Lessons from the school year

Written by contributor Amida of Journey into Unschooling

For many of us here in the states, summer break has finally arrived. With it brings a collective cheer of joy from kids and parents alike. There is something about the end of the school year that just puts a smile on the face of every homeschooling mom I know. For me, just knowing that another essay or assignment isn’t required for a while is a welcomed relief.

Homeschooling is a tough job, and whether we take just a week or the whole summer off, sometimes, a well deserved break is just what the doctor ordered. As usual, after a couple rounds doing the happy dance, I like to take a moment to reflect on the school year.

Unfortunately, at first glance, this year hasn’t gone especially ideal for me. Going in, we had two new considerations to deal with — high school and speech therapy — both of which sucked up so much extra time and energy I didn’t have much left over for Kindergarten. Granted, I am a believer in playing-as-learning for the first year, but still, I wished I had been able to help my more daughter along her reading journey.

Added to the mix was a toddler who loved to climb and well, the days were just too busy and too filled with busywork. As we progressed through the year, however, I picked up a few lessons of my own.

Try Something New

We are seasoned homeschoolers and I like to think that all those years at it has taught us we a thing or two about how to get things done (or at least going). For one, I know that a rut is a perfectly natural progression of the year and nothing to well, fall in a rut about!

About midway through the year, we realized that our science co-op wasn’t working for us, so we had let it go to do our own thing, a move that I was hesitant to make because it’s wonderful having a break and leaving the teaching to someone else! Fortunately, the shift worked out great for us and we were able to take advantage of the remaining months of our membership to the local science museum.

Combine Subjects

With new therapy sessions also came a whole extra set of exercises that required one-on-one practice, a somewhat luxury with two in the five-and-under-crowd. These were necessary, however, and I learned to milk them for all their worth, combining as many subjects into one exercise as I could — reading, geography, writing, grammar, and research skills!

We even incorporated game time with reading, as an added bonus (Apples to Apples provides excellent words and phrases for sentence creation). I used this same tactic with my five-year-old, combining her online reading program with writing as well, though these were less frequent.

Visual Goals

We took a test drive into the upcoming school year with a couple of high school subjects for my oldest. These were college prep courses with a lot more at stake. For the most part, we were just moseying along — until I realize we had just a few weeks of school left and a lot of chapters to get through.

At that point, I divvied up the rest of the lessons to manageable weekly slots, writing out exactly what should be completed at each point. It worked beautifully, and gave my son the roadmap he needed to move on his own, crossing off the assignments as he went.

Provide Opportunities

A couple of subjects that did fall by the wayside were art, music, and, after our membership to the museum had ended, science, basically the “fun” subjects. But amazingly, the kids somehow managed to get these subjects under their belts through no effort on my part.

They learned to solder, connected circuits, wrote computer codes, designed updated models of their cardboard swords, cared for a baby bird, created page after page of drawings, learned numerous new complicated music pieces, and even managed to get a sound out of a trumpet (something I have yet to accomplish), among others.

Given that perspective, they didn’t lack in these subjects at all. It’s amazing what children can figure out on their own, if they just had access to a few kits and materials.

These were just a few of the strategies I applied this year that worked well for us. Each year, of course, grows a little differently, but it’s nice to have some tricks under the belt to get things moving.

Now if only I can squeeze in “learning to ride a bike” this summer, it would be the cherry on top of a great year of learning.

What have you learned from the school year? What worked well for you and what would you change next year?

About Amida

Amida is the mom to three darn kids. She used to stress about state standards and test scores but has since come to her senses and enjoys blogging about her family's journey into unschooling.

Comments

  1. I am always amazed how much kids can learn on their own. A little while ago my three year old was really showing an interest in numbers and I thought maybe I could try to teach him some simple skip counting and addition. Well he really wasn’t grasping it, so I figured it needed to wait until later. A couple of months later he figured out how to skip count by tens on his own, by looking at the timer on the oven, and add by tens from a video game. He was much more interested and the information stuck with no effort.
    Anna@The DIY Mom’s latest post: DIY Lemon Cake

    • I was totally blown away when my then 4-year-old knew I was deleting her shows on the TiVo. When I asked her how she knew, she replied, “doesn’t that word say [name of show]?” Busted.

