A couple of you have asked for an end of school year review post… We aren’t quite finished our school year yet, two weeks away and I have that “Are we ever going to get there” feeling!!! So this is a bit of a nitty gritty post… school as it really is rather than writing from the depths of the rosy glasses of our summer vacation. And as we get closer to the end of the school year I start to think of all the things we haven’t quite finished, the fact that amidst the glorious days of school there were many days where our school performance was way less than promising!!! It is the time of year when I start to page through the kids school books and I think – Oh my word but how did this hand writing get so bad, or how did this child rush through so many pages of math… and as for school essays assigned – we have very relatively few to demonstrate a clear understanding of the literary process or actually any process!!!
But then I started to write this post and it was uplifting to say the least… we are homeschoolers and and a lot of our learning is less than conventional… my kids don’t write tests and they don’t ever give me anything that I actually mark… our school days are meandering rather than rigid. So at the end of the school year I cannot assess their school year in a conventional way either. I was feeling slightly disheartened at the lack of work we have to show for our efforts until I realized that we have all learnt so much this year that trying to contain it in a report would actually be slightly ludicrous!!!
So Here You go: Se7en +1 Lessons I Learnt in Homeschool this Year:
- We Need Rest: This year was the first year that I wasn’t pregnant or caring for a newborn in our homeschool!!! I thought everything would be so much easier and we would have so much time for “more” stuff – you know the eternal homeschool myth: “We must do more”… turns out when you know you are pregnant you plan extra rest time and you schedule things like reading on the couch a whole lot more – you have to!!! I quickly learnt that pregnant or not, we need a down time everyday and we need to take it, if we have finished our morning school or not!!! We need and hour or so after lunch when everyone just lies around with a book and rests… and that doesn’t mean me catching up on any reading aloud we haven’t done yet, it rather means me, of all people, taking a break!!!
- A Little Bit Everyday is Really the Most Effective Way to Get Things Done: This year we conquered things we have never finished before. Mapping, arting, classical music and poetry have always lasted the first enthusiastic weeks of school and then fizzled… then we pick them up again and they fizzle, well fizzle no more we have discovered the secret of getting things done. It is better to just tackle a little bit everyday than follow a schedule that does things every two or three days – if it isn’t everyday we lose momentum and give up. For the first time ever we made it right through a lot of the books that previously we have only gotten half way through and then despaired. The secret really is: A little bit of art, a little bit of writing, a little bit of map work, a little bit of poetry – everyday!!! For the first time ever we conquered all those extra bits and pieces consistently throughout the year.
- Take a Little Longer: The whole point of homeschooling is that you can take time with things and yet how often we rush… A great discovery for me this year was that certain things you just want to linger longer over. My agenda is not my kids agenda – at all!!! I really want to finish school by lunchtime and have the afternoons free – they do too… but that doesn’t mean they have to rush through the morning. My kids I discover take all morning to do school because they like it: they like being read to, they like puzzling things out, they like creating things. Where I always used to say “Let’s finish up…” turns out and by saying: “Let’s take our time…” Our work becomes so much better and it doesn’t actually take any longer. By lunchtime we finish anyway. If a project extends over into the next day – it doesn’t matter!!!
- School is Just Part of Our Life: We started our school year late and so we worked straight through the year, without a week or two off every couple of weeks. We learnt to live along side our school and it was good. Normally we put things off until the school breaks and then work on he projects through our weeks off and then back into school… Well this year we learnt to tackle projects, that we wanted to do, alongside school… Turns out you can get so much done if you aren’t always waiting for things to be perfect. You can start a project and take three afternoons, or weeks in fact!!! Turns out if you know there are no looming breaks then you have to stay on top of the school chaos… put things away as you finish with them – because there are no weeks off to get things back under control!!! Not a bad lesson for me to learn!!!
- Outings Are Not Essential to a Successful HomeSchool: I always felt that school outings were a bit of a gap in our school and this was the year we were going to do outings for school, I was so thrilled to have a plan!!! Turns out plans are made to be broken!!! Our car broke down and I thought that we would flail around without the well-planned outings!!! How wrong I was!!! We found so much to do at home. So much more time to enjoy the space we’re in without having to dash off somewhere. After ten years of living in our house we finally got to know our own neighborhood really well!!! And the walks down to the beach that always seemed impossible when we had a car suddenly became the norm. I could think of worse privileges than living on the doorstep of a fabulous beach and getting to wander down for a play after school.
- We Will Never Do As Much School As “The Homeschool Joneses”: Somehow it seems as if “everyone else” is doing fantastic projects with their kids and in your own home we are just plodding along. There is NO “everyone else.” More than once while my kids were roaring around on the beach, building forts and wave jumping… there would be some more serious homeschoolers with clip boards and notebooks working on some sort of seaside project… I had to let it go!!! Remember when you see other homeschoolers out in the world you are seeing the best of them, all of us save our less than best for home… well turns out the best for us is building castles before the tide comes in and learning about wave action while body surfing. My kids won’t have a notebook page to demonstrate their knowledge, but the knowledge is embedded in their minds!!!
- Life-Skills Take Time: There is no reason why my kids couldn’t run our house – if they were inspired to!!! This was the year they learnt to tackle household chores, cooking and gardening on a grand scale. But I had to take a time to schedule it in: Thursday afternoon became gardening day – there is no point in saying: “You need to trim the hedge,” and then always being too busy. This was the year that I discovered that I have a workforce!!! In an afternoon beds can be weeded, hedges trimmed, paths swept and the harder they work the more fun it is!!! Turns out a half-hearted effort produces a grumpy afternoon but to throw yourself into your work and to get totally carried away is the answer to contentment. Our garden is far from perfect, but we aren’t leaving it for nine weeks at a time and then spending a whole week trying to find it!!!
And the Se7en + 1th Thing:
- It’s Not All Magic Moments: There are times when homeschooling is anything but magical!!! This is a hard one for me, I am optimistic and idealistic and put these two together and I can really make the best out of almost any situation. Turns out, my whole family is not like that!!! There have been days when we started timeously and then interruption after interruption has meant we have spent almost a whole day “not doing school…” Frustrating for sure, teaching me patience – oh yes!!! As I am rounding our year up and I look at our journals… while they have moments of great glory and even pages worthy of exhibiting… a lot. of it is not of the best calibre, and some pages are just atrocious!!! My kids have done it and for them that is enough. I have to say their journals are a true reflection of their personalities – “the gotta be finished first guy,” “the can’t turn the page till it’s perfect chap.”
There is so much more to a student than journal pages and workbooks I have to evaluate more broadly and say: “Did we learn this year?” And while it was not the most productive year for “works to display” I can say so many new skills have been learnt: so many heart lessons have been taught; my kids have learnt to serve and not just in the home; we spent hours and hours reading and reading together; and even more hours and hours outdoors; we may not have done many outings but we traveled across the country on a fabulous adventure instead. One of my goals was for everyone to get comfortable with art materials, caring for them and using them… and I have to say we conquered that one and our Art journals are fabulous – clearly we have eight artists in the making!!! Yes we have learnt a lot, we discovered a lot and we had fun doing it.
I thought it might be useful for you to see how we managed to keep up with all those extra subjects this year. I thought I would start a weekly series on how we fitted a little bit of map work everyday, a little artwork everyday, a little creative writing everyday, a little bit of mental math or word games everyday, a little bit of the great outdoors everyday… So if there is a topic you want to ask about then go ahead and ask in the comments and I will work our way through the list.