2013-2014 Year End Review
We’re having a blurred end to our third homeschool year. Our required days and annual testing are behind us, we’ve glided into our relaxed summer school schedule, and during it are finishing up a unit on the Romans and plugging away at the last few math lessons.
Note: For the formerly rigid planner in me, allowing the blending of topics between school year and summer is a sign of great personal growth!
This felt like a transitional year. We were no longer new homeschoolers, but saw homeschooling as our lifestyle. On the other hand, year #2 had it’s stresses and I knew we needed to make changes. I shared the difficulties caused by my over-planning and, after much thinking and reading and scribbling, my new plans.
A couple times in the thick of the year I gave a peek into how those changes looked (here and here), but after enjoying rest and relaxation in the beautiful outdoors of Maine (after a brutal winter in Maine) I’m here to share my full review of the last school year. You’ve been waiting on pins and needles to read this, right?
Hooray for things that work!
First and foremost, I’ve made great strides in keeping my over-planning in check and remembering that life isn’t about my to-do list–it’s about the people. Less planning and less computer time in general helped me be a more well-rounded mom, plus me being more content lightens the mood of our home. Many things rolled along pleasantly:
- Our eclectic style suits us. This year was filled with more reading and learning together, less me putting on a show. We read loads of great books, together and independently, for literature, history, science, and just plain enjoyment.
- We continue a small book club with another family. With just two families it is easy to agree on book choices and we can be very flexible for scheduling. We wait until everyone is done reading and meet to discuss the book. Sometimes we watch a movie or have snacks–it’s really up to us what comes to mind!
- Many curriculum choices worked well: Latin For Children and Song School Latin from Classical Academic Press, Teaching Textbooks, and WriteShop. (Links will take you to my reviews on The Curriculum Choice.)
- We had a great year of ancient history using Story of the World as a spine with extra literature selections from the SOTW activity book and All Through The Ages. We focused on Charlotte Mason style narration with select hands-on projects (a few period crafts, simple costumes for making Greek myth videos, and my favorite–food). I found our history studies this year simpler and overall very enjoyable.
- We continue our financial and scheduling commitment to music lessons for the value of beautiful music and hard work.
- We enjoyed several special projects through a relaxed science fair and literature fair, and quite a few field trips. Two notes on field trips: I’ve realized we have to schedule them ourselves if we want them to happen, and not to be afraid to try a place that might be unusual for field trips. We called a wind farm and they were happy to give us a tour.
- A huge hit in our daily schedule is tea time, a treat for mind and body after focused morning work. The benefits are numerous: it motivates my children to work hard to be ready for tea time, it is a spot of joy and togetherness that we look forward to, and it is the perfect time to fit in the “extras” of art, music, poetry, and hymns.
- Another scheduling choice worked: rotating science and history. We used to study a historical time period and science topic at the same time, aiming for two days per week on each. But due to extracurricular activities or spontaneous family fun, those subjects planned for the afternoon didn’t happen daily. Focusing on one at a time helped our studies feel more cohesive, so when I would pick up a history read aloud it would be more fresh in their memory. Plus the changeover between focus topics was refreshing! CM note: The science of nature study is continuous, like our squirrel or moon study.
And there’s always room for improvement…
There were areas of my plan that needed mid-year changes, and instead of being frustrated I embraced it as the beauty of being an independent homeschooler: I can change what isn’t working.
Needs improvement: I wanted to incorporate Project Based Learning for my middle school daughter, but in typical micro-manager fashion I started out overzealous. I set up a binder with plans for scheduling the projects and requiring paperwork and everything. Very Good: When I relaxed my daughter did better than I could have planned. (I’m not saying oversight is bad, and with some students more structure may be necessary.) She learned skills independently, used her time wisely, and persevered through difficulties. It’s humbling to see that it wasn’t any great skill on my part, but simply providing her the time and making sure time-wasting activities are not allowed.
Needs improvement: While the weekly checklist a great tool for my middle school daughter, I also tried to add one with my eight-year-old son. That was silly. Satisfactory: I gave up on the list and relied on telling him what he needed to do next. My daughter likes the big picture and the flexibility to do things on different days. My son just wants to know: what do I need to do right now before I can build with Lego Robotics? I need to take smaller steps towards independence and keep his personality in mind. We’ll try a daily list next year.
Needs improvement: Afternoon quiet time is a good thing for my introverted personality, but it fell by the wayside due to busy afternoons. The other problem as my kids are getting older is that after a day of focused and structured schoolwork they weren’t ready for more structure and quiet. My son wants to build with Legos, experiment with paper airplanes, wrestle with his dad, or dress up as a spy and sneak around. My daughter wants the freedom to play piano, type a story, or work on crafts. Satisfactory: The my-kids-are-older-but-I-still-need-time-alone plan is this: make quiet time for myself by going into my room and shutting the door. The kids are old enough, so we just need to work on what is a valid interruption (I’m bleeding!) and what can wait (Where’s my mini Nerf gun?).
Needs Improvement: We changed our morning schedule (again). Here’s the background: since infancy my daughter has been a late riser (and needs even more sleep in adolescence) and my son an early bird. I spent too many months forcing my later riser to be ready before she was truly awake while my early riser was hungry waiting for breakfast and losing a couple hours of his most alert time before schoolwork. Very Good: I had an a-ha moment: we’re homeschoolers with flexibility, why am I trying to make them start at the same time?? So now my son and I get up early, and (after my coffee) we eat breakfast together and start his work early. Meanwhile my daughter can wake naturally and enjoy her morning routine, then get rolling on her day. We come together at tea time, then move into subjects we do together. My daughter finishes up her independent work after that, while my son enjoys free time. There’s less herding and hassling, and both children are working at their prime focused time. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?
The glass is half full…
Before I mention items that I didn’t accomplish as well as I’d hoped, let me say that my mindset has great effect on my overall review of the year. My mantra: don’t focus on what we didn’t do, celebrate all we did!
- Maybe we didn’t break out art supplies every week, but we did enjoy both unstructured use of art materials and working on art lessons together, along with museum trips.
- I did not regularly incorporate copywork and dictation, but we did enjoy two Shakespeare plays.
- We didn’t memorize hymns, scripture, and poetry like I wanted, but we read and shared a love of all of the above regularly. In addition, I had purchased a set of hymnals for my daughter, and after thumbing through them playing her favorites, she can recite a surprising number of them. I’m delighted that these beautiful songs filled with scriptural truth are feeding her soul. (Another area where less oversight from me accomplished great things…I’m seeing a theme here.)
I encourage you to reflect fully on your school year, but when you feel like making lists of things you didn’t do remember to make a list of all you accomplished and enjoyed!