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>What Did We Do? 2010-11 Home School Year in Review

June 13, 2011

>Our first year of home school wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. But by the time I finished writing this post, I realized we also accomplished a lot more than I guessed!

Our home school year started exactly as I had hoped. We found that surprising little time was required to keep up with the traditional “3Rs.” So anticipating the girls’ first trip the Black Hills, like prairie dogs we dove head first into stacks of books about the prairie ecosystem. Even 5th grader Faith got into the act with Mercy and Hope of designing prairie dog villages out of play dough and populating the with Littlest Petshop critters for prairie dogs. We loved the unhurried pace of the Black Hills and the Badlands in the post-Labor Day off season. “This,” I thought, “is why families home school.”

October arrived with a new family member, Faith’s baby, Daisy.

And as if a new puppy wasn’t enough, fresh off our practice trip to South Dakota, we fine-tuned our packing list and ventured across the globe with Grandma for an incredible ten days in South Korea.

Grandma and the girls at Gyongbokkung Palace
Hope’s reunion with her foster mother.
Mercy’s reunion with her foster mother
Joy’s reunion with her foster mother and father
The amazing day we spent in Pusan with Amy’s family
When we got home, home schooling accommodated our recovery from jet lag and allowed for amazing moments like this one when the wind picked up and in ten minutes’ time bared every branch in the yard –at 11:00 AM on a school day. We would have missed this, I thought, if they weren’t home for school.
The worst of the jet lag behinds us, I got to work on getting an FASD diagnostic evaluation for Hope and we resumed the books part of school, except on rare days it was so beautiful, we could not stay inside.
On those days, we majored in the biology of composting, learned where worms go when cold weather comes, and picked the late Connell Reds for our last batches of homemade applesauce.
It was easier to focus on lesson plans after cold weather descended and before that first amazing, deep snow. But the hands-down highlight was Joy learning to walk just before Christmas.
Mercy and Hope were also thrilled to learn to ice skate.
We passed a big milestone when Kindergartener Hope (on good days) started blending, read her first little book, and earned her long-awaited Library Card.

Mercy, who had finished a years’ worth of first grade math before Christmas, started second grade Horizons math and third grade Teaching Textbooks math simultaneously –at her request. She’ll finish both this fall in second grade. I LOVE the flexibility to select programs that work for me as the teacher and each child as an individual learner.

Then there’s Faith. Chances are, if you stopped in, you would have found Faith doing this:

On top of the four dozen books I assigned for school (early American history), she read –or, in the case of some series, reread –more than one hundred others. Faith has always loved reading. But she’s never had so much time to indulge in good books. Reading is the thing about home school she says she’ll miss the most when she returns to private school this fall.

My personal highlight of the year also came in February:

Mercy helped me mail the Renville book manuscript off to the University of Nebraska Press.

The month of March was monopolized by Joy’s surgery and body cast.

We were so far ahead on our assignments for the year that we’d didn’t really “do” school (i.e. follow a lesson plan), except in math. We just kept reading books together. And of course the girls couldn’t do without the extras like looking up places on the globe or “doing look-up” –research on the computer –when we encountered something unfamiliar. It taught me just how quickly homeschooling becomes part of every day life.

In April, Joy’s spica cast came off. And six months after I initiated the process, we got our draft report from Hope’s FASD evaluation. It confirmed what we suspected: that with her challenges, for the near future, home school, with one-on-one customized teaching may be the very best learning environment for her. No IEP meetings required.

In April, we also started iLs –Integrated Listening Systems –for Auditory Processing deficits in both Hope and Mercy. Mercy excels at academically and hers would have gone unnoticed if I was not educating her myself and around to put all the pieces together. Because we were already home schooling, fitting in home-based therapy took no unusual scheduling, and allows us to complete the program on the intensive schedule recommended.

We majored in iLs –which makes complete sense because accurate auditory processing is critical to everything from academics to interpersonal relationships. The girls all reached their math goals for the year, which signaled the end of our formal school year. However we could not stop reading books aloud no matter what the calendar said! Mercy, who taught herself to read when she was four, by the end of this school year hit a fluency level that makes it fun to read for pleasure. It is a joy to watch her loose herself in a book and choose to, for the pleasure of it.

Faith is thrilled to be headed back to private school this fall. Joy, too, will be formally beginning preschool in September at our local elementary. Mercy and Hope will stay home for school and are thrilled that our year on the wait list is over and we can join a local home school co-op (one day a week) in the fall.

Considering the stack of “enrichment” material I purchased imaging how much time we would have, but in fact never used, it strikes me that we accomplished a lot this year anyway. I am not so committed to home schooling philosophically that I can project we’ll be doing it though high school. But it is nice to have the first time questions satisfactorily settled: Yes, we can do this. Yes, we can enjoy this. And yes: I expect next fall’s standardized tests will show that by working at each child’s own pace, we actually accomplished more than one academic year of school. However, the intangibles count even more for me. I have loved being able to spend this year learning with my children.

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