Monday, May 23, 2011

Our first full year - a year full of teachable moments

Our year is winding down.  We do not have a set ending date, we will finish when we finish what we have to finish!  But I feel it.  I feel the completion of our first year of homeschooling both girls. 
Over the course of the last 12 months, I have evolved and my blog has evolved.  When I first began, my posts reflected my distress with school and the most notable differences between school and learning at home.  I would stay up late, very late for me, sometimes until midnight writing.  It was my therapy, my release, my reassurance that everything was going to be alright.  I enjoy taking time to go back and reread some of the early days.  Back when I was trying to figure everything out.

one of Lilah's first days....
As a homeschooling family, we have evolved.  I have tried school at home (in January 2010). I was very classically oriented.  Adding another child disrupted this, as we needed to provide an extended amount of time for her to deschool (September 2010-December 2010).  When we finally came out of this phase, I learned that school-at-home was not going to work for us anymore.  We simply could not plan all our activities after 1:00, when we typically finished.  I needed to allow time for the wonderful learning that takes place outside of our house.  We needed to explore the fields and woods at the Audubon.  We needed to run food drives and cookie booth for our Girl Scout Troop.  We needed to find what we liked, how we wanted to learn, and what we wanted to learn about.  Come January, when we found our groove, and both girls were on board with this new lifestyle, we found a style that worked for us.

she discovered who she is and who she is becomming
Slightly Charlotte Mason (Nature Studies, journaling, living books, narration and some copywork), slightly Classical (History from the beginning of time, structured math) with a splash of unschooling (child led independent studies, no reading list, writers workshop, with a large dose of learn through play).  The result was eclectic magic, just pure magic.
 Girl Scout Capital Day 2010
I began back in 2010 with a lesson plan book, a calendar and many rules.  You had to start at 9am...because that is when your sister starts school.  They learn this in you must too.  They spend 45 minutes doing must write for 45 minutes!  Over and over Greg would gently remind me to relax..."this is not school", he would tell me. We took Lilah out of school so she would not be in school!  
Neither Greg nor I had any experience with homeschooling.  Our lives were ultra-traditional.  We attended school, for the most part did not hate school, and both did well in school.  But I swear, Greg was a homeschooler in his previous life.  He just gets it.  It took me some time, months in fact to deschool myself.  He acclimated immediately.  Perhaps this is because he could view it from a safe distance.  He could see the benefits but was not in the trenches day after day trying to make it work.  Whatever the reason, I am so grateful to have him in my life, my constant supporter, defender and provider.

our first not-back-to-school night
I was a teacher in my previous life.  Not for very long since I left to raise Grace.  I knew that although I loved my job, Greg was working long hours and traveling.  There was no way I could have both parents absent in my child’s life.  I always planned to return at some point...I just never expected (or maybe I did) that it would involve educating my own girls, thus having to let go of just about everything that made me a teacher in the first place!
People think that homeschooling is “okay for us” or “easy” because I was a teacher.  Ha!  Double Ha!  This is such a misconception.  I used to make lesson plans and have my whole week planned out down to which pages in grammar we would cover and which pages in history we would read.  This works and is necessary when you have 180 days to cover 7 subjects and teach them to 25 children.  You must set a pace and adhere rigidly to it.  
we loved the Audubon - Fall 20
Not so with home learning.  Some days Lilah would want to do four grammar lessons at one sitting!  Agh...this threw my schedule completely out of sorts.  Or what if she wanted to dive right into the mapping work after reading history and that was not planned until Friday?  Or worst yet, what if a new friend called and invited us to play in her creek because the tadpoles just hatched and it is teeming with the life that spring brings?  Do I say no because math is not complete?  

we became bloggers and friends!
I would find myself redoing lesson plans, becoming frustrated with myself and increasingly worried that we were not on a path, headed towards a very defined target.  I needed to reassess.  I abandoned the lesson plans.  I stopped recording every little thing that Lilah did or did not do.  I quickly came to realize what she knew, what her talents were, what areas needed more care and what her passions and interests were.  Once I found out this about Grace, learning just exploded.

