If I was a really good homeschooling mom and wanted the extended family and friends to know how we were doing with homeschooling, I would be writing quarterly newsletters and stuff. I would also be bragging about my kids, who are excelling in every area of school because the incredible love that shines through me all the time and my exceptional teaching skills, not to mention their above-average intelligence. Instead, you are going to get my quasi-regular update with, I hope, some encouragement and a strong dose of reality.
What I learned so far this year
First of all, I think I have the almost, but-not-quite perfect schedule for us. It starts with a group lesson on one thing each day: vocabulary, geography, craft (or something like it) combined with appropriate music whenever I can remember it, Science co-op and History. Then each day I get together one-on-one for thirty-ish minutes with each kid to discuss a specific topic and review their previous day's work and talk. Having John be more independent is the main reason this schedule works out so well. Orthodontics, music lessons and other appointments sometimes ruin the almost perfect schedule. Praying with my kids during their alone time with me has had the biggest impact on how well our session goes (which probably makes me the densest Christian ever because it has taken me eight years of schooling to figure this out). The period of time we are covering in history is the beginning of history. We have studied Ancient Egypt, India, China, Mesoamerica, and Greece. So far, each book has talked about how each civilization we have studied except for , Mesoamerica is believed to be one of the earliest civilizations. All the civilizations studied so far have some advanced farming techniques involving irrigation and developing a calendar to determine when to plant and when to sow. They have all developed writing and math to keep as soon as they are stable and prosperous enough to start trading and bartering, regardless of whether the trade is largely domestic or international in scope. The government of the advanced civilizations was usually pretty complex, involving a single ruler who is aided by administrators and regional authorities. And the rulers are all considered chosen by heavenly authority, with some claiming equality with a divine being. All civilizations have a pretty similar code of conduct and view of right and wrong that involves looking beyond our own selfish desires to seek the good of the group. So with all this similarity, it makes me think that maybe the Biblical account of the nations arising from the three sons of Noah might be valid. Of course, I freely confess being biased on that account. When the year ends, Rome will have fallen. Again. In math, we are starting a policy that if you get 100% on the first page, you get to skip through to the review page, which includes past concepts. If you get 100% on the review page, you get to take the test. This is a result of several children telling me how math is so easy that it is boring. The real joy is that Jessi is one of them (so far).
What I have learned about my kids
For Elizabeth this is a year of confirmation of what I have suspected for a bit: She is wildly creative in many different areas. As a result, it is hard to get her to focus on one thing. I have yet to see her have any difficulty in picking up a new skill in art or fiber arts with the exception of counted cross stitch. She excels at creative writing and peotry. She loves clowning around and play-acting. Factual reports and anything with a due date is a struggle with her. The really encouraging news is that math doesn't seem to be so much a struggle these days as she heads into Algebra. I think some of the reason is that Math-U-See includes algebraic concepts from day one. She is taking Physical Science this year and is good at memorizing facts.
Jessica is blossoming musically. She has now picked up guitar lessons as well as piano and is picking it up as easily as she has picked up piano. It is truly a joy to hear her play. She is great with factual writing and in making connections. She has challenged Elizabeth in our history discussions by taking the "thinking questions" seriously and giving seriously great answers. She is better at analyzing characters in stories, in general and putting things into practice. Her organizational skills are getting slightly better, though she is still as bad as I am at staying organized. Jessi is also doing much better in math this year. Fractions didn't seem as hard to her as they were for Elizabeth and so far, she is doing great at decimals, probably because she sees that there isn't much difference between decimals and math involving whole numbers. Her biggest frustration this year has been that science has been too easy. I chose a Physics curriculum for elementary kids and have discovered that it is better for the younger elementary students. Therefore, next semester, she will be starting General Science, which is slightly ahead of schedule.
Kyle is my "just the facts, ma'am" guy. He voraciously reads all things historical, especially if it involves the military or techology or baseball. He has been complaining that math is too simple, so I started letting him do only two or three pages before completing the test as long as he gets 100% on each practice page. At this rate, he will be starting the next book by March, unless long division delays him. If anyone becomes and engineer or architect or some other science-related field, he will. He also considers the physics curriculum to be pretty easy, but seems to enjoy it.
John is my story guy. He loves stories. This morning, he started narrating the battle between two eggs as they were frying in the pan. He also is finding math very easy, so we are on the same program with him. He is not a science guy so far and prefers the literature selections to the non-fiction history books. And he LOVES comedy.
I am really enjoying this stage of teaching and really enjoying teaching my kids. We still have tough days and I am still learning how to bring God's grace into homeschooling and in raising my kids. I hope that by the time my oldest graduates, I will get my "grace" diploma, too, even if it only high-school level grace.
The next blog posting will be one of Elizabeth's writing efforts, a humorous essay for you to enjoy.