Examining our school year

It's Tuesday of our last week of the school year.

Ella's 4th grade year... almost over.
Isaac's 2nd grade year... almost over.
Isaias's 1st grade year... almost over.

:: in the tulip fields ::


This makes me reflective of this past year and I'm asking myself these questions:  What worked well for us?  What didn't work?  What was lacking?  What are the things we need to change or enhance; add or take away?  What were our favorite times, all together?  Why?  What parts of our schooling did the kids like or respond to?  How can we add to those things or do other things similarly?

My journal right now has a list going down the left-hand side of the page- of the elements of our days (listing each subject but also elements like chores and our routine), then three columns following, for general thoughts, pros and cons.  I'm trying to evaluate each thing while it's still fresh (versus two months from now when things might be foggy) and have that perspective with me when I go into planning for our NEXT year.

I've also asked the kids for their input: What were their favorite things?  What did they like?  What didn't they like or what didn't work well?

* * *

For any other homeschoolers reading:  How do you evaluate your school year?  What's one thing that stands out to you as working really well for you this year?  Or something that just... didn't?

I'll answer, too:

One thing that worked: (There are many!  I think every year we figure out more what does work and filter out what doesn't, so that each year feels better in that regard than the one before it.)  But: one thing new-to-us this year that really worked was to have a break-out one-on-one time with one of my kids each day (so... this year Isaias and I had about 20-30 minutes on Mondays, Ella and I had about 20-30 minutes Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Isaac and I had about 20-30 minutes on Wednesdays and Fridays (while the other four had buddy time.)  This was one of Mark's suggestions during our planning last summer when he examined my proposed flow of our days and all that I wanted to accomplish, and it was brilliant!
Other things that are firmly planted in the "worked for us" category: dictation with Ella, copywork, new-to-us history, Bible, picture study, Nature Study w/ daddy, video for the little girls while the older kids do table work

One thing that did not work: Memory work.  Each year prior to this one I have planned out our memory work. For whatever reason, this year I focused more on our overall plan for the year and neglected to hash out the finer points of what we would actually be MEMORIZING during that point in our day.  Which is not to say that we didn't memorize-- we did.  But I felt like any memorizing we did do was more randomly selected by me at the moment when I saw it on our schedule for the day and when we were behind, that was the thing I would skip.  That is not the thing I want to skip, so: lesson learned.
Other things in the "did not work for us" category:  the kids doing an English lesson with Mark on his days off (we think this happened twice all year.  And he generally has one day off per week!), narrations (for the second half of the year), me not taking the time to work with Ella prior to her Math lesson (I'm learning that she needs lots of one-on-one time and lots of patience and affirmation from me to avoid tears during this time.)

One last thing I've learned: what works for our family is likely different from what will work for your family!  Each family is different.  We all have our different strengths.  Also, what works for us one year may fall apart the next year.  There are different seasons in the life of our family and flexibility is key.  For instance, these past few years I've moved towards shorter readings and fewer transitions during our day due to the little girls-- it just makes things more manageable.  But during another year when the girls are older, we might be able to tackle those things again.  :)  That's why it's so important to pray over the planning of our school year-- because God already knows what we can and should handle.  He is faithful to gently lead us to the places where we'll flourish.

{from my journal today}

rain.  praying for Camee and the boys. for Mark's mom, in the hospital today.  Audra is sick (ear ache, sniffly, lethargic, clingy and whiny).  the kitchen is a mess.  dirty dishes sitting there still from saturday morning.  school for today: finished.  Mark is working today, on what was supposed to be his day off.  he has a full 6-day work week instead.

but: my heart is thankful.

2146 | Mark, encouraging me not to fret after I told him of my anxiousness over today, and this week ahead (not even knowing at that point that Audra was sick!)

2147 | praying this morning in bed together: for his day, for mine; that we would each be strengthened for it.

2148 | heading into this day feeling "behind" on rest-- coming off of a busier-than-usual Sabbath, and seeing how God has provided rest for me with Audra sick, wanting to be in my arms.

2149 | the grace to let her; to sit and rest with her, to leave the kitchen messy, dirty dishes piling up, to stay put and hold her and take care of her.

2153 | remembering this, today, from Psalm 118:24
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(This is the day He has made/given/ordained for me today.  May I be glad in it.)

2157 | Mark, home for lunch, taking the time to wash some dishes

2158 | Mark, telling me not to worry about the messy kitchen, or dinner, that he would take care of them when he gets home.  And telling me that I am a good mother.

2163 | Audra, sleeping soundly.

Life lately, in photos

our new ducklings
water play in the yard with cousin Cliff
Garden: planted!
Letter Carrier Food Drive, 2012 {daddy with lots of helpers}
My favorite kind of breakfast. 
{this morning: an egg, sweet potato, bacon, red bell pepper,
onions, sun dried tomatoes, and guacamole}

May 7th {Happy Monday to you!}

Good morning!

{That is, it's morning in my neck of the woods....}

It's a beautiful morning-- clear, blue sky and sunshine.  We're going to do school outside today- I'm going to toss a blanket on the lawn and pile school books onto our patio table.  We're going to soak up the sunshine while it's here!  I love this time of year! 

All the kids are up except for Audra, who is still soundly sleeping.  We're waiting on breakfast for her, but the other kids have already had hot cocoa with me at the table and are now playing happily.  Well, two of them are playing happily.  The other two are arguing over toys and they keep getting them taken away.  ;)

I know things have been very quiet here on the blog.  I don't even know if people are still checking in.  It has been good, though.  I deleted my Facebook account in October and since January have been spending less time online.  And loving it.  There has been good fruit in my life from these decisions and that leaves me unsure of what to do with this little space.

That said, I was thinking of this space this morning {and especially those of you who have read here in  the past} so I thought I'd check in and say hello! 

I hope you have a wonderful day today!

Much love to you and yours,

~Stacy (who is hungry and going to start up breakfast... Hopefully Audra will join us soon!)