In our homeschool:This year was a mixed bag. I am still (perpetually?) trying to strike that magical balance between flexibility and structure. I felt like we were scrambling much of the time, and I got stressed out a lot, but now that I'm looking back over what we actually did accomplish/cover, we did well. We went on a lot of field trips, we had a few touchstone habits that kept us at least moderately on track with forward momentum, and we still had space for personal exploration. Deep breath. It will be okay.
A disappointing trend, however, is that I found myself focusing on being regimented with grammar and math and just kind of letting science/history/art happen if and when we got around to it. I am starting to wonder how much of that is the nature of skill-based learning as opposed to fact-based learning, and how much of it is--gasp--"teaching to the test". Both school-aged boys were required to take standardized tests this year and I would be lying if I said that it didn't stay in the back of my mind. C constantly asks me if he's "at grade level" and T stressed that if he did poorly on the test, he'd be forced into school. We don't need this kind of pressure. We did this to sidestep that pressure and actually learn.
My favorite thing:Watching both C and T read for fun. C is more of a natural reader, but once T caught the bug (see the Watterson post, below), it became an activity that was theirs. They eagerly trade, share, and discuss what they're reading. They write their own content. They have secret inside-jokes and they ask me to drive them to the book store and my heart is pretty happy to see this happening.
My least favorite thing:J is three. A threenager. Threevil. He's adorable and funny and loving and sweet but OMG he's also relentless and annoying and volatile and absolutely thrives on interrupting lessons. Not just with his own natural demands for attention but also sometimes just with spite. "NO! READ *MY* BOOK! NO! I HATE DIS SHOW!" He scribbles on worksheets; he dances in front of documentaries, he bangs on laptops while others are using them. We all needed lots of deep breaths. Homeschooling older kids with a younger child in the mix can be deeply frustrating, and it needs to be acknowledged that he, for reasons beyond his control, was a huge obstacle much of the time. Sigh.
I'm inspired by:My homeschooling friends. Mary, for trusting her kids. Robyn, for always at least appearing to be organized. Michele, for modeling how to relax. Kathi, for reminding me that our flaws can be pretty funny. Elizabeth, for rolling her eyes when I stress over minutae, and Celishia, for being fiercely unapologetic.
Best resources:I like Khan Academy. Cayden liked Time4Learning. We all like CNN Student News. I found Super Teacher Worksheets to be well worth the investment. I'm currently fond of the Harcourt Family Learning series of workbooks, and plan to buy their complete graded curriculum for next year (which nearly guarantees that it will suddenly no longer suit us, as these things go LOL). I adore Joy Hakim's "Story of Us" series of American History books, and hope to find something similar for world history (many are steering me toward Story of the World, but I'm balking at price). Of course, we couldn't even consider doing this crazy home education thing without the Internet, a good computer (I just upgraded!), and our awesome regional library system.
I'm working on:Inner peace. Outer balance. Humility. Patience. Joy.
All of these are ridiculously difficult for me.
I'm reading:Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series. Because escapism. I'm reading lots of classic chapter books with the kids (they loved "Tom Sawyer" and "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH"). I've stopped, for now anyway, reading books on education theory because, as with all of my over-reading when I first became a parent, after a while it all becomes overwhelming and keeps me from just trusting myself.
I'm learning:More about American history than I was exposed to in school. It's eye-opening. I hope that my kids are absorbing more than the general whitewashed propaganda we all accept. I'm also learning a variety of new ways to do math, because they don't always understand the way I teach. Which is how I was taught. Which I have always done because I was taught that way...and when they look at me, puzzled, and ask WHY or HOW something works and I realize that I don't even understand--well, it's time to take a step back. At past-40, I'm suddenly beginning to be able to do mental math operations and I'm like, Where has this skill been all of my life?
Helpful tips or advice to share:Dear Future Me: Don't overplan. It doesn't work for you. I know you like the idea of having extended goals and lots of paperwork to keep you on track, but it happens every year that you end up with too many things that don't happen, and you don't need the stress of undone "to-do" items that turned out to be unnecessary. I know you think that it will save you work at the end of the year to do frequent progress reports but let's be honest here: you know your students intimately. You know where their strengths and weaknesses are from day to day, and when you do gather your records at the end of the term, most of that stuff won't even make sense to you anymore.
Keep taking notes in your planner. It's awesome and helpful. Keep saving Internet history. But stop thinking of the year-end scramble to create the portfolio as punishment for poor organization the rest of the year. It isn't. It's just the nature of a review cycle. And you know what? You secretly relish the whole making-order-from-chaos of turning stacks of worksheets into a neat packet of sample work. It's all good. You've got this.