Coming Back Around

I’ve lost track of blogging this year. Facebook has been far faster and probably reaches more people that want to hear what I have to say. But the past couple weeks I am asking myself whether blogging again would be good for me. Does putting complete thoughts into a blog help me to think more clearly and make better decisions? There’s only one way to find out.

I mostly write about schooling my kids.  Here’s where I’ve been this year with that. I’ve always made up my own lessons for the kids instead of buying curriculum. This year, with my oldest daughter starting high school, I was afraid I was missing things and bought several dollars worth of Ace Paces for them. It should have been easy. But it wasn’t. By the end of a day I was exhausted and the kids were frustrated because they were fond of doing school together and with me, and the Paces required them to work on their own all morning. After 3 months of  “making progress” we burned out and gave up on the Paces. We went back to library books and natural learning. The kids were happy, and I was filled with angst over how to give them the rigorous education about which I had read so many great things when all they wanted to was play.

Fast forward a few months to January or so. I again decided we needed more structured learning, and created a plan to teach like I would if I were still in the classroom. Each day we had lessons in science, history, math concepts and basic facts, reading, creative and copied writing, grammar, and memorization. They were hands on and mostly fun lessons, but this only worked for 6 weeks. It was, for me, like playing school, and 1 of my 4 kids agreed. Over the next few weeks we slowly fizzled out again.

A few weeks into this phase, I enrolled my oldest on an online curriculum. It was her idea, but after only 2 weeks it was evident that her joy of learning was nowhere to be found. Textbook learning, aka doing school the way her friends do it, turned out not to be the way she learned best. I knew this already, but sometimes a 15 year old has to discover things for herself.  I made her finish the month for which we had paid, but was delight to be done with that experiment. We were not enjoying our homeschooling experience.

Very frustrated with our failures not only in schooling but also in thriving relationships in our home, it was time to get my feet on the ground and reevaluate what was going on.  It was decided that the ultimate academic goal in education for our children was that they could get into college or further training should they choose to do so. In Louisiana, homeschoolers need only a sufficient ACT score, so I had my daughter take the practice test to see what we needed to work on and what she already had naturally learned. I should not have been surprised, but she, as a ninth grader, outscored my score as  an eleventh grader in both English and Reading, scored well in Science, and not so well in Math. She’s only had Algebra 1 so far.

We took a couple weeks off to figure out where to go with each of the kids at this point. By the middle of the second week the kids asked why we had not been doing school. Translate that: “Why aren’t you making us stop what we are doing to sit down and play school with you?”. My answer to that was that I wanted to watch and see what they could learn through play. I’ve always known how much learning comes from play, but I’d lost confidence in it.

In the past 3 weeks, the 15 year old has spent much time playing guitar, violin, writing, practicing make up and hair styles, cutting our hair for us,  learning Elvish, dancing, learning about knees (for the sake of an injury she’s fighting with), and learning how to manage her time and be social again.

My 11 year old son has become obsessed with k’nex robotics and spends most of his days designing  and upgrading them. He’s writing combat rules. This kid does not write anything, so this is big.  He is also slowly working on ,measuring and marking out the path for the train set he and his dad are building around the ceiling of his room.

The 9 year old is enjoying reading to me, practicing her dances for upcoming recital, learning origami, and running the Harry Potter fan club that she started.

The 8 year old has not thrived in any school setting as of yet. She’s just not ready. But she has been reading familiar books to me this week and copying her Bible verses from church so that she can learn them. She is definitely one that works better when she isn’t being pushed to do so.

So that’s where we are. We’ve come full circle over the course of the year back to natural learning, and I’ve been reminded that it really does work.  Now I just need to learn how to keep records of all the things they are doing.

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