we visited UCONN and other universities
I blog to record our accomplishments, and to share my experiences with other homeschooling friends, and our family.  I don’t share every post since I use my ipages site as my journal and not everything is meant to be shared.  Not every day is wonderful, but thankfully most are.  Not every day is easy.  I have not abandoned all my school-like worries.  I panic at times that math is not happening enough or that a story is still not complete.  But then I am shown, usually quite clearly, like a smack upside the head, that I need to stop worrying for they are learning.

we reached new heights but literally and metaphorically
Like when Lilah corrects me telling me that the helicopters covering my car are not pollination, they are seed dispersal.  Or when Grace can answer every single question asked at a meteorology class she took at a local university.  Or when Lilah tells me she is reading her picture Bible on her own and gives me a retelling of each Bible story she has read so far.  Or when Grace sets up her own blog in less than 15 minutes, and is able to download pictures and video to it independently.  Or when Lilah tells me that she is the only child in her pottery class that is able to center the clay on the wheel (granted she has taken pottery classes prior to this one). Or when Grace looks at me earnestly and is so inspired by her friend after attending book club that she wants to stay up all night and read.  
our first field trip -- NYC

I could go on an on about all the ways it is working for our family.  It makes those hard days, the days where all I can see is the 6 baskets of unfolded laundry and the dog food bin is empty and the floor is sticky and the girls are arguing and we have an appointment that we should have left 10 minutes ago makes all those days worthwhile.  
It has been a pleasure to share the ups and downs of our first year of homeschooling ~ a year full of teachable moments!


musicalmary said...

Congrats, mom! I think you have been living in my head for the past year. This was such a great post - such a testimony to homeschooling and the depth of love you have for your girls.

I am so glad I read this today!

Theresa said...

So great! Great post! I need to work more on the interest led and looking at the girls' strengths and weaknesses. I am ready to completely give up on the lesson plans. I am so glad that we have been in this together!!

Can you share how you do it? Do you do school work every day? Do you plan for it? Do you just do it in down time? Do you say after breakfast, let's do this or you have to do that? I am trying to figure out how to keep the pace we've had these last few weeks, where we were learning, but add Botany to it.

mamak said...

You are awesome. I love this. I love how this year has changed you in so many ways.

Elemental Handcrafts said...

You are an inspiration!!

Aunt Donna said...

There are GREAT Games (Math) on GREAT


Jessica said...

Thank you for your comments! I will do a follow up post as to how I keep the work balanced with the experiential learning.

Aunt - we are going to check out that site tomorrow!

Helena said...

I loved this, Jessica. I think it's so important to find a rhythm that's your very own, find a fit for everyone, customise it so it's Just Right. (Well, as best you can—I mean, life's not perfect, but you can get pretty close! :) )

I have so enjoyed reading about the changes you've made, the things you've learned. It is inspiring, it truly is. I am so pleased to have come along on your journey. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Jamie said...

I have been that way as well.I was a substitute teacher when my son was in PS and therefore I thought we had to school just like that.Boy was I wrong,that didn't work for us especially with one child only.

Debbie said...

Visiting from HHH! Great post about your first year!

Annette said...

I really enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for sharing your first year moments.

By Word of Mouth Musings said...

I think that you can safely say you have found your groove!
Great post, and well done Mom!

By Word of Mouth Musings said...

and found you through the Homeschool Hop :)

Karen said...

Great post Jess. I have been so honored to have gotten to come along with you since the beginning of this year. It is so strange how we all came, me, Theresa, Helena and Karisma. It just makes me smile.

Can't wait to keep reading and being inspired by YOU.

gail said...

congrats on finishing your first year! i was a teacher briefly before kids and we just finished our 8th yr homeschooling. visiting from the HHH.

Lori said...

Great post!! I love the way explain the transition from "school at home" to "homeschool". It has been close to twenty years since we began this journey and I still remember our first year so clearly! What a great start for you and your girls.

Thanks for comment last week on my daughter's graduation. I tried to comment back, but was not able to comment for a few days.

Stephanie said...

Thanks so much for this. I have struggled in homeschooling. Ironically, I was homeschooled. My husband came from the kind of ultra-traditional background you described. So far it's been difficult to find what works for us and I've grown discouraged. I was surfing homeschool sites just hoping to feel inspired for next year, but reading site after site I just felt blah...Then I read this and I feel some stirrings of excitement! I really appreciate your honesty. I'm adding you to my google reader and I can't wait for more!

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