The roller-coaster ride of another school year is rolling to a close.
I wrote about our school plans last August, Hang on Tight. Now the kids are finishing up their subjects while Darren clears out time to administer their end-of-year testing. (Virginia provides several different homeschooling options; we recently switched from religious exemption to home instruction, so we provide the school district with standardized test scores each year. Check out your state’s homeschool requirements.)
Meanwhile, we’re taking stock of what worked and what we can change for next year.
This year, the three older kids took classes at a small Christian school. We liked the atmosphere of the school and were glad that the kids got traditional classroom experience. For Gamerboy, that meant figuring out how to do classwork in “groups.” For Sparkler, it meant a lot more writing and a lot less chatting. However, for me, it meant a lot of mental energy juggling class times and driving. We were locked into a schedule, unable to rearrange our days or fit in anything new. If you know anything about me, you know that nothing kills my soul faster than being trapped in somebody else’s system.
When we sat down with each child to review the year, two of them requested we take out the extra classes. So we’ll definitely take that experience under advisement for next year.
Bookgirl took English with HSLDA’s Online Academy. It was a new, somewhat stressful experience for her to have to complete assignments every day and “attend” an online class once a week. It didn’t always go smoothly, either for her or for us. On the other hand, she read and discussed—among other books—The Pearl, Our Town, The Old Man and the Sea, and White Fang.
She’s not convinced that it was worth all the trouble. Her parents are of the annoying opinion that both the education and the experience were very valuable. It’s being taken under advisement for next year.
A serendipitous moment occurred last fall was when I found a small, casual co-op for Ranger. He learned to dribble a basketball, kick a soccer ball, create Pinterest-worthy crafts, and put together lapbooks. He also—and this is no small perk—got to take Cheetohs for his snack every week. He called it “Friday Fun School,” and it was the best part of his school year. That’s already on the schedule for next year.
Another success worth mentioning was Sparkler’s “Eat Your Way Around the World” geography study by Jamie Aramini. The little booklet discussed various countries and then provided three or four recipes from each one. Sparkler and Darren cooked and served us everything from lambchops to lo mein to curry. Not everybody liked every dish, but it was fun to try them. Sparkler has always enjoyed being in the kitchen, so this was a good fit for her.
Best of all, this year we demonstrated how fiercely committed we are to our children’s education. Specifically, we did not quit school in February.
Those dismal midwinter days make it very hard to keep pushing on. We get through them by changing up the school routine. I kept some essentials going each day, like math and reading, plus drove kids to their classes. Otherwise, most of the school happened in the evenings with Darren, who got to indulge his love of teaching.
In the past, he’s had the kids research a subject. Sometimes they cook foods to go along with a topic. We’ve incorporated what they’re learning into a family roleplaying game. This year, Darren just read aloud—he chose Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik—as an easy way to discuss everyday materials in our modern world.
The reduced schedule let us hibernate a little, giving us enough energy to start back up in March and finish the ride. We will definitely do the February pause again.
Educating four children takes a lot of balance, especially since we prefer a low-key, flexible schedule. Next year won’t look quite like this year, as we continue to tailor our homeschooling to our needs.
But see the part where I said “next year”? We’re almost finished with this year. The roller coaster is slowing to a stop. Summer is almost here.
Bring it on.
Photo Credit: All images by Sara Jones.