I printed out last year's End of the Year Report and placed it in my homeschooling binder in order to remind myself of the things I wanted to change this year. I'm glad I did because it helped me to focus when I started feeling like I didn't know what my next move should be. Those things were:
- More activities.
- Not playing chauffeur for everyone.
- Doing something about my allergies, which were making me sick for at least twelve weeks out of the year.
- Not scheduling homeschooling to take place on trips/cutting back on travelling.
- Implementing an Errand Day.
- Spending less time on my hobbies.
- Activities--I bombed this completely. We had a few memorable moments, but I struggled throughout the year to just get the basics done each day and then get the laundry, cleaning and meals done. I also repeatedly ran into the problem of just not having the extra funds to purchase the supplies or admission rate of activities. Between Michael not getting a raise in years, the cost of allergy serums, and the rising costs of everything else, my once-sufficient homeschooling budget has slowly been sucked away into other budgetting categories by our pesky insistence on eating food and not being naked. It's a lame excuse because I see other homeschoolers making activities work for them on squeaky budgets; I assume I just need to suck it up and put more handmade effort into our lessons...you know, with all that free time I have lying around.
- Chauffering--Ironically enough, this was very simple for me to stop. Our second car died last February and it's near impossible to give people rides to places when you have to share your car with your commuting husband. We got to spend lots of time at home this year. Yay us.
- Allergy Shots--if you're on the fence, please allow me to exhort you to go get them! I made it through last August & September (my worst months, usually resulting in losing my voice and horribly congested lungs and ear infections) with just four days of moderate symptoms. I've gone through this spring season without a single anti-histamine, although I do sneeze a lot, which is totally fine with me.The downfall about allergy shots is that you're sort of having an allergic reaction every week when they give you a shot. In the beginning, you get 1-2 shots per week...for at least six months or so. They made my arms swell up and throb horribly, and in order to get the swelling to go down I had to rely on good ol' Benadryl, which knocked me flat and made me sleep terribly at night. But it's been worth the year of annoyingness. Now it's Michael who's using the prescription allergy eye drops and popping anti-histamines, not me.
- Travelling--We did not attempt homeschooling on trips this year. (The trips were far more enjoyable that way!) We also cut back on travelling, both as a family and with Michael in regards to work. After our trip to Canada last August, we've gone up to Michael's mother's house twice. And that's it. Like I said already in regards to the chauffering: We got to spend lots of time at home this year. Technically, this is a win. A very responsible win.
- Errand Day--I tried. And I really didn't like it. We lose that day of school, the kids clamber for extra things to be purchased and there were many an unscheduled drive-thru lunch or snack. And with being at home so much due to the one-car thing, staying home on Saturday as well just made me batty and I would claw my way through the front door just to go somewhere. I think Michael doesn't really mind running around on Saturdays, (especially in the cold months) so I'm thinking that an Errand Day may not be a permanent fixture in Brooketopia.
- Spending less time on my hobbies--This last year saw 16 finished projects (some pretty big ones!), compared to 13 the year before. Hmmm. I'm just going to say that I became much faster with the knitting (and I wasn't knitting up a black Echo Flower Shawl this year either!). However, I did pack away a fair bit of crafting supplies in the past couple of months as a way to lessen the temptation. I'm proud of that step, bittersweet as it may be. (In twenty years...) I've also stopped attending my Knit Nite group, which I'm hoping will free up some time to do more Cultural Nights in the coming year. I'm optimistic about the direction I'm heading in regards to this list item.
This was a hard school year for me. Not for any particular reason, but just because I think I've approached my threshold in regards to how many kids I can have and still keep my life in order. :) Homeschooling last year wasn't too terribly bad because Monkeyboy took those blessed naps twice a day, which opened up a lot of hours for us to do intensive one-on-one work uninterrupted. Sure, I complained about how much time nursing took up and a myriad of other things, but it was way easier than this year when he was awake more and into many more things.
Bluebird needed full-time school and Penguin only did part-time school, but it felt like my entire days were dedicated to teaching them, at the expense of being able to spend some one-on-one time with Junebug and Monkeyboy. This fact bruised my heart every day, and it's something I would like to remedy in the next school year. I can't ignore half of my kids just so the other half can excel. There has got to be a solution or satisfying compromise to work out in that regard. I carried way too much guilt (over ignoring the Littles) and disappointment (over slacking with the Bigs in order to accomodate the Littles) throughout the year.
I typed up a list of goals at the beginning of the year for each child:
- Finish the Saxon 2 Math book. Check!
- Finish both the Level 2 Manual Printing and Level 2 Cursive penmanship books. Almost, she's a little more than halfway done with Level 2C book.
- Finish Spelling Workout B and begin working on Level C. Fail, but I'm optimistic about our switch to All About Spelling--she has started writing a lot more word correctly, on her own, since we started the program a few weeks ago.
- Finish First Language Lessons 2. Almost.
- Finish Writing with Ease 2. The program started to wear on us, so we did a little bit here and there, especially since dictation came rather easily to her. I'm looking to switch writing programs next year, as this one is just sucking the joy out of our lives, despite how much I heart Susan Wise Bauer.
