“I have memories - but only a fool stores his past in the future.” ~David Gerrold
As a school teacher, I always found myself looking back over the past school year, asking myself, “What worked? What didn’t work? What did I want to do but didn’t? How can I make it better?” These questions are good and should be addressed after every school year, but as Gerrold said, don’t make the past your future. Don’t spend so much time feeling guilty over what you didn’t do that you don’t plan to improve in the future. Also, don’t spend so much time celebrating your successes that you can’t see the new year.
For our first year homeschooling, I would call this year a great success, though with many “learning moments” for me. At the beginning of this year, we spent two months with me chasing her around, trying to get her to sit down to learn. Then, when we finally got to sit down, I discovered that my daughter could do exactly what she could do two years ago in reading – she knew her letters and their sounds, but she couldn’t quite put them together to read words. She is now reading on a mid-first grade level (according to my “guess-timate”). Wow! She actually picks up books and looks for words she could read, where she used to not even attempt to sound out any word besides her name. She has made great leaps and bounds in reading.
In math, Babygirl has developed confidence more than skill. I count that as a success, too. At the beginning, she was convinced that if I said, “Math,” she couldn’t do whatever I suggested. Now, she knows how to count to 100, count backwards from 30, and can do some basic addition. The most important success in Math, though, is her confidence level. The computation can come later, but if she won’t even attempt it, we are at a dead end. I see great things coming next year in math!
Probably the greatest success I’ve seen is Babygirl’s conversation. Only a few short months ago, it was almost impossible to hold a conversation with her unless you just happened to know what she was thinking, and then it was more subjects about her opinion on things. Through our studies on holidays, she knows that these special days come around every year. Every holiday is not Christmas or Halloween. She is making connections with our family (whose child is whose, etc.), instead of just a general “blob” of a family unit. When we studied the community, she learned that if she put a letter in the mail, Grandma and Poppa would get it a few days later (and they would usually call and tell her they got it and describe the picture!). Our studies on Science have opened up discussions about real life sea serpents (called oar fish – I learned a lot in that study!), real life dragons (komodo dragons – “they are carnivores but they don’t have wings or breathe fire”), and that different animals have different characteristics. Our trips to the zoo have opened up numerous animals which are fascinating to observe. She even recognized a connection with hyenas – they like to pace, just like she and Daddy do! These conversations made her much more interested in the world around her and have opened up a plethora of discussions which we never used to be able to have.
On a disappointing level, I didn’t teach Babygirl to do the chores which I had planned. I wanted to help her organize her room, as well as do dusting and cleaning the bathroom. While I did teach her how to do these chores, I have not been consistent in having her do them. It is so much easier for me to do them, so I do – okay, honestly, I do occasionally. We did start a garden, but, yet again, it’s easier for me to do the planting and weeding on my own, rather than bring her in. I still feel these things are vitally important to our homeschooling, so I will just set them as a goal to do a better job on next year.
I have learned that Babygirl and I have different styles. My teaching style, which I spent so many years developing and which is so successful with literally hundreds of kids, doesn’t work with my own daughter. I’ve had to learn that planning events on a daily basis doesn’t work with her. She may wake up and be in no mood for a trip to the library. The reading assignment which I planned so carefully may just be completely out of her grasp on one day, whereas another day it may fit perfectly. I haven’t given up on planning daily, but I have realized the value of having a general plan, as well as specific daily plans. Spontaneity has definitely taken a strong hold in our homeschool, but that’s okay.
After reflecting on this year, I like to think what I want to do differently next year. I really want to start projects next year. We might do one or two small ones over the summer (Babygirl has said she wants to do school over the summer, but it’s not going to be a usual school week all summer – I need a break, too!). I want her to start some learning on her own, though developmentally she may not be ready for much yet. While she is behind in reading and math, her interests are exactly where they should be for her age, so I’m going to use the objectives for our state in her regular grade level when I write out my plans.
Every year is different – that is how life works. Never try to force one year (whether successful or not) into the confines of another year. Pick out what worked and discard what didn’t. Use the past to help refine your future, and enjoy schooling!