Sunday, May 19, 2013

Academic Cycle 2012-13 - Callin' It Done, Year in Review

It seems at the end of every conventional school year (i.e. the September - June timeframe) I am awash with feelings of inadequacy, shortcomings, and the conviction that I have not done enough to teach my kids this year. Then I sit down and write year-in-review post that causes me to realize once again that we are doing just fine, and all is well. I asked the kids what they thought we did well this year and their immediate response was science and writing and history. I asked them where they thought I dropped the ball, and without hesitation and in unison, they said, "Geography!" which is both of their favorite subject. :-/ hmmm...Sorry about that, guys.

This last week Matt wrapped up his history timeline work, writing, and grammar. It is a perfect place to leave off for the next couple of weeks while we prepare for vacation and take a break and regroup for our next cycle of study.

This year I made a major decision to abandon the conventional school year concept and do lessons through the summer, allowing us to take time whenever we need it without the inevitable feeling of "falling behind." I find that I am pushing back against all of the in-the-box thinking about schedules and curricula and what a kid "must" do in order to have a good education. Education, intelligence, and the concept of "school" is such a fluid concept anymore that I honestly believe that we as parents can pretty well choose from any number of options for our kids and have them be "okay," and even far exceed "okay" by public school standards. I have a feeling when our kids look back on their educations they will look nothing like those that their parents received. My son could already attest to this. It has worked well for us so far to allow ourselves the flexibility to take longer breaks if we need to or to work longer than what is expected or recommended in a curriculum on the assignments given. Other things were finished in less time than they would normally take. This gave us the time to develop other things such as taking a hard look at our diet and fitness, and getting deeply involved in the local CrossFit community. (Stop by and see what we've been doing at the Accidental CrossFitter!)

learning to cook
In a nutshell, this is what we covered in lessons for this 2012-2013 cycle:

Tapestry of Grace year 4 units 1 and 2. We covered these slowly and went a bit deeper into the WW2 portion of the year's study. There were many fruitful conversations over dinner. Matt interviewed his grandfather who was one of the Japanese Americans sent to internment camps, and from that wrote his first essay about how the Japanese side of our family was impacted by the war. I am extremely proud of his efforts.

We covered wonderful literature: War Horse, Private Peaceful (Morpugo), The Call of the Wild (London), Anne of Green Gables (Montgomery), The Secret Garden (Burnett), The Railway Children (Nesbitt), Pollyanna (Porter), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Baum), The Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis), The Hobbit (Tolkien),  Our Town (Wilder), Peter Pan (Barrie), Swallows and Amazons (Ransome), Mr. Popper's Penguins (Atwater)

These selections lead to both of the kids consuming much more literature than is listed here. Matt went on to read the entire Oz series, and Molly is continuing through the Swallows and Amazon series, and has listened to the entire Chronicles of Narnia several times through. The only book of these selections that Matt did not cover was Mr. Popper's Penguins, but otherwise this list is complete for him. Molly did not cover Private Peaceful or The Call of the Wild due to the difficult themes in these titles. We also read some wonderful biographies of Eric Liddel, Amy Carmichael, and Corrie TenBoom. Matt, Dad and I read Unbroken (Hillenbrand), the biography of Louis Zamparini, which has become one of my all-time favorite books.

We completed Apologia's Anatomy and Physiology book and notebook (Jr. notebook for Molly), complete with experiments. These became some of the highlights of the school year.

frog dissection
the frog's parts on display!
In math, Matt finished Math U See Zeta and began the Pre-Algebra book. Molly is essentially finished with Beta and will move on to Gamma when we return from break.

In writing, Molly finished Writing With Ease 1 (WWE) and began WWE 2. Writing is her favorite subject. Matt worked steadily through lesson 11 of Writing With Skill (WWS). I had set a two-year goal for WWS 1, and we are on track to complete it in that timeframe, or sooner. As his writing skills continue to develop he is able to complete the assignments in less time. Writing is not his favorite subject!

In grammar, Matt is continuing to work through Analytical Grammar. He finds this to be very tedious and describes it as difficult, but from my perspective it is thorough and challenging. He understands it and does well on the tests. I know that at this point he doesn't appreciate all the parsing and diagramming, but hopefully he will see the value of it in the future.

Matt also completed Vocabulary from Classical Roots 1 and Logic Liftoff, and is currently working through Caesar's English and Phonetic Zoo list B.

Reading with Molly has been an area that has caused me some consternation. I have been concerned that she would not develop into a "reader" but I think if I examine her behavior patterns where books are concerned, I can put my fears to rest. In her progress with reading and phonics (she finished the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading this year, and has been working through All About Spelling) she had not demonstrated that "click" that seemed to happen with Matt around this age, in which his reading fluency suddenly leapt up and he was able to read just about anything. She still struggles with reading aloud, but has decidedly improved her silent reading fluency. The lover of good literature in me cringes when I consider the source of this improvement, but it has come from her love of the Rainbow and Pet Fairy book series. Mercifully, these have helped to greatly increase her fluency and enjoyment of reading, and she will now voluntarily sit down and read these. To my delight I will hear her in the other room laughing hysterically at something she read in the books. To me those books are like death by a thousand cuts, but to my fanciful, fantasy-loving girlie-girl, they are wonderful, so read on, dear girl! For her read-aloud skills she has been reading Socks (Cleary) to me. We both enjoy Beverly Cleary, and so I can endure the very slow process of having her read this out loud. On her own, she devours audiobooks, listens to me read aloud to her and reads her picture books to herself. I don't think I need to be concerned about whether or not she will be a "reader."

In March, both kids began attending an art class. Matt concluded his study of piano, fulfilling his 5 years of music study, which is what I originally had hoped for him to do. That is a huge accomplishment, but I cannot deny that I am a bit sad that he has not given it even a cursory backward glance, and does not miss it at all. He even said he had a nightmare the other night that I made him go back to piano lessons! They are both doing very well in the art class and will continue that through the summer.

After reading through what I have written here, I can breathe a sigh of relief. I am pleased with the progress that both of my kids have made this year, and I can trust that, once again, the Lord has guided our efforts. I have grown as a mom this year, learned how to let go a little bit more, and learned how to invest in myself to help me be stronger, healthier and better for them. More on that in a separate post. 

As we close this cycle, I look forward to changing gears a bit, heading back into ancient history and a deeper examination of the roots of our faith and spiritual heritage. It will be an exciting journey with Tapestry of Grace, Year 1 I think.