bounds this school year. Still so inquisitive, he keeps me on my toes. His reading has improved about two grade levels. It's been so much fun to watch him take learning into his own hands. He researches the birds in our backyard, is devouring the "Little House" and "Boxcar Children" books, loves to build with his tool set and legos, and (he is a boy after all) frequently asks to take things apart so he can see how they work. Math continues to be a strong area. He is working on multiple digit multiplication including regrouping. 

Becca is doing so well at school. She flies through her seat work. Creative writing and arts are by far her favorite things. She is learning to write stories that flow well and loves to make "bubble letters." This year her handwriting has improved dramatically. (Thanks, Mom, for the workbook!) She is working on addition and subtraction and loves to read, sing and dance. Her love of learning is paying dividends for me. She often plays school with Hope and Breeley reading to them and keeping them occupied. She continues to read well above grade level.

Although I had no intention of starting a newly turned three year old in school, Hope had other plans. This year she has learned to write her name and draw faces. Along with the letters in her name, she is recognizes the most frequently used letters and their sounds. She counts to thirty and does some simple addition and subtraction using manipulatives. She loves to sort, recognizes most colors (red/green confusion), and memorizes stories and songs very well. Play dough and simple jigsaw puzzles are her favorite quiet activities. She is helping with chores and learning to play well alone. She loves to cut - thankfully paper - and paste. Some of her art work adorns our walls.


jules said...

That is so amazing how much they have learned through the year.

Next year will be a breeze.

Grammy said...

I love reading and listening to you talk about your homeschooling experiences. I'm so proud of you! You are doing a fantastic job and I can see how the kids are growing and learning so much - not just in the academics, but even more so, in their spiritual life. I love you!

He & Me + 3 said...

Your children are so blessed to have you as their teacher & mom. They are precious! Next year will be even better!