It’s official. We wrapped up our homeschool year on May 11, and then spent a couple weeks putting together our portfolio. All that’s left is to meet with our evaluator and we’ll be able to say we have successfully finished our first year of homeschool. Whew.
It’s been a great year. A really great year. But it doesn’t take much to get me feeling a little insecure about how I did as a homeschool mom. I know I could have done more, been more, engaged more, learned more, taught more. The truth is…there’s always more.
But instead of focusing on my insecurities and shortcomings, I decided to take a few minutes to think about some of the things we did right this year. There are so many positives that have come out of our first year of homeschooling, and I think it’s a good idea to look at some of those.
1. Picking and choosing our curriculum. One year ago, when I was knee-deep (or neck-deep!) in trying to decide how in the world I was going to do this homeschool thing, I was drawn to the many options for buying a “complete curriculum.” Just buy the 3rd Grade Box and you’re set for the year! But something in me couldn’t do it. There were SO many options out there and I simply couldn’t pass them by. Plus, I knew that L. was ready for one level with some subjects, but another level in other subjects. So with some amount of fear and trepidation, I decided to pick and choose our curriculum — a math program from one company, a grammar set from another, etc. Yes, it took lots of research to narrow down what to use. But in the end, I was able to put together a year’s worth of work that was better suited to L.’s strengths and interests. I could line up where he was with what I was teaching, even if that varied across different subjects. Choosing a “boxed curriculum” works for many families, and I absolutely wouldn’t hesitate to use one if that would be the best fit for us, but if I had picked one this year, it would have been out of fear. I’m glad I didn’t let fear hold me back from cobbling together something that was a good fit for L. at this time.
2. Finishing by noon. I have to admit, some days I felt guilty that we were wrapping up school before lunch time. After all, if I had more time, shouldn’t I be teaching more stuff? But the more I looked at it, the more I realized that we were fitting in more than he would have learned in school in far less time. Homeschool is just that much more efficient. And then L. had hours to play, read, explore, and experiment every single afternoon. Honestly, it was like a breath of fresh air. I know that as we get into higher grades, homeschool will take more time. But it was so good for both of us to finish by noon almost every day this year.
3. The birds. I know, I know, you’ve heard enough about the birds. Well, I’m sorry. But what was supposed to be just a little dabbling into a study of birds ended up being a very awesome thing. All of us have learned SO much, and we were able to go into much greater depth in this topic than any standard elementary text is able to. It was in this area that I really saw the value in going deep when you have the time and ability. All those bird feeders hanging around our deck? Totally worth it.
4. Incorporating things L. loved. Even if your child is not involved in a ton of extracurriculars, you know how crazy a school year can be. They’re gone for 8 hours or more, then there’s homework, and before you know it, it’s time for dinner, often some kind of out-of-the-house activity, and then bed. There can be little time to really explore new things. One thing I knew I wanted to do this year was to give L. a chance to explore something he was very interested in — and for him, it was dipping his toes in the world of computer programming. It started with a Minecraft modding class from Youth Digital, and continued with beta-testing a class for Youth Digital, learning to program in Scratch, and even using Lego Education WeDo to start learning about programming and robotics. It wouldn’t have been impossible for him to do these things while attending a traditional school, but homeschool gave us more time and flexibility to fit these things in, and L. loved them.
5. Homeschooling where life happens. Last summer, we set up our den to function as a homeschool room. And it’s been great. We have shelves of curriculum, a desk for tests and independent work, and places to file our projects as we go. But for much of the year, I admit that we did the majority of our homeschooling in the living room and dining room. Snuggling under a blanket for reading class? Yes, please. Going over geography side-by-side on the sofa? I’ll take it. Reviewing prepositional phrases in a swivel chair? That works too! Yes, there were times when being too casual was distracting, so back to the desk we went, but overall, doing school where we’re comfortable was a great idea. It made school feel like just a part of everyday life. Homeschool doesn’t have to look like “school at home,” it can look like “learning together, side by side.”
As I plan for next year, I’m sure there will be some changes in the way we homeschool. But it’s good to look back and see what worked for us as we move forward in the next part of this adventure.