Year in Review

We are so close to finishing the school year that I can barely contain myself! Not that it's been tiresome, boring or awful by any means, but camp is close (and the baby!) and there are so many projects and fun things I want to accomplish before camp life sets in.

I can't believe we're almost done with our official first real year of homeschooling. Two math lessons, some reading, worksheets and a test remain. The lessons will be done tomorrow and the last reading by early next week.

It has been a great year. We averaged three days a week of school at home, one morning in the homeschool room while I had Bible Study and Friday's at a homeschool enrichment program.

I can't say enough about the quality of the programs we used this year:

Saxon Math K was gentle and fun for the kids. There was no "paper" work, but the entire program was manipulative based and systematic. I loved how the calendar is part of each lesson and how these bigger math concepts are being introduced through "play." The calendar portion did get tedious at times (J opened the book and began drilling me on the usual questions today!), but the repetition was so helpful. Miss A did every lesson with us. I don't know if she'll be up for Math 1 next year, but we are going to let her go along for as long as she can handle it. She's four, so next year will not be her kindergarten year.

Sing, Spell, Read and Write: Oh, how I've loved this program!! It gives the student the tools to read. Mr. J can read even new words by himself (up to the level we're at). We used the first grade books this year and are halfway through the second book. He needs oral testing on spelling (where he dictates to me otherwise we'd never finish a test), but I'm so pleased with his progress. I could have waited to do it all next year, but I'm glad we went ahead with the program. Miss A will do the first book next year and she knows most of it already--the trickle down effect has been fun to watch, as she has picked up on a lot of things. There is plenty of writing and spelling, too. I appreciate that it is sort of all-inclusive program.

Rod and Staff Preschool: As we got further into the school year, I realized Miss A wanted and needed something to do with us. These preschool workbooks were fantastic and affordable! The plain-jane appearance is deceiving--she really enjoyed the pages. The curriculum is written by Mennonites and I just know the author is a melancholy type-A person--it's very "follow the directions exactly, color in the lines the colors you are told to," however it worked just fine with this type-B free-spirited mom and daughter. Miss A stayed busy cutting, coloring, pasting, following directions and writing numbers. We have only used up two of the five workbooks, so they will keep us busy next year. She took a lot of pride in her school. : )

Susan Hunt's ABC Bible Verses: This was our morning devotion during school. It has been a joy to memorize these verses with the kids, to read the devotions and call the verses to mind at the appropriate time. She emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in obedience which has been so encouraging to me. We combined this with the catechism.

Reading Aloud. We didn't do as much as I wanted, but we've read a bit and Tuan reads with the kids every night. They've gone through several Bible "story" (I don't like that word) books and are in the Jesus Storybook Bible right now. He also reads books to them. I think they've gone through the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Trumpet of the Swan, The Complete Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, most of the Hobbit and are on the Dawn Treader right now. I'm honestly so done in by the time bedtime rolls around that I happily delegate to T. My goal is to seize more opportunities to read aloud with the kids in the mornings next year.

One of the biggest challenges to our school year (apart from pregnancy!) has been dear, dear Mr. O. He dropped his morning nap not long into the school year which left me with an 18-24 month year old who is insanely busy, scary smart, doesn't sit still and found coloring and table activities for the birds. It was quite the year with Mr. O! I spent a lot of time teaching him to play in the pack-n-play near us. It has paid off as he has learned to sit and focus and play and just in these last weeks we've been able to keep him with us at the table for longer periods of time--he cuts and colors and does play-doh and aqua doodle and I-know-not-what. I'm hoping by next year he will be more trust-worthy to play in his room and with A when I'm working with J. He knows the first catechism question which cracks me up.

Despite the fact that I majored in art, I'm terrible in the intentional crafting department. Deplorable, really. The kids have lots of free access to cut and color and paste, but this mama is a Pinterest-Inspired-Crafting-Failure--and I'm okay with that! Thankfully, the homeschool program J participated in more than made up for it. We were so, so pleased with what J learned, got to do and the friends he made on Fridays. Every Friday I picked up a happy boy with projects dangling from all arms and a backpack of papers. He brought home a "portfolio" of other art projects that we have not looked through and the entire school did a musical program last week. It was a treat!

One of the best parts of homeschooling was the freedom and flexibility for our family. Sometimes we did school on Saturdays because T was working and then we'd take off when he was off. It was great to let our little ones sleep in four out of three mornings a week and deal with well-rested kids. Seeing them play together and just being near to instruct and teach and train (as much as I failed) was a joy. Teaching them to know and love God was priceless. I love our family culture and the mostly slow pace that we live. I love that we ate breakfast, lunch and supper together almost every day (and often with T) and that our kiddos have such funny conversations with each other.

Lest I paint a too-rosy picture, there were many days when I longed for lunch alone, coffee with friends and in my sinfulness deeply resented my friends who had preschool, mothers morning out and were able to run errands ALONE. Many times I wished that there were not THREE meals a day to plan and cook and clean up after, but generally I wouldn't trade it for the world. I am so, so grateful that this is what the Lord has called me to do and that he has provided for me to stay at home with my babies--even if it means driving a minivan that resembles an eggplant--ha!

This summer we'll keep up some reading and writing and crafting, but school will be VERY minimal with camp going on. There's a lot to do this summer and in preparation for the new one.

Next year is going to be crazy! New baby, first grade (adding in history and science), and T is having ACL surgery sometime after the baby arrives. I may really be longing for some MMO or pre-school then. : ) At the very least, the budget may be stretching for some housekeeping. Whatever comes, the Lord is faithful and true and he directs our every step. He is good!

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