Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Collage: An assessment of our week

Every fall most homeschooling families post their curriculum choices and planned activities for the upcoming year.  Like classroom teachers, we parents put hours and hours of effort into choosing the books we think are best, the programs that will not only match our children’s learning style but inspire them to produce great work.  We carefully construct a schedule.  We collaborate with other parents.  We step back and heave a huge sigh of relief.  On paper it looks great, but what is put on paper is hardly ever reality, at least for me.  

We are three weeks into our fall term.  I have shared some of our plans and activities.  I have purchased new curriculum and developed a new schedule for us.  Some things are working better than I had anticipated.  Other things are shifting and settling in a way that is neither good nor bad, it just is.

What is Working:
Our schedule.  Every morning the girls and I have a morning breakfast meeting.  We dine at the table and I have our notebook laid out with my expectations for the day as well as any outside activities we are attending.  Sometimes they make counter suggestions.  For example, Grace needed to write a piece of creative fiction for her DI meeting Friday.  Rather than assign her work in our writing program, she asked if that could count for writing.  Lilah wanted to do extra math lessons!  Of course I said yes to both. 

Over the years I have tried making checklists which were hole punched and kept in binders, I have kept a teacher’s plan book, I have tried using a white board to list assignments, I have sent the girls emails and I have tried 100% interest led, with no assignments. Nothing was quite right for us.  Finally I stumbled upon the easiest solution for us....a simple notebook with each page folded in half listing the assignments for each girl and our outside activities at the bottom.  At the end of the day I have a record of what we accomplished and they can pick and choose which assignments they want to work on.  Since we have no television during the week, often Lilah is working on writing at 9:00 at night while Grace is sleeping and Grace is up at 7:00am cranking out her math work while Lilah is sleeping.  Any work they do not get to as a result of their own procrastination, must be done before they can watch tv or play video games on the weekend.  

Our core curriculum.  The girls have each finished the first book of their math programs (Lilah: Life Of Fred and Grace: Key to Geometry).  There is not one change that I would make.  I love Moving Beyond the Page and we have picked up and dusted off our Apologia Flying Creature book which the girls are reading on their own, creating a science notebook, and supplying me with fact after new fact about birds.  
Our work.  I am asking much more of the girls this year.  I have raised my expectations as well as the work load.  They have responded by producing work that is not only respectable, but admirable.  Grace’s writing is improving as are Lilah’s math skills.  Both girls have spent hours creating stunning works of art in their art journals.  Lilah is working on a new story in her writing class, Writeopia, which is wonderfully creative and should be finished soon -- right Lilah?  
What has proven to be a challenge:
Shifts in our activities.  I had carefully built a schedule of activities through collaborative partnerships with other parents.  One thing I did not take into consideration was the developmental shift my children have gone through this summer, especially Grace.  We love love love Snap Circuits class but the attention span of a 12 year old vs an 8 year old is very different.  The level of questioning is very different.   The concepts they relate to in their learning are very different.  Snap Circuits has been a wonderful introduction to electric circuity but Grace wants more.  Much more.  She wants higher level circuity and introduction to programming, not because WestConn told her she would need it to apply to their Meteorology Program, but because she find it interesting and challenging.  I am going to have to provide these opportunities to her.
Our involvement with Destination Imagination has also changed from last year.  Lilah made the decision to leave the program for a year and she has already replaced that activity with a new one, Writeopia, a writing workshop which she attends with a new friend who loves to write as much, maybe even more that she does!    However, this also means that we have to work extra hard to keep in touch and make time for the friends that we saw primarily through DI.

Making time with friends.  One of the benefits of homeschooling is that it allows deep, meaningful relationships to develop with friends.  You can have mid week sleepovers, travel to activities together, spend hours working on a project.  The challenge is that your schedules need to coincide in order for that free time to be available.  Unlike school where best friends can see each other at lunch or in homeroom even if they are not in the same classes, with homeschooling families travel time is often involved as best friends may live several towns apart from each other.  This year Grace and Claire will share two activities, DI and HHP which will ensure they have time together twice a week.   With Lilah leaving DI and Evren leaving piano, time for Lilah with her best friend is now very limited.  Thankfully our families are so close that Kim and I can just plan a spontaneous dinner, like we did this week and the girls can play and talk.  I have also realized they have been texting each other into the wee hours of the night.  I guess it is a good thing they both can sleep in!

Homegrown Learners

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