Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The end of another homeschool year

The hardest thing about homeschooling is the month of June! (Well, maybe not THE hardest, but really, one of the hardest....) We homeschool during the regular school year; i.e., September through June. We take some of the holidays that schooled kids have, usually the ones Matt doesn't have to go to work for. Then there are some days that we have no lessons or half days--days that we have a field trip or a club activity that will take a lot of time. I figure the kids are learning at least as much as kids sitting in school are on those days, and since we don't take the silly holidays off, we get the right number of school days.

Anyway, in September all is fresh and new. New notebooks beg to be written in, freshly sharpened pencils want to write in them, and the routine is new and exciting. The kids bounce to the table, ready to start learning. Then there's all the holiday excitement, where we incorporate fun activities such as decorating, shopping, cooking, gift wrapping, holiday specials, movies and parties into the lesson plan. We take our annual trip the week after Thanksgiving to Boston, where my husband has a business trip each year. We have our own traditions, such as burning a fire on the winter solstice where we gather a bunch of sticks and tie them with a ribbon, break it in half and throw half on the fire and leave the other half (and the ribbon) on the mantel for a few months. As we watch it burn, we make wishes for the new year and hope they'll come true.

The long, cold winter days are great for homeschooling. There's no bus to catch, no awful weather to be out in if we don't choose to, and we can stay in pjs till noon, reading and doing lessons. The little ones play and have their TV time so that we have quiet in which to work. The drowsy days are great for learning.

Then spring starts to show, and everyone begins to get antsy. The routine is just a routine. The girls look forward to what they'll be doing next year, hoping that it will somehow be "more exciting" than what they're learning now. We plant the garden, watch the birds return, ride bikes and go back to the playgrounds, and the last thing anyone wants is to sit at the table and do work. I find myself reminding the girls in mantra-like fashion that if they went to school they'd be sitting for 6 hours or so with just little breaks, not for just 2 hours or so. They couldn't drink lemonade or do work on the patio, or take a break to play with the dog--all of the things they take for granted while learning.

The garden grows taller, the flowers burst into bloom, and all of a sudden we get a day warm enough for the beach. That's it! We either hurry through school work in the morning or shelve it till tomorrow, and head to the ocean. I, of course, want nothing more to do with the water at 65-70 degrees than to dip my feet in it. Then I rush back to my chair and burrow my feet into the warm sand, while the kids gleefully frolic in the freezing water like tiny lunatics. They are freezing but won't admit it. I have to watch each one do their age-appropriate tricks in the water, sometimes over and over. I bring a book or magazine but never read more than 4 sentences uninterrupted. We have snacks, drinks, and I have my travel mug of coffee. It's almost always one of the best days of the year, that first trip to the beach....

Now my lesson plans fall off, and rather than spending hours at Border's, meticulously going through materials and planning a calendar for each child, complete with marking my calendar with lists of materials and supplies I might have to find/buy to complete a lesson, I make lesson plans a week ahead, sitting at the table while Julia works on Language Arts or math. When Julia finished her Language Arts text on May 20, I didn't bother planning any more except for having her read 30 minutes a day (though she would do that anyway--but for this I assign the books). I figure she has gone through 2 separate Language Arts programs, and this is only 2nd grade....

Julia's schedule now is: a lot of math, so that she will finish up her math program by June 15. French three times a week--we use the BBC website, which has a cute free program with songs, cartoonish characters, games and printable activities that teach the basics--vocabulary words, numbers, how are you, my name is, etc. The aforementioned reading each day, and once a week a book report on one of the books she read. Right now she's into books by Dick King Smith--he wrote the book "Babe, The Gallant Pig," but also many other really good stories. Then I took out "What Your 2nd Grader Needs to Know" book, and each day we're going through the Social Studies section. That is the only area that we were sketchy on this year, because I didn't buy a book for Social Studies but instead used regular books as springboards. I enjoy doing that, but it can leave gaps....

Rachel has more to do, being in sixth grade. She still has a lot of history left to do, as those Story of the World books tend to go for 40-42 weeks. She still has math and because her Language Arts program was writing a novel, she works on that pretty much every day. She also does French several times a week. Both girls are finished with their science programs, and Rachel also finished Health and a book we used called Web Hunts, which covered many subjects and involved doing research/projects online.

My point being, many subjects are over, and for the rest, it's easy to be lackadaisical when the weather is so beautiful and the kids are having fun getting outside and running around. (I think that I have unusual kids in that they don't go out regardless of the weather. Some kids--I was one of them--wanted to be outside every day, whether it was raining, cold, windy, snowing, whatever. Just for a change, just to run around. My kids are like cats. They see a lousy day and would rather just play inside. It's fine, but after a whole winter, it gets kind of wearing....)

As for me, I can understand, because I too am tired of the books we're using and can't wait to pick new ones and plan another year. It's exciting to be in charge of what my kids learn about and to hunt down the materials I think will teach them the most and be the most fun. I get into the back-to-school spirit as much as my daughters do, and next year---GASP----Ben will begin kindergarten. So now I have 3 kids to plan for and to keep interested all year. Even in June......


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