Monday, June 07, 2010

The homeschool year in review

I've really been wanting to do a homeschool wrap-up post to talk about our first year of homeschooling. So I'm finally sitting down to do it.

And I honestly have to say that it's been great! Not really as seismic a shift in life as one might think, because I am committed to having learning happen as a mostly natural part of family life.

Anna did a great job. She completed the Kindergarten Saxon Math program, Kindergarten Zaner Bloser Handwriting, taught herself to read, and we went through a children's Bible. Worked our way through a bit of catechism. We finished our math and handwriting months (and months) ahead of schedule, so we did some copywork for handwriting and some fun word problem workbooks for math, to round out the rest of the year.

Anna loved homeschool (most of the time :) ) and made HUGE strides in every single subject. I LOVED getting to see her learning new concepts, and one of the biggest benefits was that she had the time (and desire!!!) to read independently for 2+ hours on any given afternoon. My biggest goal for the year was to instill in Anna 1) a love for reading and 2) a love for learning. That is what I would consider a "success" for her at this point. Well, this mission was more than accomplished. Pretty amazing really. Just to clarify, I'm not taking credit for this. :) It IS something I believe CAN come naturally (I think God made us to be inquisitive and to want to learn), and something that is enhanced by homeschooling, in my opinion. Children are able to learn at their own pace, there is less pressure, they can pursue their own interests, and there is simply more time for play and for things like independent reading.

Another major blessing of homeschooling this year was giving Anna the ability to spend lots and lots of time with her new sister Mary. Anna did not leave Mary's side for the first few months of her life, probably. She's an amazing big sister. New baby aside, it is also pretty great having my kids doing life together on a daily basis. Plus, I like Anna's company. I'm selfish that way. :)

Then the final piece of our homeschooling was the one day a week program that Anna attended in a nearby suburb. It's a regular Kindergarten class (for homeschooled kiddos). And Anna LOVED it. She was so excited to go, so proud of her work, and over time classmates became friends. I was regularly scheduled for lunch duty, and what a transformation from my first day there (about a month into the school year) vs. my final day (the last day of the school year). Anna was a little shy and reserved around the other students back in early October, but oh my, by May she was pretending to be a fire-breathing dragon at recess and chatting NONSTOP with friends at the lunchtable. She was comfortable and self-assured. My mama heart was so happy and proud. The photo is of Anna during lunch recess one day.

I think this program's primary strength (and there were many strengths) was that it built Anna's confidence and self-esteem. She learned how to skip, how to play soccer, received four awards throughout the year for conduct and academics, got to perform with her class in a school-wide talent show and at the graduation, painted pictures and wrote stories...yeah, just a really great experience all the way around. The above photo is of Anna (on the far left) and her class performing "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" at the talent show. She was SO excited and took it all SO seriously!

And yet, she remained centered at home. Couldn't wait to get back to play with her brothers and sisters. When we'd show up for lunch duty, she was EXCITED to see us (and to show off her baby sister to anyone who would listen.) Looked out for Kaitlyn on the play equipment at recess. It was really precious. This was Anna right after performing her song with her class--she was beaming! (And thrilled that her daddy and siblings were able to come and watch too!)

All in all, I am in love with homeschooling. Yes there were a couple of challenging moments (with many more to come I'm sure) but at the end of the day, I'm a huge fan and am looking forward to next year. When I will have THREE kids doing school! (What was that I said about more challenging moments to come? :) )

We're officially taking a break for the summer, although Anna is doing some fun workbooks and I'm teaching Yosef and Biniam to read. (Hmmm, that doesn't really sound like a break.) I'm so excited about what the fall will bring and my kids are too. They'll be returning to the weekly homeschool program (Anna will be in First Grade and the boys in Kindergarten) and, in addition to the usual subjects at home, we'll be diving into History (starting with the ancients.) I can't wait. Yay for homeschooling!


The Fearnsides said...

YAY! Thank you for posting this. I love reading all you have to say about homeschooling. You are such an inspiration!


The Fearnsides said...

P.S. Would you be willing to review the curriculum you used?!

Kristen said...

So fun! I bet you learned a lot in the process, too. Kevin & Anna have IDENTICAL chins!! Haha.

Shana said...

This was a great post, thanks! I would love to read a "day in the life" type of post to describe how your typical day went. Were you structured around school hours? Did you get little bits in here and there? What did you do with the other kids while you were teaching Anna? Etc, etc. :)

Brianna Heldt said...

Monica yes! I will do a review!

Kristen ha, all our girls have that same chin--and it was totally visible in the ultrasound photos! Crazy!

Shana yes I'll do that! Do you think you'll homeschool your kids at some point?

Luke said...

Woo-hoo! Sounds like things are going really well. Keep up the great work and have a wonderful summer break [smile].



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