In many ways it is hard to believe that we are finishing our fall semester in just a few days. It has flown by. I wanted to give a little synopsis of our semester: the victories, the challenges, the growth and the mistakes. I also would like to re-visit our curriculum and share our experiences with the different subjects we have tackled in hopes that I might help those who are on the lookout for certain curricula.
Before jumping into all of that though, I want to start by sharing…
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING
“So….are you enjoying homeschooling?”
After 15 weeks I can honestly and confidently say that each member of our family would answer with a resounding, “YES!”
We love it. We all love it.
Does that mean that everyday has been idyllic and productive? Absolutely not. Tears? Frustration? Challenges? Absolutely! Have there been days when I buried my head in my hands during a math lesson? Oh, yes! Are my children perfectly well-behaved and self motivated? Well…not all the time. Have I lost my cool? Um…yes. Is my house a wreck? More often than it used to be, yes.
“So why do you love it?”
- We love our school mascot.
- I love seeing the light bulb of understanding come on, and the excited look in their eyes.
- I love seeing that spark light up and the love of learning take root.
- I love seeing triumphs after several hours of struggle and challenge.
- I love it that we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner as a family most days of the week, even though at any point in the day, my kitchen most likely looks like this…
- I love being with my family–through thick and thin, whining and gratitude, tears and laughter, frustration and victories, dancing and sleepiness.
- I love our curriculum.
- I love it that we can really spend time throughout the day talking about and reading God’s Word.
- I love it that we can have lessons in character, perseverance and integrity right alongside our spelling lessons.
- I love snuggling on the couch as we read books or complete our History lessons.
- I love dancing to music and the freedom to have fun together as a part of our school day. We even have fun with our science experiments!
- I love having lessons at the park or in our front yard.
- I love decorating our schoolroom for the different holidays and seasons.
- I love not feeling rushed in the afternoon and evening.
- I love our homeschooling community and friends.
Have we learned? Oh, yes! In fact, we’ve learned so much that I am going to have to break this post up into two parts. Part I will focus upon what I have learned. Part II will focus upon what the girls have learned (and will include lots of photos and a few videos).
I think the person who has learned the most is the TEACHER!
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED:
- I must not compare myself to other homeschooling moms. We all seem to have in our heads that the mom whose children are perfectly behaved and seem to know all of their stuff have the perfect homeschooling plan. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t learn from one another. We all need to grow and change. But all too often, I can make myself miserable by constantly comparing our schedule, approach, methods and children to other families. This way of thinking has never made my homeschooling life better. If you are homeschooling and reading this blog, please do not be discouraged if you are doing things differently, didn’t cover as many activities, or don’t take pictures/videos of your kids. Live into how God created you to teach and guide your children. I am preaching to myself as I write these words, I promise!
- Learning and mastery take time. Take the time your child needs and don’t rush to the next concept. Interestingly enough, I feel like I am only now noticing the depth of what my children have learned this semester. I have learned that I must not become discouraged if it takes three months (or nine months) for my child to master a certain concept. It will come. With consistency, variety and review it will come. I must not add extra anxiety and stress to my kids’ learning environment because I feel they aren’t getting it quickly enough. I fell prey to this way of thinking and am trying to break the habit.
- It is necessary to set aside a day or two every few weeks for reviewing. I learned that I needed to do this even if the curriculum had plenty of review built in. So, when I get the feeling that Rosebud or Sunshine needs more time with a concept, I stick in a review day.
- Kids need more time to move during the day. By the end of the semester, I was breaking up our Family Time Fitness lessons into two or three 10-15 minute chunks throughout the day. The girls loved this! No matter what, there were smiles on every face when we would put on some fun music and dive into our physical education lessons.
- My homeschool classroom is not a public school classroom. Yes, there are certain activities that my girls complete at their desks, but there are many that they complete on the floor, the couch, the kitchen table, the dining room table, or even outdoors in the yard. Also, I learned that if I’m giving a spelling lesson and Rosebud is rocking and moving around while I teach, she is still grasping the information. She doesn’t have to sit perfectly still in order to listen effectively.
- Teach your child according to their learning style: auditory, kinesthetic, visual–or any combination thereof. Going into this endeavor, I generally knew both Rosebud’s and Sunshine’s strengths, but I underestimated just how much I need to incorporate them into our lessons. Rosebud has always seemed to have difficulty memorizing math facts. Over the years we have tried many different approaches but the fact families just don’t seem to stick. She is a dancer, so I asked her to create certain ballet moves to each fact family. Amazingly, she learned and retained the information in one session. She made more improvement in that 20 minute time period than she had the entire semester. So, here at semester’s end, I have her clapping, making up gestures, and moving in various ways to help her memorize her division facts, grammar or spelling rules, and vocabulary. She is a kinesthetic learner and needs this stimulation. Actually, many of the curricula I chose include these types of learning strategies, along with other multi-sensory ideas.
- If the schedule isn’t working, change it! It took a little experimentation to find the rhythm that works best for us as a family. I noticed that on the days when we were lax about starting school, we had more struggles throughout the day. It appears that my girls function best on a pretty consistent schedule that begins early in the day. If they know what is coming next, they seem to move forward with more independence and energy. Believe it or not, we’ve found that Bible time at 7:40 a.m. and an 8:00 a.m. start time in our school room works the best. My girls are early risers and early starters. Some days I’d rather stay in bed, but when I do, things don’t go as well and our rhythm seems out of sync.
- I really need a quiet time with Jesus every morning. Since my girls are early risers, this means that I am up in my quiet place between 6 & 6:30 a.m. This also means that I can’t stay up until 11:30 the night before. Well, I can, but if I do this too many days in a row I wake up cranky. There was a portion of our semester when I did not get up for this quiet time and I paid the price. Consequently, my husband and children paid the price, too. There is nothing like Holy Spirit wisdom rushing into your soul and mind in the peaceful hours before your children stir. When I discipline myself to put God first in this way, He blesses the entire family!
- I need connection, accountability, and fellowship with other moms and homeschoolers. If I didn’t have the small group of Christian moms that I meet with each Friday morning, I would be missing out on so much richness that God offers me as a woman in this life. These are the moments each week when I rest and refuel. We are an imperfect group of gals who share in one another’s joys, sorrows, worries, hopes and dreams. I cannot begin to convey the depth of gratitude I feel for these women. If you are reading this blog and are isolating yourself from this kind of companionship, I passionately urge you to step out of your comfort zone, be vulnerable and authentic and find a group in which to pour yourself! Sure, it takes time to build friendships, but it is always time well spent.
- Guess What? My CHILDREN need connection, accountability and fellowship with others too! At the beginning of our semester, I found myself kind of worrying about so many homeschooling activities and classes with our local homeschooling group. I wanted to make sure the girls were getting all their assignments and “learning” done. I’ll admit there were some mornings that I was tempted to just keep them at home so we wouldn’t get “behind.” Okay, I did do that a couple of times. But as the semester progressed, I let it go and took them to nearly every scheduled class. And you know what? We never fell behind in our school work. What’s more—they learned SO MUCH! They have also built and deepened their friendships along the way. We are relational people! Connect!
- Take an entire week off at Thanksgiving even though Christmas is right around the corner. We decided at the last minute to take the entire week off, instead of three days. This was one of the best decisions we made all semester. Remember, you can teach math while you bake breads and pies together!