Monday, June 3, 2013

2013 School Year Wrap-Up

Yeah, about that blogging thing... I always have thoughts about resurrecting the ol' blog but considering it's been almost a year since I last posted, that might not be happening.  However if I cut back on my Facebooking perhaps I'd have more time. hmmm

I thought I'd write another wrap up for the school year.  I started out with the intention of "first grade" for W.  What happened was more like "transitional first" or K-and-a-half. ;)  I also realized that W's friends who are only a few months younger were in Kindergarten this year.  That's what happens with an August birthday!  So I decided to not worry about the grade and just continue on meeting him where he is at.  The benefits of truly individualized education!

Messy table, keepin' it real.  Also why I bought him a desk this year.

Challenges: 

It took me a little longer to figure out what was going to work best this year.  (Is it me, or are the first 6 months with a baby just a monumental adjustment for everyone?)  I started out thinking I was going to make all the copywork sheets and printing out worksheets and so on for most of our subjects.  Yeah, that got old quick.  I wanted to do Year 1 on AmblesideOnline which is aimed at a 7 year old.  So many of the readings were too challenging in the fall.  (I mean there is Shakespeare in there, people!)  A bit overambitious on my part.

I gave up on the copywork half way through the year when it seemed like W was forgetting the proper way to write many letters...frustrating for both of us.  (We switched back to a handwriting workbook then.)

Oh, Nature Study!  I had envisioned neat little nature observation workbooks filled with sketches and watercolors.  Perhaps a Waldorf-style nature table we could decorate for each season...  There is always next year, right?

Seems like there are always a few things that don't quite get accomplished.  Drawing with Children is another one.  We did some of the beginning work, and we both really had fun with it.  More often than not, drawing time was just W picking up a pencil and doing his own thing.  I had wanted D to do the lessons with us, but he just didn't have the attention span.  Might be a good summer project.

Preschool for D didn't quite progress as intended either.  I had times of keeping him busy with "busy bag" activities and days where he wanted to join us and do some worksheets, but mostly it was a matter of keeping him from distracting W.  Sometimes Often that meant a well timed show on PBS.

ice cream playdough
Nature class at the Wetlands Institute was a mixed bag.  W really struggled to pay attention in that setting and D wouldn't even sit through the "lesson" portion.  The facility was wonderful though so we continued to come back and will do it again next year.  The other nature classes we had planned on at the nature reserve fell apart due to issues on their end.

I'll throw in "bad attitudes" on my list of challenges.  (Including myself and my students on this one.)  This doesn't phase me too much though.  I know from my public school teaching days, this is going to happen in any setting.  Some days you back off.  Some days you change your approach.  Some days you just push through.  Planning and preparation (and coffee!) help me tremendously.  But I know some moms who get too stressed over "keeping up with the plan" and need to take a different approach.  How you handle it will depend on your own convictions and relationship with your kids.

Successes:

Circle time was resurrected about half way through the year.  It has been a great little start to our mornings and provides a nice transition into seat work.  We have been learning some classic hymns and memorizing some faith related pieces (catechisms, Apostle's Creed, etc).  I have been using YouTube to create a playlist: Pledge of Allegiance, new hymn, review hymn, maybe another song.  (YouTube is also great for all kinds of learning songs!  Love the old School House Rock ones.)



We really enjoyed the new homeschool group we joined this year.  We had one guaranteed trip per month and one playgroup per month.  We gleaned a field of tomatoes to go to a food pantry with Farmers Against Hunger, visited the zoo, awesome visit to the firehouse (D's favorite), learned about glassblowing at Wheaton Village, packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, did some crafts with seniors at an assisted living facility, toured a working US Coastguard ship (W's favorite), visited an alpaca farm, learned about local birds and met a red tailed hawk.  I think I'm missing a couple there, but you get the idea.  To me, this is a huge benefit of school at home.  We get to spend lots of time out in the real world interacting with all kinds of people and learning through experiences, not just workbooks.


meeting a lamb
We continued through Math-U-See Primer and are well into Alpha now.  Still like the program. It's simple, repetitive, the lessons are short, the manipulatives tap into visual and kinethetic learning styles.

Once I ditched the copywork, I ordered the first grade Handwriting Without Tears workbook which has been a great reinforcement.  (I'm saving the copywork until he has this down solid.)  D has joined in on building letters with the wooden manipulatives.

We did eventually ease our way into AmbelsideOnline.  The readings have been interesting.  We have especially enjoyed the Aesop's fables and Paddle-to-the-Sea.  I found some coloring sheets for W to color while he is listening to the fables.  (I made some on Word following the same format as well.)

Keeping in the living books for science, we have been reading through a couple great books about the sea and seashore: The Seashore Book for Children and Spring Comes to the Ocean.  We also did a couple webinars.  One was on alternative energy and we built a solar cooker.  The other was on aerodynamics and we had fun with some paper airplanes afterwards.  The local Earth Day Fair provided some great info and materials about renewable energy, recycling, protecting our waterways and conservation.

Franklin Institute table at the Earth Day Festival

This scripture memorization system has continued to work well.

Discovered the Venzia Artists series at the library.  Perfect to go along with our monthly Art classes!  The boys both have an interest in art this year.

Picasso inspired sculpture at art class
We liked Explode the Code workbooks the first half of the year, but switched to Reading Eggs once I found a deal a membership.  W likes ending his mornings school work with this program.
(Computer Time = Incentive)

Will definitely continue alternating with Explode the Code.

And for next year...
Keep doing what works, ditch what doesn't!
I feel like I am finally getting comfortable with this role.  In the beginning it seems like there are SO many directions you can go in and it never feels like you are doing enough.

(Should my 6yo be learning Latin? Should he have hours and hours of unstructured play outdoors? Should I be doing flashcards with my baby? Should the 3yo be memorizing poetry? Am I providing enough sensory play opportunities?)

I'm more focused at this point.  Feeling more confident with my teaching approach.  (Still love Charlotte!) And I am more selective in my curriculum purchases.

I intend to keep doing some "school" through the summer, mainly handwriting, math and Reading Eggs.  I find that we get off track around the holidays and cold/flu season enough to keep going with the basics year round.  Learning is a natural part of life after all!

Was thinking about starting Before Five In A Row with D in the fall.   Loved that when we went through it the first time.  I think we will continue to work on Ambleside Y1 in the fall for W.  And next year I want to make a circle time board (like this).

No plans for beyond this upcoming year, but enjoying this journey (and lifestyle) more the longer we do it.

1 comment:

Thanks so much for taking the time to say hello! I appreciate hearing from my tens of readers more than you know. :)