Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Examining our school year

It's Tuesday of our last week of the school year.

Ella's 4th grade year... almost over.
Isaac's 2nd grade year... almost over.
Isaias's 1st grade year... almost over.

:: in the tulip fields ::

Wow.

This makes me reflective of this past year and I'm asking myself these questions:  What worked well for us?  What didn't work?  What was lacking?  What are the things we need to change or enhance; add or take away?  What were our favorite times, all together?  Why?  What parts of our schooling did the kids like or respond to?  How can we add to those things or do other things similarly?

My journal right now has a list going down the left-hand side of the page- of the elements of our days (listing each subject but also elements like chores and our routine), then three columns following, for general thoughts, pros and cons.  I'm trying to evaluate each thing while it's still fresh (versus two months from now when things might be foggy) and have that perspective with me when I go into planning for our NEXT year.

I've also asked the kids for their input: What were their favorite things?  What did they like?  What didn't they like or what didn't work well?

* * *

For any other homeschoolers reading:  How do you evaluate your school year?  What's one thing that stands out to you as working really well for you this year?  Or something that just... didn't?

I'll answer, too:

One thing that worked: (There are many!  I think every year we figure out more what does work and filter out what doesn't, so that each year feels better in that regard than the one before it.)  But: one thing new-to-us this year that really worked was to have a break-out one-on-one time with one of my kids each day (so... this year Isaias and I had about 20-30 minutes on Mondays, Ella and I had about 20-30 minutes Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Isaac and I had about 20-30 minutes on Wednesdays and Fridays (while the other four had buddy time.)  This was one of Mark's suggestions during our planning last summer when he examined my proposed flow of our days and all that I wanted to accomplish, and it was brilliant!
Other things that are firmly planted in the "worked for us" category: dictation with Ella, copywork, new-to-us history, Bible, picture study, Nature Study w/ daddy, video for the little girls while the older kids do table work


One thing that did not work: Memory work.  Each year prior to this one I have planned out our memory work. For whatever reason, this year I focused more on our overall plan for the year and neglected to hash out the finer points of what we would actually be MEMORIZING during that point in our day.  Which is not to say that we didn't memorize-- we did.  But I felt like any memorizing we did do was more randomly selected by me at the moment when I saw it on our schedule for the day and when we were behind, that was the thing I would skip.  That is not the thing I want to skip, so: lesson learned.
Other things in the "did not work for us" category:  the kids doing an English lesson with Mark on his days off (we think this happened twice all year.  And he generally has one day off per week!), narrations (for the second half of the year), me not taking the time to work with Ella prior to her Math lesson (I'm learning that she needs lots of one-on-one time and lots of patience and affirmation from me to avoid tears during this time.)

One last thing I've learned: what works for our family is likely different from what will work for your family!  Each family is different.  We all have our different strengths.  Also, what works for us one year may fall apart the next year.  There are different seasons in the life of our family and flexibility is key.  For instance, these past few years I've moved towards shorter readings and fewer transitions during our day due to the little girls-- it just makes things more manageable.  But during another year when the girls are older, we might be able to tackle those things again.  :)  That's why it's so important to pray over the planning of our school year-- because God already knows what we can and should handle.  He is faithful to gently lead us to the places where we'll flourish.

7 comments:

  1. I always love hearing about your homeschool, Stacy. :) I've been meaning to closely examine what has worked well and not so well for us this year, but the first thing off the top of my head that worked well was discovering free unlimited streaming of Sesame Street episodes via Amazon Prime. HA! I'm chuckling that THAT of all things is what I'm most excited about, but it is. I let Maizie watch one episode per day while I work with the older two and it has made ALL the difference. :) Enjoy your last week of school!!!

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    1. Ha! I love it. And I completely get.it. :)

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  2. Hi Stacy, I have been very encouraged by your blog, especially the homeschool posts, so it is great to see you back! Here in the UK we still have a couple of months before the end of the school year but I am already thinking about what has and hasn't worked. At some point I shall blog it so that I remember for next year! My husband is a high school teacher and has been writing his reports. I had to laugh at several that say "needs to stop chatting and focus more" - that would definitely be on my eldest's report if she got one!
    Heather

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    1. Thank you, Heather. Your comment encouraged *me*! That's funny about the "needs to stop chatting and focus more"! I'm pretty sure that notation was on ALL of my report cards throughout school! :) And we've got that going on around our table during school time, too. :)
      Blessings to you and yours,
      ~Stacy

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  3. Cute pic of the kids in the tulips!

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  4. I LOVE hearing about your schooling....so helpful and inspiring!!! and i would like to second amy's opinion: as soon as that photo popped up i thought "what a GREAT picture!!!" :)

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