Thursday, May 7, 2009

Did we really learn anything this year?

Today is State Testing Day for Kate. I told her this would be her "last day" of the school-year which sounds very exciting to her. Really, it means that we will take off the month of May (she does have to catch up to finish 80% of math though.) I am looking forward to a month of no lesson plans. There is something wickedly delicious about getting out earlier than the other kids in the neighborhood! It's just one of the sneaky ways I like to make homeschooling "way more fun" than regular school. We will still have some chores and reading time in the afternoons but our mornings will be freed up for field trips, or shopping, or spring cleaning, or how about just doing nothing!
I plan to do some history and science through the summer and we'll still keep our Fridays for Art day. So, as this year draws to a close I wonder-- what have we all learned from this year's at-home schooling experience?

1. CONFIDENCE--I no longer am embarrassed to admit what we do. In fact, I'm proud of it. If you ask me about homeschool I just might get way too excited and talk your ear off.
And as for Kate? She is more confident with adults and is comfortable playing with kids of all ages (one of the BIG benefits of homeschooling.) She participated without local homeschool group in a spelling bee and poetry festival and I could see that even though it it was very hard to overcome her nerves, she did it. It was exciting to see her confidence grow through those experiences.

2. LIFE SKILLS--Maybe we didn't memorize all the world capitals but we sure have enjoyed dozens of home-baked cookies. Kate has been whipping up batches of good things, peanut butter, chocolate chip, shortbread cookies.--what a great way to learn the fractions from measuring. I didn't know how to cook until I was married! She knows how to take care of her younger siblings, and whip up and serve a batch of Ramen noodles for lunch. Kate is also a super shopper. She is always on the lookout for the lowest prices. The other day when I asked her which of 2 boxes of cereal we should get she said, "get the cheapest one!"

3. POWER of AGENCY--Each morning on our dry-erase board I wrote the date and the lessons that needed to completed. Kate would choose which one she wanted to do and in what order. ..Something about letting her choose made her so much easier for her to get her work done. Contrast that with our first year "It's time for spelling NOW."

4. PASSION--If you've read a Thomas Jefferson Education you'll know that kids learn through their passions. I asked Kate what her passions were earlier this year. Her answers? mermaids, fairies, magic, rocks, and rock-stars, soccer, and cooking. Okay, I was slightly worried at first but I think in the end we made it work...Kate practiced handwriting by copying down her favorite rock songs off of and memorizing them.
She read everything our library had to offer about mermaids and fairies. She learned perspective in ART by drawing mermaids diving, mermaids sitting brushing their hair, mermaids swimming backwards and upside down. She spent many good days collecting rocks and sorting them. We learned all about igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks along the way. And of course, we covered MATH with the cooking. I guess whatI'm saying is , "There is hope for ANY passion"... and if anyone has a question about fairies we have a world-class expert in our family. She shuns anyone at the dinnertable who eats meat now, "fairies wouldn't like that."

5. LEARNING IS FUN! We read Peter Pan together and used the blank pages on the back of our calendar to design our own Neverlands. We learned the parts of speech by playing Mad Libs. We learned directions by creating treasure hunts with clues. We ran obstacle courses between math problems. We had pretend spelling bees. We dressed up as Romans and argued over who got to wear the royal purple. We acted out the life cylce of a butterfly from egg to adult. We made chocolate lavas and watched National Geographic online videos of erupting volcanoes. We learned about the Middle Ages and designed our own castles. We celebrated any and every little holiday including, "Dr. Seuss Day." Kate's friends had been busy reading because of something at school called, "Beat the Teach." We had our own version. We started last Wednesday and had a race to see who could read more: Me or the girls. Yesterday was the deadline and they beat me by far! They each get to pick out something for their new rooms in the basement. (Kate got a fuzzy rug) We love to read! It took me until age 31 to learn that. Luckily the girls have it now.

6. WHAT'S WORTH KNOWING? Good manners, right from wrong, life skills, true heroes overcome their fears, love of reading, expressing oneself through art, speaking, writing, building, whatever.
Adjectives, pronouns, and past participles? Who cares! Don't sue me. Even if you graduate with a Doctorate in English do you really need to know those??? (We still learned them but I'm not really sure why?)

6. And most importantly, RELATIONSHIPS--except for the issue of piano practicing I would say that Kate and I have a great relationship. I love watching her learn. I am amazed by the things she says, her insights, her creativity. One parent responded when they found out I homeschooled, "I can't imagine being with my kids ALL day." Well, I can't imagine anybody I'd rather be with all day than my kids. They're wonderful. We have a great time and I could honestly say that if they or I were to die tomorrow, we would have spent enough quality time together.

No regrets. (If only I could figure out the whole piano practicing thing) We've had a great year and we're excited for Brynn our 1st grader to be joining us for next year's homeschool adventure!