Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summing Up

The joys of summer are upon us - reading on the deck, campfires at night, chasing fireflies, swimming...planning another homeschooling year. That last one might not exactly fit in with a joy of summer, but someone has to do it. For now, I'll just chat a bit about what we have accomplished.

This has been, by far, my favorite year homeschooling. When we first made the decision to leave the safety of PA Cyber I was a bit nervous about how things would go. Now I couldn't be happier with the results. I admit, there have been times when I wondered if the boys were learning as much as they would or could have with a 'real' school. But when I sit down and really look at where we have been, I am sure they have made great progress.

JT spent a great deal of time reading. When I printed out his book list for his portfolio, it was four full pages! The best thing is that more than half of those books are non-fiction. EM made drastic improvement in his reading as well. His list wasn't as copious, but he is choosing to read longer books now than he was at the beginning of the year. He also had a sizable number of non-fiction selections.

In spelling, we continue to see improvement. JT continues to be a natural at spelling. Because of that, I am constantly working to challenge his skills. EM made good progress too. He completed the entire second grade spelling book from Calvert and moved into lists taken from another more challenging workbook.

I loosened the chains a bit this year on the volume of writing for JT and you can certainly feel the relief in our classroom. I did give him one lengthy assignment in the last month of our schooling. JT read Watership Down in May. When he finished, I asked him to think about how rabbits were portrayed in a fictional way and then put together a report on their real life tendencies. It took him a bit of work to find resources. He really wanted to just throw it together based on what he knew already. However, in the end, he did a good job. I would have liked to see more details...but we can work on that later. EM wrote a few longer paragraphs, but mostly worked on journal entries. As he is only seven, I haven't pushed too hard on that front. I believe we will move onto multi-paragraph writing next year. Here is a poem he put together as one of his final writing projects.


Pudding is yummy
Splat down your tummy
It is very goopy
Feeling very soupy
Pudding smells good
Just like it should

Our plan for math had a few changes throughout this year. I think we finally found our groove at the end, so we'll stick with it for now. EM worked through some of the Calvert 3rd grade math text and then finished out the year with Singapore Math. He seems to love that style of learning. I will start him in 3A for the fall. JT did a bit of this and that to start the year, mostly Calvert 5th grade. He wrapped up using Key Curriculum Press Geometry 1 and 2. I plan to use KCP Fractions and Decimals to start him out for 6th grade. He also does well on the Khan Academy site, so we will be using that too.

We completed Story of the World, Ancient Times in April and will move on to Volume 2 in the fall. We started American history about half-way through the school year. We covered pre-Columbus history of the Americas, early settlements, Native American history, colonial times and just started to touch on the French and Indian War. We will begin were we left off with the Revolutionary War. Mostly, we cover our American history through reading, documentaries and some online learning. Next year, we will do a full year of PA history, one day per week.

Science was much more hands-on. This has been a goal of mine since we brought the boys home. Even though it meant I needed to plan ahead quite a bit; I'd like to take it even further in the future. I want to move away from text books for science as much as possible in the elementary years. I'm going to compile a list of science topics I want to cover and start digging through my collection of books to get us started. I would really like to have the boys chose more topics that they are interested in studying on their own. Maybe even having them 'teach' each other about what they have learned.

I will now be teaching some of the 'minor' subjects in small units, instead of trying to spread them out over the year. Health, music, civics and possibly geography will all be handled that way. I feel like we get so much more out of a subject when we can really focus on it for a set amount of time. This year they did not get the time and energy they deserve. Art makes a least a weekly appearance out of habit, but I'd like to do more planning, instead of just picking a project every week as the day approaches. I may even look into outside art classes for the boys. We have a local YMCA art center that has a number of classes available.

I have spent the last week working to get the portfolios in order. I think I finally have the finished product ready to go. Every now and then, I'll think of something else to tweak. Our meeting with the evaluator is on the 10th, so I'll soon have to stop messing with them. I waver between thinking the binders are too big and thinking they are too small. I want to put everything in there to show how incredible this year has been! I also want to keep it simple, so I don't set the bar too high for the following years.

But now I have another project to office. This picture gives you a little taste of what a HUGE mess it is. There is a large box of things I need to pass on to others. There are heaps of things that need to be filed or thrown. There are piles of books and materials to be organized for next year. There are art supplies that need put into the cupboard that can't be opened because there are other piles in front of it.

Homeschooling has changed my life in so many ways. The one change I never could have predicted was that I would become such a pack rat! People who have known me for years would have a hard time believing a room of my house could look like this. But it's true; the proof is right there in that picture. But you know what? I think I like the new me. I needed to be a little less structured. Maybe homeschooling will end up doing more for me than it will even do for my children. We talk a lot about the sacrifices and the commitment of the parents and we talk about the good things for the kids. No one ever talks about the enormous benefits parents can get from taking on this task. But I think I'm winning in this situation as well...and I love it!


Monica said...

I love your posts!

Neo said...

I recognise that picture with piles of things waiting to be tidied! LOL. I'm in a similar situation at the moment. Good luck with all that clearing up and congratulations on a successful year of homeschooling.

Monica said...

Also, I just adore the poem.

Cyber Momma said...

Monica- I'm so glad you enjoy the things I have to say. When I started blogging, it was really just as a way to keep track of where we have been. But now that I've been doing it for awhile, it's good to know someone else is getting something out of it.

...and I agree, the poem IS adorable! :-)

Cyber Momma said...

Neo-- thanks for stopping by! I have a feeling the 'pile' situation is something I had better get used to. Especially since today there is a $3 a bag book sale going on at our library! :-)