Monday, May 27, 2013

{Our 2012-2013 Homeschool Year}

Thomas completed 5th grade and his third year of homeschooling, and Tanner completed 2nd grade and his first year of homeschooling. I am being completely honest when I share that, although challenging at times, this was the best school year yet! Adding Tanner to the mix meant some scheduling changes needed to be made, but once we established a routine that worked, our days passed quickly and the weeks, and inevitably the months, passed even quicker.

1st day of school- August 2012
I personally enjoyed watching both boys learn, grow, and mature over the course of the year. My favorite subject to "teach" them was history as we focused our studies on the Old Testament. I learned so much about God, the Israelites, and how it all relates to not only the New Testament, but to present day living. I know the boys did, too! After reading our daily passage, we often talked about how it applies to our lives today, or how we are/were like a particular person we read about in the Bible. Those were my favorite "lessons" because the three of us discussed certain areas of weakness or sin in our own lives and how God dealt with others before us. It made God more real in each of our lives, but it also displayed His wonderful forgiveness and love for us. My kids know I am not perfect and struggle with sin like they do, and having these types of conversations with my boys is priceless. It is what homeschooling is all about for me!

Tanner made great gains in his reading ability, both with fluency and comprehension. This year he also learned to write in cursive, and he is proud of the fact that he is learning his multiplication facts. He is different than his brother in terms of interests, and his writing reflected those differences. Tanner had to write an informative essay and also do a research report for two different writing assignments during the course of the year. Both times he chose to write about the outdoors/nature. The first essay he wrote about mowing the lawn, and for his research report he wrote about chickens. For him, homeschooling is a great fit because it is so personalized. I didn't limit him by giving him topics to choose from when writing; I let his interests guide him so that he would actually learn something. If he is going to do the work, why not let him enjoy it?!

Tanner & his chickens
Highlights of Thomas' year include writing a persuasive letter in order to gain donations to create and build a backyard bird sanctuary.  Along with Tanner's help, the boys planned out the area, selected and planted the flowers, and finished it up with mulch, bird houses, and feeders. They even included a bench so they could sit and relax while watching the birds; it was a great project for them because they worked together to accomplish their goal! He also continues to excel in his math as he began pre-algebra the latter half of the year. He thinks it's neat that he is learning it now and I didn't learn it until 7th grade- smarty pants!!

We went on 10 field trips this year. Some of our favorites were the 'Beach Discovery Tour' while at Hilton Head. We learned about the native sea life and then explored the beach to find them. It was awesome and correlated with our study of sea creatures in science this year. Highlights from that trip included finding live sea stars, a sand dollar, and three different sizes of perfectly molted sand fleas. We also saw some blue crabs when they were "soft", which was rare for us to see. We also attended some stage performances in Charlotte, and those were really fun. We sat right in the front row for 'Pinocchio' and it added to the excitement of live theater. The boys had a great time!

The molt from a sand flea
However, our best "field trip" days were actually spent at home baking, packaging, and crafting items to sell. The boys, all on their own, wanted to raise funds for the victims' families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that occured on Dec. 14. Someone from the pregnancy center where the boys volunteer notified a local reporter and he wrote an article about their efforts. This is the most kindhearted, selfless act of generosity I have ever witnessed in my children, and homeschooling helped make their idea become a reality.

Beginning this next school year, we are actually going to homeschool "year round." I planned out a schedule that allows us to do school for 9 weeks and then have a 2 week break. Our school year will start back up at the end of July and we will go until almost the end of May. I am hoping these small breaks between quarters will give me time to catch up on recording grades on the computer and filing their school work, which is a time-consuming task that I never seem to get completely finished. I record grades by hand in a grade book (as legally required), but I use a free program to generate a report card. I don't have to do that, but the boys' bank pays them for each 'A' they earn so they like to get a report card. I don't blame them- it's free money!

As they get older, I appreciate being around them more. I am thankful for this opportunity to be so involved in their lives. Conversations are becoming more meaningful, and it's neat to really talk to them, to get their opinion on situations and find out what they're thinking. I'm not saying I couldn't do that if they attended public school, but honestly how could it be the same? I wouldn't know the specifics of what they were studying to know what kinds of questions to ask. I would miss out on a part of my kids that can be only be accomplished by acting as their teacher. Is it difficult some days? Sure! Do I get overwhelmed at the task of being wife, mom, and teacher? Absolutely! Are there days when I think I can't do it anymore and I stay up late crying because I feel like a failure? Of course! But then, God brings to mind all that we have been through, and all the gains I have seen my boys make, and I realize there is no way I could give that up. I love them too much and I only have a few short years with them before they graduate and move on.

I am so thankful I get to homeschool!

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