30 March 2017

A (long overdue) Homeschooling Update

Coming off of the girls' birthday last week, I just had to laugh when I saw this.
Hey, this isn't entirely true. We did an hour of "school" on their birthday.... but we also could have shined it, too. 😁 #perks

I've been wanting to do a homeschool update for a long time now...Come on, it's practically APRIL! These days, I don't have long periods of time where I can sit and just write but I love looking back on our schooling journey to see what we were doing, how we were doing it, and just laugh at myself sometimes. 😜 #sheesh

First of all, I am just so grateful to God for the opportunity to be able to school the girls at home this year. In case you're new here, last year, the girls went to school, mostly out of necessity. It was the only year they went to a brick and mortar private school and it was a year we will never forget. We followed God's lead (reluctantly, at first) but it ended up being a great year of growth for us all. The girls really enjoyed going to school. They had some amazing teachers, breakthroughs, and accomplishments. We wouldn't trade that year for anything.

That being said, there are a few things that drove me batty about school, in general. First, can we just talk about the amount of homework kids have? Goodness gracious. We were busy every night until bedtime. And next, the dreaded T-word...Tests! Every Friday was test day and the mindless mounds of homework was geared for test taking, not actual understanding or comprehension. Coming from a homeschooling background, I teach for understanding, compassion, relatability, and eventually, that should lead to retention. This can all happen through a simple conversation. At home, we have weekly spelling tests and short quizzes but in my opinion, testing a child each week is not an indication of actual learning. I realize there isn't enough time in a traditional school setting so they use testing as a means of understanding.  

Lastly, speaking of time, I missed my girls. I missed uncovering their discovery. Most of all, I missed the heartfelt discussions about anything and everything. We all know that time is a commodity. Between the driving, the homework, and preparing for tests, our quality family time was seriously lacking. No wonder why people look so forward to weekends!

All this to say, I have a newfound appreciation for parents who do the daily grind and the teachers who give their very best. We had some good ones at JCA! One day, God may ask us to send our kids to school again. He has definitely humbled me to that idea and I'm so glad He did. But for right now, I'm just so very grateful.

OK, on to the update!

Our Schedule:
Throughout the years, we've just naturally adopted a year-round type of schooling. This seems to work well with our philosophy on education. It allows us to take longer breaks when we want to and still move along quickly. Besides, taking more than a month off just feels impractical and counter productive. Who wants to spend months reviewing when you can get through a review within a week? The girls started most of their 5th grade work last summer. During the summer, we school 3 days a week for a few hours each day. This still allows for plenty of time for rest and fun, while keeping the mind engaged. They typically start their day around 8am. At this age, they are mostly self-sufficient. They know what needs to be done and they manage at their own pace. I make their lesson plans, review their work as they complete it, help them with any questions, and try to supplement their learning with other experiences. During the regular "school year", we like to finish up at a decent hour but some days, the girls can in fact, be doing schoolwork until 4 or 5 but examples of this might include: putting the final touches on an oral presentation, making a drawing for their report, completing a puzzle of the United States, reading a biography, or writing a letter with possible solutions for an imaginary problem.

Our Pace:
Because of our year-round type of schedule, we tend to get through subjects fast. For example, the girls finished 5th grade math last week and they're taking a week long break from math to focus more on science and history. At this pace, they'll naturally finish grade levels in a shorter period of time but that isn't necessarily my goal. My goal is simply to engage, inspire, equip, disciple, and have time to share other fun and interesting experiences together.

Our Help:
In case you're thinking, "How in the world does she do it all?" Let me assure you that I don't. I have no shame in telling you that I get help and I am so grateful for it! A while ago, I realized, there isn't going to be a prize at the end for those of us who can stand up there on graduation day and say, "I did it all by myself."
My motto is: Need the help? Take the help. 😁 God brings people into our lives for a reason.  

Two days a week, the girls go over to Lyndi's house. She has them for 3 hours each day. Lyndi is not only my friend, she is my sister in Christ, and my lovely neighbor. She's also a gifted teacher. She helps me specifically with math, grammar, and writing-- all very important but time consuming subjects for me. Honestly, I don't know if I'd be able to homeschool without her. We love her and her family dearly. She has such a sweet relationship with the girls, too. While the girls are at her house, I have time to engage with Zach, read, do puzzles, preschool stuff, go run errands, or grocery shop. Such a huge blessing! Bonus: it only takes the girls one minute to walk to her house. #Godsend #loveher

Community Bible Study:
CBS is pretty much a no-brainer on our weekly schedule. This is my 7th year attending and Lord willing, we will be back next year, too. This is our one-stop-shop for me and the kids where we get our fellowship and most importantly, we study the Word of God, together (but separately). The girls love their Junior Class, Zach happily attends his preschool class, and I have my core group of multi-generational women. It keeps us all accountable to study God's word each day and we look forward to our Thursday mornings each week. CBS runs from September through mid-May. We miss it in the summer but it gives us time to do other things and we all get excited to start again come fall.

This was our first year attending our local co-op and it was great. Co-op also runs from September through May on Mondays. There are 3 sessions (fall, winter, and spring). Each session is 8 weeks long. We have breaks in between so this wasn't a huge commitment but it does require us being away from home for an extra half day on most weeks. The girls have really enjoyed the enrichment type of classes, like PE, Karate, and Art. This spring session, they're taking an Answers in Genesis class on Astronomy as well as a World Cultures Class called Games around the World. Zach also benefits from his preschool classes. He likes playing, painting, music, gluing, and creating crafts. I've enjoyed helping teach in the kids' classes and watching them explore new things that we wouldn't necessarily do at home. I'll be praying over the summer to see if the Lord would have us go back in the fall but at this point, I'm thinking yes. It's a large co-op with some great people, opportunities, and resources. I would say 90% of the families there are Christian. This has also been a wonderful place for us to share the Light of Jesus and be a witness to all. #winwin

Summer Goals:
At the moment, I'm putting together a list of our goals and priorities for this summer. The girls have already started on some new curriculum and I'm compiling a list of must read books and audios. Summer slows down for us in that we don't have many commitments or places to be each week. Inevitably, we get some of our richest reading done during these months. Love it! The girls will continue going to Lyndi twice a week and I'll have certain projects for them to work on at home- all fun and relaxed, of course. I'm also starting to think about some goals for Zach as he officially enters preschool come fall. Lord willing, our summer will be filled with lots of reading, swimming, visiting with friends, family, and exploring new places and things.

So, that's it for now. For us, our homeschool is a mix of what we would consider the essential "have-to's" with a whole lot of "get-to's." We love the freedom it gives our family and the opportunity we have to grow closer to each other and to the Lord. Believe me, I don't claim to have it all together. Like everyone else, we have our good days and bad days. What I've learned over the years is that there's no magic formula, method, or curriculum. Through prayer, discernment, and a whole lot of grace, we do the best we can for our family. We leave the rest to God and I thank Him for this very day and the opportunity to grow, alongside my kids. When all is said and done, I know my kids will have seen my worst and my very best days. They know I'm not perfect (far from it!) but they know my heart for them and that I'm trying to be faithful and obedient to the calling I have from God. By His grace alone, each day I get to parent these three human beings that call me mommy.

What an enormous privilege and gift that is. #thankyouJesus May I never take that for granted!


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