Well, as is our usual m.o., our school year has finally come to a complete halt with the extreme busy-ness of summer. Because we started our year late this year, we had a few things we really needed to finish, which meant that we (and when I say we, I really mean Lulu) continued to work into June. The rest of us were too busy running around, mostly to and from swim team practice, to worry about much more than laundry and sketchy meal planning.
Anyway, now that the year has more or less come to an end (excepting a bit of ecology study that Steady Eddie still needs to finish up with the girls), I have a little bit of perspective on it, and I wanted to share it here for posterity. I’ve become such a spotty blogger that I’m not sure that anyone is even reading here anymore, but I do like having it for my own record.
I pretty much knew how this year would go on our first day:
I feel like I don’t have a good routine yet, and I can’t even imagine one. The boys are all over the place, as six and three year olds tend to be. The truth of the matter is there’s one of me and four of them, and they all need me a good bit. That’s the bad news. The good news is that nothing about this gig stays the same for very long, and the girls are definitely growing up right before my eyes. In fact, it’s a challenge to keep up with them nowadays.
Boy, wasn’t this the truth? In fact, it was so true that I ended up flipping our routine fairly early in the year (or at least by Christmas) so that the girls could get started first thing in the morning with their independent work while I took my sweet time getting started with the DLM. I was holding my girls up! Doing it this way, we ended up having our all-of-us-together time during and after lunch. That seemed to work pretty well.
Borrowing from my own intention to “focus on what works” (because as an Eeyore I have a tendency to fixate on what doesn’t, and I’m forever-and-always in self-reflective mode), I’m going to share the high points of the year.
- I’ll start with Benny, since he’s the youngest and isn’t officially school age. What do I do with him? Nothing. Nothing formal, anyway. The more children I’ve had, the more I value just letting them BE when they’re little. He gets read aloud to, he gets picked on, played with, and wrestled with by his brother, and he gets doted on by all of the over-ten crowd in the house. What else is there? 🙂
- The DLM well and truly became a reader. He is a reader! He could read going into the school year, but this year, his first grade year, the year he turned seven, is the year that he began to pick up books and read them for fun. He always gravitates toward nonfiction or Star Wars/Pokemon/Lego/Batman books, but he reads because he wants to! I call that a victory.
- Louise wrote some poetry and raised some earthworms. She’s an unschooly kind of girl, so while I can’t really say that any particular program or curriculum was her thing exactly, she definitely knows what her thing is: occasionally writing something; playing with and caring for her dog; embarking on obscure but interesting scientific inquiry, usually related to something living; and reading more books than her mama can keep up with.
- Louise also found her place on our community swim team. This is huge for her. This summer she has competed in a number of meets and even qualified for the state swim meet.
- Lulu competed with and completely fell head-over-heels for her robotics team. This has truly been her BHAG this year. They placed high enough at our local competition to advance to the regional competition at Auburn in December. Lulu played a couple of pretty big roles: she wrote the research paper for the engineering notebook and she was a part of the presentation team. This was in addition to being a part of the engineering team. She LOVES it.
- BEST robotics was followed by a short underwater robotics season for our co-op team. They placed first in our local competition! (It’s a new competition for our area, so there was no place to advance to this year. Hopefully next year there will be!) Of course, Lulu was a huge part of this, too.
- Lulu worked through the Art of Problem Solving’s pre-algebra text. This is no small feat, really. She’s a girl who enjoys a challenge, especially when it comes to math. AOPS for pre-algebra was a good fit for her, especially with the AOPS videos (which she thought were corny) and Alcumus thrown in for extra help. All I can say after traveling this road with her (and observing her along the way) is that AOPS is top-notch for the right learner.
- Lulu took the ACT this year as a seventh grader. I mostly don’t like the idea of tests (as in weekly, chapter tests, etc.) and really don’t use them much in our homeschool, but for some reason I don’t mind my children being tested globally. I guess I’m curious to see how they do. There’s never any angst about testing at our house; we don’t prepare for it much–we just go do it. Lulu did extremely well on the ACT, with her composite score coming in a couple of points higher than the average high school ACT composite score in Alabama and on par with the national high school average. This, in grade seven! Her highest score was on the English test, on which she scored some four points higher than the high school average for AL and about three points higher than the national average. I guess all this reading has paid off. 😉 [I feel odd putting this out there: I mostly don’t talk much about my kids’ accomplishments to people outside my immediate family in real life. However, I really depend on my blog to jog my memory about what we’ve done. It is also a big relief to me that this homeschooling experiment actually is working academically. I mean, I knew it would, but I am no stranger to self-doubt.]
- My girls and I tackled Shakespeare together. We read A Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and most of Two Gentlemen of Verona. (I hate to write “most of” before the last play title, but we lost our steam when the performance of this play we were supposed to attend was cancelled.) I think we all enjoyed it!
- We did a whole lot of reading aloud, of course. The two books that the girls and I read together for school that stand out the most to me are Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (quoted here and here) and Watership Down by Richard Adams. The book that stands out the most for me that I shared with the DLM is The Trumpet of the Swan, mostly, I think, because I just love Sam Beaver. Nearly everything my children know and can do can surely be attributed to reading, and a lot of that is shared reading.
- I am pleased to note that the girls and I almost finished Latin for Children Primer A. Almost. That was more of a learning experience for me, I think, than for them.
- We did a whole bunch of things within our homeschool community: I taught two classes at co-op, one 0f which, a middle school bookclub, might be one of the best things we’ve ever been a part of. We also hosted a middle school math club at our home once a month starting in January. That was fun! We ended the year with a month-long writer’s workshop in our home, led by me. That was fun, too.
- We went a lot of places this year: a Shakespeare-in-the-park production of a parody of A Comedy of Errors in Nashville; the American Village in Montevallo, AL, for a American Revolution living history reenactment; the pumpkin patch; a fantastic storytelling festival; Boston for Christmas (and Harvard and Amherst and Concord!); Little River Canyon in northeast AL; Chattanooga and the Tennessee Aquarium; our beloved Huntsville Botanical Garden; the Rosenbaum House (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) in Florence, AL; and some places I’m forgetting, no doubt.
- The very best thing about this school year was our intentional time spent in nature. I made a commitment to myself in January that we would go every week that we could to Cane Creek Canyon, a local nature preserve, and we did it! We did some formal nature study using the Outdoor Hour Challenge materials, and we did a whole lot of just being in nature. I could write volumes and share thousands of pictures of Cane Creek Canyon, I love it that much. Instead, I’ll just invite you to follow me on Instagram if you’d like to keep up with our comings and goings.
And with that, I can lay this year to rest. You know, there’s nothing easy (to me) about this life. It’s busy, it’s exhausting, it’s challenging (“parenting on steroids,” someone once said), but I can say at the end of most days. . . it is worth it. I know I’m going to look back on my life and be immensely grateful for the hours I’ve spent with my children.
Now, on to next year! 🙂