Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Homeschool End of Year Review (Finally)

I wanted to do this and then I didn't.  I wanted it to be detailed and now maybe just a summary.  And in a way very similar to our first year of homeschooling, I have no idea where this post is going to go, but here goes...

Homeschooling was better and harder than I thought it would be.  All in all, we had a great year.  We loved the flexibility, the togetherness, and the learning together.  And yes, we are going to do it again next year.  To me, it's one of those things that once you buy into, it's very hard to consider going back.  We all lived through it without killing each other, so really that counts as success, doesn't it?

My favorite thing that we have done is the time spent reading, discussing, and learning about the Gospel.  Both boys have grown significantly in their understanding and love for God's Word.  I think Briggs is at a point where he is struggling to understand and submit to Christ.  Trusting in Christ is a simple thing really and while I am expounding on the intricacies of the gospel to make certain Briggs understands every aspect(driven by my own doubts and fears), 4 year old Max is praying every night that "Jesus would take away all of my sins and change my heart."  I think he gets it more than we do...

We have also enjoyed reading classic books together.  The Narnia series was awesome, Alice in Wonderland was fun, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was just a boy book:)  In some of the homeschool books I have, reading classic literature is deemed the most important aspect of homeschooling (esp. A Thomas Jefferson Education, which I love).  Last year, it seemed like when we were pressed for time, this was one of the first things to go.  I hope to make it even more of a priority next year.

Of all the curriculum I chose- quite blindly and somewhat ignorantly- I liked everything except our spelling.  I am not a teacher and don't know a whole lot about anything to do with educating, but I didn't think that Spelling Wisdom was sufficient to teach spelling.  No real rhyme or reason, no rules, just memorize these words in these interesting quotes and in 3 years you'll be able to spell over 6,000 words.  He did fine, I just need a little more structure.

The jury's still out on math.  Not only do I not know whether or not I liked Singapore math, I'm not sure that I would even be able to know if I liked or disliked something else.  Math makes me nervous.  In some ways I think if we just stick to one thing, we will be okay in the end.

*I can hear Rod cringing as he reads this.  Math and science are very important to him.  He is also baffled by the fact that I am struggling.  I have a minor in Math from UAB (which I like to tell myself was harder than math programs at other schools:)) and was two classes away from a minor in Chemistry.  Math was my very favorite subject in school.  In high school I was all about math and science and being crowned smarter than everyone else by being valedictorian.  Whether or not it was actually true, absolutely did not matter one lick.  Deep down, I knew it was completely not true, I just knew how to make good grades.  The truth is that Satan used that to give me an identity, rather than finding my identity in Christ.  In college, I struggled to find a major and finally realized that I wanted Christ to use me to help people.  So I went in the opposite direction- social work!  I write for a living.  I talk to people about their feelings.  I analyze everything to death.  I am not who I was.*

But thank goodness I'm not!!  On the other hand,  I guess none of that helps much when I call Rod at work to remind me how to subtract with borrowing from numbers with a lot of zeros in them...hmm........ 
My complaint with Singapore Math is not enough practice with one concept before moving on to another.  To combat that, we try to do all of the problems in the textbooks, workbooks, and extra practice books.  I am not sure how much is enough.  The things I like about Singapore are that it introduces a lot of concepts early, contains word problems right from the start, and encourages doing many calculations mentally. 

The Lowdown on Next Year's Curriculum

Math: despite all I just said, we are sticking with Singapore.  For now... I think... I already bought it.

HistoryTapestry of Grace.  Love it.  We didn't quite finish the whole first year.  Actually, we only made it through half.  Trying to be relaxed about that.  It really is wonderful and I think I will really treasure it by the time middle and high school roll around.  We may or may not catch up to where we are "supposed" to be.  I am not going to stress about it...deep breath... repeat three times......

ScienceApologia "Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day."  Recently an older homeschool mom said, "don't try this one at home, without a co-op."  I asked her why and she just said "don't."  Not really sure about that.  Briggs enjoyed "Astronomy" and learned a lot, so I hope that we can make it through this one without being eaten by the flying creatures of the fifth day.

