Thursday, May 7, 2009

Winding Down the School Year

We have hit the point in the spring where the kids are just about done with all their texts. Not everything, but mostly everything. They keep asking how many more weeks of school we have left--I keep telling them we're playing it by ear. We are taking the week before Memorial Day off. Matt is staying out of the office and we are having a week of family bonding. We are planning several day trips--Fire Island Lighthouse, Children's Museum of the East End, a botanic garden (our National Aviary membership lets us in to the Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, NY--in the Bronx--and Old Westbury Botanical Gardens, so we have a plethora of options!), possibly the Staten Island Zoo. We plan to sleep in, eat out often, watch movies and play games. AND, to add to the fun--we'll see how fun it actually is--we plan to finally build the treehouse in the old maple for the kids. This is the part that could easily ruin the whole week, but I am trying to keep it positive!

Because I have virtually run out of materials, we are doing fun, creative projects. We are doing a lot of art, including making homemade stickers and painting pictures. We are doing science projects and Ben has been helping me cook all different meals and snacks. We are watching all the DVDs of "Planet Earth," which we have never watched all the way through. We have been getting science and math CD rom games from the library for review concepts, and the kids are reading good children's literature. Not that their taste in books is so bad, but somehow if I choose the book and tell them to read it, I can think of it as schoolwork! Julia has been enjoying "The Borrowers" series, Ben has been reading all kinds of nonfiction about animals, plants, dinosaurs and mummies, and Rachel--well, she has been reading classic after classic with her language arts curriculum. This week was Willa Cather's "My Antonia" and Clarence Day's "Life With Father." We are still working on history notebooking, but after our last (boring!) unit on world explorers--why are world explorers so dull, anyway? They did exciting things, but somehow the books are just never interesting!--I threw them a bone and chose pirates for this unit. Ben especially is loving that. Weapons, treasure, mayhem--what could be better to a boy? We are writing poetry and I took out a few issues of the teacher's magazine, "Mailbox," at the various age levels, which has given us some fun mini lessons. And Ben has been writing letters back and forth with his grandma and his cousin/godmother, Phoebe.

This is what makes homeschooling wonderful. Sure, I could give them tests on what they learned this year. I could make up review worksheets. I could even buy more materials and make them do more busywork, or buy next year's materials and get a head start. What we have been doing and will continue to do till I let us out for the summer is much closer to unschooling--though I am aware that as I am the one choosing what we do, and since there are still concrete, "schoolish" activities for them to get done each day, we are NOT actually unschooling--than what I usually do. And we are all enjoying it. If I were truly courageous, I might try to make all of next year like this. Unfortunately, since we live in New York and are bound by quarterly reports and rules, I probably won't do this, although I know that my kids are at the very least on par with their peers, and far above in most subjects. Besides, it takes a certain amount of energy to plan this sort of schoolwork--and next year a certain Emma I know will be starting Kindergarten! Which means our homeschool will finally be maxed out at four students, and I am going to have to learn to juggle the responsibility of teaching (well, officially teaching--Emma has done schoolwork this year with more enthusiasm than pretty much any schoolchild!) all of my kids rather than some of them. So I probably will fall back to the tried and true types of curricula. But at least I know that when the weather starts to warm up and we can practically taste summer vacation, I can switch things up a bit to give a push to the end of the year and make school fun for my family.

--Jen

2 comments:

Anonymous Blogger said...

Have fun on your week off!
"My Antonia" is one of my favorite books. I just unpacked it a few days ago when I was setting up the basement and bookcases.

This summer I am making an effort to start reading again! I haven't made it through a book in a long time, except the children's books. I went from reading a book a day to reading a book a year!! Sad.

Good Luck on the tree house!

Moondancer said...

Sounds like you are having fun. Good stuff!