I wrote about my reasons and plans back in April in this post: Year-Round Schooling.
There's really only one drawback to y/round schooling that I can think of: It didn't really give me a break from being a teacher. Every day that we did school this summer has meant a degree of intentionality and thought and organization on my part. I'm not quite as excited about the upcoming year's plans as I was last year, or as I observe my h/schooling friends as being, and I think it's because it's 'merely' a continuation for me of what's already been happening. Same old same old kind of thing. (That might be a slight exaggeration because I am, in fact, working on plans and schedules for fall/winter and am looking forward to it...but perhaps not with quite as much energy as I have had before other beginning school years)
That being said, summer schooling has been a resounding success in my opinion. There are a few things that I've noticed/appreciated in particular:
- Though we certainly took some time off from school, I saw the kids relax more and more into a life that includes school as part of its routine. More than last year, they just came to expect to do school. This makes life sooo much easier.
- They all three loved doing school! Amazing, isn't it? Not once the entire summer did I have a problem motivating the kids to head down to the school room. Not once. Occasionally, once we were down there and into our work already, Matthew resisted doing some task or another, but getting him/them down there was never an issue. On days/weeks that we didn't do school, the younger kids in particular got a little upset or antsy about it. I learned to carry some flash cards around with me on days we didn't do school so that Lizzie and Seth would still be able to do something resembling school while we were out somewhere!
- Matthew progressed...particularly in his Math and reading skills (more below). The difference in his confidence in these areas is quite tangible to me. I've already posted about Seth's miraculous ability, suddenly, to retain knowledge of some of his letters and numbers, and I'm positively and almost unspeakably thrilled about this movement of the past four weeks. Lizzie, too, has really progressed in her interest and ability to absorb information; her language and grammar and comprehension are progressing so well.
- When I think about our looong school break in 2011 (because of Ethiopia trips and our adaptation to being a new family) and Matthew's profound struggle to get back into school in fall and how much he forgot during the lengthy break, I see just how huge the difference is this year. He hasn't forgotten stuff this year. While he hasn't learned much really new material this summer, the skills and knowledge that he gained last winter has transformed into a greater depth of confidence as a result of our summer work.
If I look back to the list of plans I had for summer, I realize that we accomplished our goals in most areas, and have not in a few areas. If I look back to the list I published in my April post, here's what I planned for, and whether or not we accomplished it:
- "Big Cat" week. We did do this, though it ended up taking place over the course of almost three weeks because we experienced our trip to Alberta during that time. But the Cat studies were fabulous for the kids, and a great learning experience for me in planning and executing unit studies.
- Math U See. Matthew is almost through the 30 lessons that comprise one level of this program. We should finish it up in the next week or two. The level that he has worked on is below Matthew's grade level in many ways (ie. he's found it fairly easy) but I really wanted to work through it with him because he learns to well with manipulatives (ie. tactile tools to help him visualize Math), and because it sets a foundation for the next levels. I've seen a difference this summer in Matthew's confidence in Math skills. It's as if the repeated exposure has solidified certain key concepts and skills; his confidence in basic Math stuff has really grown. He's totally comfortable, for example, with double and triple column addition (ie. carrying over), double column subtraction (ie. borrowing), the concept of multiplication, has mastered multiplying by 0, 1, 2, 5, and 10, and various other things.
- Khan Academy. This is a free online resource that I have begun to expose Matthew to. The folks at the Khan Academy have produced a zillion videos (mostly on Math subjects) that simplify and teach Math. Matthew has watched the ones that I think are relevant to him and he's found them to reinforce concepts in helpful ways.
- Five in a Row (FIAR) curriculum. I'm sure you've heard me rave about this program in the past; I still love it. We didn't do as much of it as I'd thought we would, but we did go through several weeks of it and it has reinforced my desire to use it with all of the kids this fall/winter. I love that the approach is unit-study like and that most of the prep work is done for me!
- Copy work. We did virtually none of this. The goal was for Matthew to practice his printing through copywork, but he ended up doing some alternative things to work on this skill - for example, he did a little bit of journaling and wrote two great stories. Now that the younger kids' fine motor skills and abilities are a little stronger, this area will form part of our fall/winter schedule on a more formal basis.
- Reading. I began this summer suggesting that Matthew was a reluctant reader. I have been extremely careful not to push reading onto him, knowing that I am in this for the long haul with him (ie. I want him to love it and to become a lifelong reader rather than forcing him to do it and having him potentially hate it). But I'm very excited about his progress in this area. About mid-way through summer he suddenly (again) began to express a desire to read and so he and I took turns reading simple stories (in addition to the regular out-loud reading I do). I was amazed that every time he picked something up to read, he was better and more fluent than the day before. A few weeks back, I 'caught' him reading stories to his siblings; and just this week I found him in our library reading a Magic Treehouse ninja book to himself. It's amazing and I'm quietly but definitely ecstatic by his growing interest.
- Story of the World. This is a history program that we really began to enjoy last fall. I still love it but at this point my interest is more theory than anything! The short story is that we didn't even touch History this summer, despite my best intentions.
- Star Gazing. Sadly, another non-starter this summer. We have the telescope, we have the beginner astronomy books, and we didn't even take any of it out of the packaging! The problem was simple: I realized a little too late for planning purposes that summer in our neck of the woods means that the sun doesn't set until quite late at night (post 10pm)! That's a little challenging when one's kids are all in bed by 9:00!! I'm hoping to incorporate astronomy a little into our fall/winter schedule but so far I'm thinking it's going to be an 'elective' - ie. done on weekends when we have the yen to do it.
- Miscellaneous stuff. 1) To kick summer off to the right start, we went on our two-week driving trip to Alberta - I've posted about that already, but what a fabulous adventure we had!! 2) The boys completed their Kids of Mud cycling program in June and loved it to the bitter end. 3) Both boys went through a week of Basketball camp and had a great time and gained a few new skills. 4) We spent nine days at my parents' cottage and, during that time, enjoyed having two other h/schooling families join us for a number of days. We all had a blast and I hope we repeat the experience. 5) We worked on our "Summer Fun List" and crossed over 20 things off of our list. 6) The boys each completed two levels of Red Cross swimming while taking daily swimming lessons for four weeks: Matthew completed level 3 and we'll find out next week if he passed level 4, and Seth skipped through all of the animal-named, pre-swimming levels right into level 1 and completed level 1. I am really pleased with how much the kids all love the water (where Seth brings the same intensity as he does to everything else!) and how my boys are really developing in this area.
It's been a full summer. Other than my Dad's accident, it's been a very good one. The weather has been hot and dry and mosquito-free. We've done school, we've had fun times, we've gotten together with good friends, and we five are settled in and proving ourselves a family well suited to each other. What could be better as we wind up summer school and begin to look forward to the new school year??
Our summer school grade? A resounding A+!
Our summer school grade? A resounding A+!