Language Arts:  I loved Rod and Staff Grammar.  It was quite tedious but we are sticking with it.  The Well Trained Mind says that you may not need a writing program if you are comfortable with writing, so I did not have one for last year.  Well, we need one, so I picked Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Ease.  Last year, handwriting was from Classically Cursive.  It was fine, but after some research, I chose Memoria Press New American Cursive.  He started this spring and I like it way better.  Wish we had just started with this one.  Spelling will be The Grammar of Spelling by Matt Whitling of Logos School Publications.  It's not one of the more prominent spelling programs, but I liked it.  It comes in a three ring binder.  Nothing fancy.  The big spelling programs intimidate me with all the tiles and flashcards and secret codes that come with them.  Briggs is a good speller and I just need something simple.  We are actually going to continue to do Spelling Wisdom, but we are going to call it "Dictation."  He will still have to memorize the words and do everything we were doing before, but it will be in addition to this other spelling program. 

Bible:  Finish Big Truths for Little Kids and Briggs will start on Who is God? from Apologia.  I can't say how much we have loved Big Truths!  The boys are memorizing the answers to the small catechism questions and it is amazing how much it teaches them!  Just ask Max how sinful he is and he will tell you without hesitation that he is sinful in his inmost being!

Memory Work:  We will continue memorizing select verses from our church's weekly suggestion, and in addition we plan to memorize:
The Books of the Bible
Psalm 100
Deut. 6:1-9
Psalm 23
the Ten Commandments
Luke 12 :22-34
Isaiah 53
Psalm 104
The Lord's Prayer

Rain in Summer
My Shadow
October's Party
All That is Gold Does not Glitter
The Tyger
The Lamb
Hope is the Thing with Feathers
All Ye Joyful

This looks like a lot!  It is about one a month.  Memory work was one of our favorites parts of the day and it was amazing how easily they memorize things.


Independent Reading for Briggs:

White Fang
Swiss Family Robinson
The Wonder Book for Boys and Girls
Robinson Crusoe
Story of Dr. Doolittle
Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Read Alouds:

The Jungle Book
Water ship Down
Tales from the Story Tellers House
Last Narnia book
Through the Looking Glass
Two Little Savages

and lastly:

Latin!  I bought Latin for Children and we are going to try it.  It's DVD based and for parents who don't already know Latin.  It may be too hard to do on my own, we'll see.

I guess none of this was a nutshell summary really.  Overall, I still feel compelled to teach my children.  We had a good year and all of us learned a lot.  We have all changed dramatically this past year.  I love the time it allows (and forces) me to spend with the boys.  I think I am a better mother for it.

The biggest struggle this year has been with myself.  In fact, anything that has not gone smoothly has been because of me.  Every time I have gotten frustrated or overwhelmed with anything it has been because my heart has not been in the right place.  When my flesh says, "you can't do this and work too" I start comparing myself to other moms and think "I can't do this!  It's too much!  I need to stay at home!  I could be a better mom if I didn't have to work!"  It is so easy to compare myself to the other moms in our homeschool group and feel so second class to them.  I don't have lots of kids, I don't stay at home all the time, I don't have perfectly behaved children, I haven't been preparing to homeschool since my first child was born.  There is a lot I don't know.  I am older than everyone who has the same age children as me.  But in reality, these things are all in my head.  No one has caused me to feel this way other than ME.  I know God has called me to serve Him through homeschooling and through foster care and adoption.  He has opened some amazing doors and when I think of all the children who are living with families who love them and share the Gospel with them, I know what I am doing has worth and that I am supposed to be doing both right now.  In fact, I hope that by working outside of our home a few hours a week, I am showing my children by example that God loves and care for the fatherless, the abandoned, the abused, and the rejected.  I know that they are making a sacrifice too, but I think it is a worthy one.  Maybe they will just learn that life it not all about them.  There is certainly worth in that.