Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The School Year So Far...

I used to teach writing to ESL students who were preparing to enter university classes full time. I always taught the "review, preview" principle when transitioning in compositions. Perhaps a bit formulaic, but for them it worked beautifully. It seems that right now I find us in a bit of a transition point. It's a great place to be, really--this school year has brought out the best in all of us as we learn and grow together. Even so, I have been fretting a bit since we have been sick for the last two weeks, and literally have done nothing that resembles school, other than feebly review for the last Memory Master proof, and then bravely drag ourselves over that finish line.

Now we are faced with several months of free, unstructured weeks. I was feeling under great pressure to do something amazing with the kids in the next few weeks, but some simple words from a good friend of mine helped tremendously. In response to my comment, "I really don't know what to do next," she replied, "Well, what if you're done? Do some math, do some art, read, play." Yes. That sounds about right. But being me, I had to be sure I had done enough to deserve such luxuries...So I reviewed. The school year so far looks something like this:

Devotions and Bible: We have worked our way through the first book in Apologia's world view curriculum entitled Who is God? We have memorized scriptures along with this, and Matty also memorized Ephesians 6:1-24 for CC.

Math: We've covered all of division through dividing multiple digit divisors, and are currently working on fractions, using Math Mammoth 4A and 4B Light Blue series.

Language Arts: We're a couple of lessons short of completing Writing With Ease level 2, and are about halfway through First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind level 3. (These can be found at Peace Hill Press.) Writing and narrations were well-developed through the lap book that Matty completed for the Middle Ages in the Fall, and have continued through WWE this spring. Spelling has been improved by adopting All About Spelling. We both saw almost instant results with this program! We have read about Shakespeare, watched three Shakespeare plays (Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, and Hamlet in their entirety), and read or listened to story versions of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Julius Caesar, and memorized lines from Henry V.  He read The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring and is currently reading / listening to the unabridged version of The Two Towers. He has also done other independent reading that he has enjoyed, and we have enjoyed several read-alouds as a family.

History: We have listened to the Story of the World volumes 2 and 3 (again) for the purpose of putting our CC history sentences and Veritas Press timeline into context. We completed a lap book on the Middle Ages complete with timeline, historical sketches of major events such as the plague and the Crusades, and biographical sketches of 8 kings throughout the Middle Ages. He did a presentation on Charlemagne. He listened to two Henty novels, Wulf the Saxon, which was about William the Conqueror and In Freedom's Cause, which was about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce of Scotland. He memorized the list of presidents from Washington to Obama and can say them really, really fast.

Geography:  Matty has memorized the entire map of Europe and the Middle east, much of the far East, the Caribbean and Central America, and Southern Africa. These were the areas covered in Classical Conversations Cycle 2, and he excelled and enjoyed the study of geography. He would probably describe it as one of his favorite subjects, along with history.

Science: (Admittedly this is our weakest area of study, and the thing that always seems to get bumped when we're busy) We are about halfway through Apologia's elementary Astronomy text, and will continue to work through that as a priority until we are done. Matty has done a weekly experiment in Classical Conversations, and has had the fun experience of building a straw bridge which held 16 pounds (good job!), and an egg protector that frankly, didn't work at all (back to the drawing board, boy!)

Okay, so now I've read over this and thought, "I hope no one reads this and thinks I'm bragging!" Quite the contrary...I had to write this in order to prove to myself that my children actually have accomplished something of value this year. It is a constant struggle to believe that what I am teaching the children is good enough, that they are far enough along, that they are not going to be vagabonds in rags out on the street due to my ineptitude at homeschooling them. (Now you are thinking "Oh, that poor soul...someone help her." Be quiet. You've thought the same thing of your own school and kids at some point.) When I look back at this list, I am thrilled with all that we have accomplished!

Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that I start out with a plan--let's call that the Google maps plan--and I end up taking an exit somewhere along the way and end up on the service road with all the stop signs, detours, and traffic lights. I end up at essentially the same point that I intend, but it never looks quite like the original map route. The key here is to look back, compare the real results with the original plan, and see how closely they match. Did the children meet the overall academic goals and show progress? Since the answer to that would be a resounding "yes!" then why am I so worked up? As my sister put it, we are all products of a system that is still breathing down our necks, while we work to create a new paradigm and a different standard. This tension is what I am feeling from time to time, but thankfully, I refuse to get pulled back in the "other" direction. Ultimately this boils down to my trust in the Lord. I have been faithful to seek his guidance every step along the way for my children, even so far as asking him to show me which curricula are the best fit for them. I have listened to that still, small, voice, and have had great joy this year in all that we have studied together. None of it has been drudgery.

Now I can rest and enjoy the remaining school term and prepare wholeheartedly for next fall. Cycle 3, and American History and geography, our favorites!


  1. I am so glad I found your blog! I've made the decision to homeschool my 8 year old (my the decision to do so for my younger is still up in the air) and I've been searching constantly for information and trying to find someone who can relate/offer advice (not saying you have to, just reading your blog is wonderful). I'm just at such a loss as to where to start and what curriculum to choose etc. So I will definitely be following you!

  2. Oh, I am so glad! Welcome, and I hope that you find what we do here helpful. I try to post a "real-life" update each week with thoughts about the school week as well as what the teacher learned! :-) Feel free to email me with questions and thoughts. I'm happy to help in any way that I can.


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