Monday, May 13, 2013

The homeschool dilemma….

It’s Spring, and around here that means an annual evaluation of our Homeschool.


We’ve just completed our fourth year of schooling at home, and while I’d like to say that it’s been a wonderful ride, well…that just wouldn’t be true.  It has been good, sure.  And we’ve even had a few wonderful seasons.  But the reality is, homeschooling is tough!

There are days that I spend more time correcting, complaining, yelling, and feeling utterly incapable of teaching my kids and reaching them for Christ.  Times that it feels that day after day, I spend my time saying the same phrase over and over again, with no sign of improvement from any of the kids.

You will honor your parents.

You will tell the truth.

You will not take things that do not belong to you.

You will not argue with me.

These are character and heart issues, and the only way that Saul and I see we can address them is by keeping them here at home with us. 


That said, we have carefully and prayerfully considered our options for next year, and have chosen to continue on our homeschool journey.  God is keeping us on this path, and though there are many many days that I question His wisdom in this, I am certain of this:

Quitting something because it is hard, isn’t an option.

When you surrender your life, your marriage, your parenting, and your homeschooling to the Lord, you have to trust that He alone will not only sustain you, provide for you, and equip you, but He will also know what is best for you.  Listening to and following His lead will have little to do with understanding, and much to do with obedience.  Never ever be afraid to ask The One who knows best, what you should do. (James 1:5)

This year, like last year, we are a bit behind.  Whenever we’ve had tough seasons of character building, we have set aside book work in order to accomplish the much bigger and in my opinion, much more important work needed.  For us, that means that we rarely finish our scheduled studies the way I plan.  (Maybe I should stop making plans…)  In my humble opinion, God cares little about our worldly knowledge, but cares deeply that we know, love, and accept Him, and commit our lives to following after Him.  Whenever my children struggle with a persistent character problem, it needs to be addressed above all else.

What’s Working

A few things that are going really well:

This fall the boys did the Winter’s Promise Early American Story and made their own History Books.  We only got about half way through the program though and will come back to it next fall.  I chose early on to do half the year with History and the other half with Science, and I really think that was wise.  They have gotten more out of the longer and more focused lessons, and it was easier for me to have less subjects to teach.


We started Apologia Zoo 3 this Spring and I really love this program!  My kids are all enjoying the note booking approach and the casual reading that is included.  The information is relevant and easy to understand.  I love that I can teach all three of them at the same time!  There is a wide variety of work in the notebooks and they provide opportunities for creativity and hands on learning.


Both boys are using Horizons Math grade 2 and 3.  We love this math!  It is perfectly challenging for them and is an integrated approach, building on themes and progressing naturally as the content gets harder.  Elaina will start with Horizons this summer, and she is super excited!


The boys and I went through Abraham Gods Brave Explorer this Fall/Winter, and also went through Proverbs together.  Now we are doing a study I put together on the Old Testament that all three older kids are doing together.  The focus is in exposure to the “stories”, memory work, and prayer.  We are on lesson 7 out of 20 and it is by far, all of the kids’ favorite part to the day!





What Needs Improving:

Both of the boys are excelled readers, so I was pretty lax in this area.  I am wondering how I could have challenged them better, but also trying to figure out the balance of enjoying reading at age appropriate levels.  Just because they can read above grade level, doesn’t mean they should always be reading books that are above their level.  We used BJU Press Reading 2 and added Book Reports to them.  The boys were extremely bored with this program, and I am hesitant to buy the next level up.  The reader is expensive and the workbook is boring and kind of busy work for them.  I hate making the kids do these kind of workbooks!  They are in my opinion, a waste of time and resources.  Maybe if we do them again, I will test them first to see what grade level to use with them.  The kids have a natural desire to discuss what they are reading, and when they have a say in what they read, it makes it even easier to get them to complete the “work” part of it.

One thing I hope to start with the boys soon, is teaching them how to NOT read out loud like a robot!  I’m thinking some fun poetry books like Shel Silversteen or Jack Prelutsky would be helpful with their timing and cadence.  Plus, who doesn’t love a good funny poem?


We’ve used Sequential Spelling for two years now.  Nothing against the program at all, but I think we will change it up next year.  Nate is a very good speller and Isaac is a very poor speller.  I don’t think this program is working for both of them together.  Too easy for Nate and not helping Isaac.  I’m looking into All About Spelling for this fall.


We had to go back earlier in the year and do “writing lessons” with the kids.  Nate has improved a lot in his penmanship, but Isaac’s writing is still pretty horrible.  I need to figure out what a realistic expectation should be of him going into 4th Grade.  I was really hoping to be able to teach him cursive handwriting this last year, but that couldn’t happen until his printing had improved.  We’ve used A Reason For Handwriting but I think next year we will progress to BJU Press Handwriting and Cursive.


Kindergarten Reading
Elaina has done pretty well with most things this year, with the exception of reading.  She is doing okay, and I believe will improve over the summer.  I do think that she would benefit from something a bit more structured than what I did for her.  We may be purchasing All About Reading this summer to get her going.  Truthfully, she probably isn’t behind, but the boys were so motivated and excelled early on, and it’s hard for me not to compare her to them.  Especially because a lot of her issue is not in ability, but motivation and control.


Do homeschoolers need a structured P.E.?  They get it at HSA but other than that they get free play outside after lunch and occasionally get to do the XBox Kinect.  I wish it was in the budget to put them into a formal sport or activity, but it’s just not right now. 

It’s shameful to admit, but both Saul and I can fluently (or almost fluently for me) speak Spanish and should have already taught the kids to speak it.  I am slowly incorporating it into our routine, a little bit more each year.  Truthfully I am just too inconsistent for them to really hold onto what they learn.  We have access to Rosetta Stone, but since we haven’t really had online access most of our school year, this hasn’t really benefited us much.



Another aspect of homeschooling that I really hope to improve upon is personal responsibility and accountability.  I have designed a daily planner for Isaac to use to write his assignments and expectations for the day/week/month.  If it is helpful, I will offer one to Nate, but he really doesn’t seem to have a problem getting his work done on time.  Isaac gets overwhelmed with his daily tasks and making a list really helps him and gives him a visual sense of accomplishment.

I’d really love to have a homeschool year without so many behavior issues.  It would be so nice to finish off having either completed our lessons, or even (dare I dream) ahead on lessons.  But like I mentioned before, this is our calling, our purpose in parenting, and we will keep pushing through with our long term goals in mind.

I guess I have a bit of research to do this summer to figure out our 2013-2014 school year plans!  The inner-nerd really loves school planning.  It’s the inner penny-pincher that hates the expense…


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