  2. We just finished our 13th year of homeschooling. In those years we have experienced about 10 years worth of intense medical issues, several hospital stays, foster parenting and hundreds of doctor/therapy appointements. Many of our years have not been MY ideal. However, I am always amazed by how much they and I learn. Homeschooling is such a flexiable lifestyle that I am sure they learn so much more than they would in the rigid schedule of public school.
    Blessings, Dawn

  3. Thank you for this post. It’s nice to read someone who is more seasoned. I just finished my “practice” year because this coming fall we’ll need to send in the Intent to Homeschool for the first time. I made a slideshow of everything my son has been doing (in the past couple of years), and I wrote a progress report for him using the photos and my blog. I realized that he’s right where he needs to be despite the fact that I am very loose on formal lessons. I have a high maintenance two-year-old, and while I’ll try to do more this coming year, I’m not going to stress when our schedule runs amok.
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Let Them Play in the Mud, and They’ll Fondly Remember Their Childhoods

  4. Boy, did I need to read this today. This is our 3rd year of homeschooling, and it has been the most frustrating and rewarding year so far. My children also have therapy sessions and with the addition of OT thrown into the mix, I’ve been scrambling. I’ve worried so much that my children would suffer because we were in therapy session 3 days out of 5. We were running from one therapy appointment to another with barely enough time to complete any assignments. I, too, was burned out. I had to let go of something and I decided to hold on to the little sanity that I had left….lol!! Seriously, kids are born curious and I decided to let my children led me to the path they wanted to take. Thankfully, along the way I realized that my children are inquisitive, smart, extremely witty, and budding comedians. I think when we are in the heart of new situation( ot/speech therapy) that becomes are sole focus and we loss sight of what’s really important, our children. Thank you for reminding me that my kids are the focus not the therapy.

    • I find that with therapy, like anything new (new baby, new home, new curriculum even), there is an adjustment period. After a while, it just becomes the new norm, you find the rhythm, and everything will fall into place. Speech therapy actually opened my eyes to a new way of working on lessons (combining subjects and using games within the lesson for variety and fun for instance). It’s been great.

  5. When I started homeschooling, a dear friend told me that you can’t mess them up in a year because of all the learning they do on their own anyway. During our “ruts” I try to remember that. This year wasn’t stellar in many ways, but I am still proud of all that was accomplished. Most of these accomplishments were not things I planned but things life taught us. Looking back, the best thing from this year was that through all of the wrong turns, we have a much better idea of where we are now going! Thank you for the post.
    Jennifer Castro’s latest post: Where Will All of This Homeschooling Lead?

  6. Don’t you wonder sometimes how public school teachers feel at the end of their school year? I’m guessing they’re right there with us – that maybe it hasn’t gone perfect, but it had it’s moments…and that mistakes lead to new ideas?
    Angela’s latest post: Project: Being.

  7. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content to suit your needs? I wouldn’t mind creating a post or elaborating on a few of the subjects you write about here. Again, awesome weblog!
    Rebecca’s latest post: sleep hypnosis

  8. It’s not quite summer here, but we have one more week to go in our first year of home schooling! Yay! There were some bumpy roads, and I am nervous as my daughter heads into 7th grade (home school) next year. Our Language Arts curriculum was not a good fit, and I am looking for what to use next year. Any tips!?!
    Debbye’s latest post: Why the Time Magazine Cover “Are You Mom Enough?” Should Inspire You

  9. Thanks for this encouraging post. Although we have been homeschooling for 5 years, I still feel like we are just figuring it out. =) I understand a year not going as planned- none of mine do! I have found that as we become more relaxed, and are trying to enjoy learning, we are all MUCH happier!
    Trina’s latest post: Learning The Summer Away

  10. Look up ” learn to ride a bike in 5 steps” on YouTube . It works! ( and they do it mostly on their own)

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