The Sort-of End of Another Homeschool Year

As you know, we are officially on our summer break. This year we have been trying out a Sabbath-type schedule where we go roughly six weeks on, one week off, with longer breaks around Christmas and summer. The last week of May would have been our sixth week before a longer break. However. When I found myself hiding in my room by ten on a Monday morning - after breaking up approximately twenty major emotional dramas  - I realized the second to last week of May would work just as well. And so we were done. I am strongly reminded of this post from a few years ago about ending the school year without any fanfare, particularly this quote:

I like to remind myself that a commitment to lifelong learning frees us from the need to start and end at certain times.
Dropping It All, Rene Tougas

 At a time when the "Last Weeks of School Blues" posts are starting to whip around social media (here's a particular favorite), I chose to embrace my homeschool freedom and be done.  We'll start up again in early July, with our relaxed summer schedule and studies.  More to come on that.

I have now been homeschooling a high schooler for nearly nine months.  (Cheers, applause, and gifts of fine wine are all appropriate here.)  It's taken that long to craft a rhythm that is true to how I mother my children, who I am as a homeschooling parent, and who Allie is as a student.  When we started, I was reeling from the addition of an out-of-birth-order child into our family and trying to grow and adjust my parenting to meet her needs at the speed of light.  So hard, and I wish I could have had more grace for myself.  Anyway, the best I could do at that time was to simply "do school at home," mostly taking what would have happened in the classroom and just doing it at home.  I wasn't happy because I wasn't being authentic to myself as a teacher.  My student, who had almost always lived with kids her own age, (and was heavily influenced by frequent consumption of tv shows such about high schoolers as Glee) did not catch my vision for her education and, furthermore, found homeschooling with three small children rather *cough* less than desirable.

Poetry tea time, and my first donut in three gluten-free years.

But over time, we started to get it.  I chose better novels and forced included Allie in our morning read aloud.  We ditched the math that just wasn't working, and started using only Life of Fred because it worked.  We added in Speech and Debate, a really fun creative writing guide, and  volunteering experiences.  Just recently, we managed to get a teen book discussion group going.  (8-10 teenagers all piled on my couches joking with each other. . .that's a new one for me!)  I stopped relying on stifling study guides (which I hate anyway) and just waded out into literature analysis with my trusty list of Socratic questions (see Teaching the Classics) and the use of the five common topics of invention.  Allie wrote up some research questions related to child development disorders, and we built a whole semester class around them, adjusting them as we went along, and ended with our entire family watching and discussing the excellent movie Temple Grandin.  I let out the reigns more and more, and Allie practiced managing her time and planning her week on her own.  Now, at the close of the academic year, I am playing more to my strengths as a creative, eclectic educator and we are working with an education experience that is much more organic, fluid, and student-driven.  Hurray!!

It's still difficult for Allie to find motivation some days.  She often still wishes she could just go hang out at the local high school before school, after school, between classes, and during lunch. (I told her to have some friends come hang out with me and the littles for a quesadilla lunch but she didn't seem to think that was quite the same.)  Occasionally, Allie and I have deep and profound disagreements over things like whether laying on the trampoline while your siblings bounce around you counts as P.E. or whether a paragraph counts as an 5 page essay or not.  It's still rough sometimes.  But I actually heard her tell someone the other day that she liked her homeschool freedom to build her own classes, do her schoolwork in her pajamas, be done by noon some days, and enjoy more success overall.  This from the girl who used to tell anyone who would listen that she was being tortuously homeschooled (at home) against her will (at home).  It's almost like this homeschooling thing is working. . .

Figuring out Allie's school definitely took the lion's share of my attention and energy this year, but I don't want to gloss over the other students at here at Cyrus Academy for the Unusual Child. Ava and Wyatt continued with Classical Conversations' Foundations program this year, and that was, as always, an encouraging and effective mainstay in our school week. I heart Classical Conversations. Ava is in approximately second grade and Wyatt approximately kindergarten. Somehow, they both made substantial progress despite the chaos and will be in third-ish and first-ish grades next year. Wyatt has been reading for sometime, but really turned a corner and has become a voracious independent reader of chapter books. We go to the library once a week and it's almost not enough.

This year, Ava and Wyatt learned multiplication and Latin grammar. They memorized poems, hymns, and bible verses. They studied famous artists and composers and practiced the habits of gratitude, service, and unconditional love. They beefed up their tennis skills, researched chemical elements, bugs, plants, and whatever else caught their attention, and stacked their brains with what is probably several years worth of American geography and history.  They went on a cattle round up, visited several nature preserves and conquered some difficult hikes. Ava loves to write and she and I formed a creative writing group with Allie, based around the book Writer to Writer (by the author of Ella Enchanted).

This is is truly an amazing list. I had to frequently set aside lessons to work on character building and training, and most of the time it felt like nothing was getting done. And yet. . .somehow it all adds up to a fantastic year of stretching, growing, and learning.

Last fall's back-to-school post and pictures can be found here.


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