- Work through the entire Prima Latina book. Nope. I didn't even purchase the curriculum when it became apparent to me, early on, that I was going to struggle to get the basics done. No sense adding on more work that doesn't really need to be done.
- Complete The Story of the World 2: The Middle Ages, and accompanying literature suggestions. I'm going to say this was accomplished. We listened to the history book on CD over and over in the car and Bluebird can answer just about any general question you throw her way about the Middle Ages. Literature was spotty; between trying to figure out her reading level and financial limitations, I couldn't quite decide on what to hand to her to read. I'm going to stew on this over the summer. She did read a lot of books throughout the year, thanks to our trips to the library, they just weren't exactly tied into our history and literature plan.
- Complete R.E.A.L Science Odyssey's Earth and Space Science, and do some activities out of Astronomy for All Ages. Fail. I need to set very specific goals for science or I feel like I'm just stumbling around with no idea what to do.
- Complete 15 badges for Brownie Girl Scouts. Nope, but I am so done with Girl Scouts. I feel like we have spent a ridiculous amount of time on selling cookies and completing meaningless activities for dumbed-down badges. We're not continuing with the program. I don't have the financial and energy reserves for it.
- Finish Saxon K Math and begin working in Saxon 1 Math. Check!
- Finish Phonics Pathways. 3/4 done.
- Finish the K Level penmanship book and begin working in the Level 1 book. Check!
- Start Spelling Workout A when she's halfway through Phonics Pathways. Check, technically: She has started All About Spelling, Level 1.
- Read out loud to her: Mother Goose and The Aesop for Children. I read a fair bit of Mother Goose to her.
- Maybe work through A Child's History of the World. Nope.
- Basic Phonics Work: Check!
- Having my schoolroom in the basement was depressing. I couldn't wait to get away from that dark, cold room! We transferred the schoolroom up into our upstairs living room and I'm basking in the feeling of being to look out multiple windows. I wish I had given myself permission sooner to claim the living room for school. I had worried about not having space for visitors to sit down, but it's been fine; we sit at the kitchen table or by the school table and no one thinks it's weird. I love having space again.
- The first day of a new quarter is a great day to spend deep cleaning and decorating the schoolroom for the season. It lightened my burdens and also gave us nice things to look at that made us smile for the next few months. I was glad each time that we took the time to clean and decorate.
- We need more joy and fun in our school. The past few months were so stale and dreary as we slogged through curriculum that wasn't inspiring. I need to choose/create lessons that are more than reading and reciting. We are so tired of that.
- I need to step up the activities. 'Nuf said.
- I need to do more planning and preparation. I was terribly un-organized this year. Michael's made fun of me for typing up overly-detailed lesson plans every year before, so I tried to be a little more relaxed this year and it just did not work for me. I'd get to something, but have no idea what I needed because I hadn't read through it five before as I put my lesson plans together. I need to make a detailed yearly lesson plan and I need weekly lesson prep time. I'm a teacher, duh.
- Something has to be done about winter. I really did think it was a pregnant/post-partum/breastfeeding/those-kinds-of-hormones thing, but I was dealing with none of those this year and still nosedived come the third week of January. I've been beating this problem to death in my mind, trying to come up with different plans of attack ranging from starting our new school year in January, to visiting family or travelling south, to incorporating outdoor activities, to declaring some sort of Unit Study or big project for each month in our winter quarter. I do not know which to choose, or if any of those options are a good choice. This does need to be addressed though; everything falls apart around here during those months because I'm just so blue.
- I'm craving a more "organic" schooling experience. I'm still a Classicist at heart, but I'm suffocating under the structured feel of it all. I want time to lay on the floor and build towers, time for reading enjoyable books aloud, time for field trips that just make my children happy. They're young for such a short amount of time and I don't want to throw that away because I'm trying to adhere to someone else's educational plan. I need to tailor my educational philosophy to meet and satisfy my family's wishes and circumstances. I like having a plan in place; however, I need to make up a lesson plan that is more enjoyable and fresh. (This is where the desire for more "one-on-one time" with the Littlers fits in.)
OverallOnce again I feel like we didn't rise to our potential, but I was pretty groggy from the allergy shots and dealt with those annoying Winter Blues yet again. We stayed on-track in Math and nearly met all our goals in the fundamentals, which is pleasing. We've slogged our way through the year, which says something for our work ethic.
Bluebird writes even more and her spelling is improving! She's a wee bit ahead in Math and still loves History and Science. She knows many more particles of speech and handled dictation easily, and she is reading far above grade level. She has started to do a little more independent work without completing spacing her task and being found in some random location in the house, working on some odd side project.
Penguin is reading! She likes to write and pens handmade cards to me all the time, phonetically spelling her sweet sentiments. She did great with her first set of math flashcards and prides herself on being able to read the directions on her math worksheets. She couldn't do any of that stuff at the beginning of the year.
I'm going to take this summer easy and not start school until August. I'm going to seek out sources of inspiration and beauty and try to incorporate them into our next school year. Perhaps a lot of our motivation challenges can be solved with increased effort to include the fine arts in our daily school routine? We'll find out!
I'm grateful for another year I was able to spend with my children, coaxing them along their educational path. We learned more lessons about ourselves and we added many more memories to our story. It's a good life.