Friday, June 8, 2012

Reflections on our first homeschooling year

Today was our last "official" day of school for the year. Truthfully, this week was rather light on schoolwork. We'd finished most of the really school-y things in the previous couple of weeks and this week there wasn't much left that needed to be done. We finished the last science lesson (magnets!), played some math games, read each day and did a few other odds and ends.

Today actually felt a little anticlimactic. I'm not sure what I expected for a last day in a homeschool. It isn't as if they were saying goodbye for the summer to all their friends and hugging their teacher. Well, I did get plenty of hugs, but it certainly wasn't the same. We went out for pizza at lunchtime, with Daddy no less, so that was a treat. We made them little certificates for completing preschool and first grade; baby sister got a "Sweet Princess Award" so she wouldn't feel left out :). It was a nice day, but we didn't really end with a bang like I sort of hoped.

However, this year has been pretty amazing. We've had our ups and downs, but I'm happy to say far more ups. My son really enjoyed doing school at home and I don't think he has any desire to go back to regular school. My younger son is excited to be a kindergartener now and is already asking me to do "kindergarten work." That's a good sign, considering a few months ago he was insistent that he would not be homeschooling and must go to "real school" like his brother had for kindergarten.

I've spent a lot of time reading and researching and trying new things and I learned a lot about what works and what doesn't in our little school. I bumped up against our limit for the amount of work we can accomplish and I learned a lot about how my kids learn and interact and what sorts of things spark their interest and what things fall flat - and I wouldn't have always been able to predict the outcomes.

I had many days when I beamed with pride at an accomplishment, and many times when my heart felt full to bursting with joy at the sight of their enjoyment of learning. Just this week we explored a beach at low tide which sparked a flurry of art projects and drawings and a stack of books about tide pools, octopuses and other sea creatures from the library - and none of it but the field trip were on the lesson plan. I absolutely delight in their love of learning, and I am learning how to factor that into our experience so that school becomes life and life becomes school. We will still have our lesson time because I do feel there is value in that, but throughout this year the lines between what is school, what is learning, what is fun and what is play have blurred. And that is exactly what I was hoping for.

I still have worries over whether they will have enough chances to make friends, worries about what extracurricular activities are worth the time and energy and what to do with my middle son who has such a tough time with organized, group activities. I worry about little things, details. But already I am casting off the big worries about whether I should be doing this and is this the right decision for our family. I'm sure those doubts will creep up on me at various times, but overall this year of homeschooling has been a wonderful experience and I am beyond glad that we decided to give it a shot. My husband has said he thinks we will look back on this decision as one of the best things we've done as parents. I very much agree with him.

We'll be taking some time off, but still doing some casual learning - reading time, math games, trips to the library, art projects and various field trips are planned for summer. It will be nice to have a more relaxed pace and not have to worry about planning lessons and activities. My plan at this point is to start up again in August, giving us a lot of leeway and ability to take time off next year. We'll see how ready we all feel to jump back in at that point. I'm very much looking forward to next year and excited to see what God and life have in store for us on this journey.

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