Real Life Homeschooling: The Learning that Happened

It’s nearly summer.  A lot of schools in our country have already dismissed for the summer.  Schools here in my state have a week or two left to go.  It is the time of year when I can’t help but reflect on what we’ve accomplished this school year.  We have taken a more year round approach to our learning so that each day can be a bit more relaxed but I still can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic for what has happened around here since the fall.

In the fall I had a new baby to love.  Our co-op that I head up was (and is) ever expanding.  I had fresh curriculum plans.  A 4 year old who craved a bit more mommy time, especially if it included anything “school” like.  My boys were just about to turn 9 and 7.  If they were in school we would have called them fourth and second graders.  It was quite a lot to juggle.  I was also determined and I mean DETERMINED to keep up with our out of the house adventures as best as I could.  We spent last year traveling all over the state for our learning fun and I didn’t want to see that stop.

Now here it is the spring.  Co-op was a TREMENDOUS success.  We suffered through a long rough winter so our field trip adventures were a bit curtailed but not totally squashed.  My baby is a mover and shaker now keeping me on my toes and she is crawling everywhere and into everything.  My 4 year old is now a 5 year old and just recently took a keen interest in reading.  She’s dragging me along because I’m just not ready.  My boys learned all about the great adventurers who traveled the world in search of a spice trade route.  We know way too much about ocean creatures now.  We’ve traveled through Narnia and back more than a few times.  We’ve learned of missionaries and great people of history.  We’ve prayed for the persecuted church and stood in faith that God will deliver.

We’ve battled math tantrums and the “I don’t want toos.”  We’ve traversed new relationships and made new friends while balancing life with those we’ve known a long time.  We’ve laughed and cried and played and fought and yes… we learned.

IMG_20150527_101824So where are we are right now?  We are doing a lot of reading aloud.  I’ve come to accept that this style of schooling REALLY fits us.  We adore it!  I had the opportunity to list to Andrew Pudewa of Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) at a recent homeschool conference (we also happen to be reviewing more IEW curriculum right now).  His take on what the Language Arts are and the best way to foster a love for language in children was amazing.  It validated my read aloud approach and so I am running with it.  Of course we still have hands on activities that go with our read alouds but reading is at the heart of our school right now.

I feel our school is taking a slightly classical turn.  We are starting to delight in doing things like memorizing poetry and even learning Latin.  These aren’t things I felt we had time for before but now that I’ve worked it out I’m thrilled.  We are SO enjoying it.

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We have completed 5 of the Chronicles of Narnia books as well.  We are taking a little break before number 6 and instead enjoying literature from G. A. Henty.  Our children LOVE Narnia.  Our early explorers ship that we built in the playroom is now the Dawn Treader.  Joyanna is using her princess dress up clothes to pretend she is Queen Lucy.  Ezra is always King Edmond and Noah love to be High King Peter.  They play for HOURS!

Ezra found a love for computer programming this year.  He is neck deep in a course from Youth Digital.  He is learning Java by creating mods for Minecraft.  Ezra’s programming work is similar to what his Daddy does every day at work.  That makes it all the more exciting.

Noah has taken some creative writing classes through Minecraft Homeschool. That little boy is developing a love for writing adventures!  He decided Narnia needed an 8th book.  So he is working on it as we speak.

20150529_132455Joyanna is dabbling just a bit in more formal curriculum.  It makes her feel like a big girl!  I try to discourage her from working too hard every day.  I love it when she takes the day to play.  She is still so young!  Her favorite thing to do right now is sit with her baby sister and some picture board books.  Joyanna “reads” the pictures to her sister and they both giggle.

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Somedays are chill out days.  There are a lot of great documentaries on Netflix.  Once in a while we really dive in and see what we can learn.  How the States Got Their Shapes is one of our favorites right now!

We spent our spring studying the ocean with the help of Apologia.  We put our Mystic Aquarium membership to good use as we visited often and took advantage of their homeschool classes.  We will wrap up this study with a great trip out to sea to do some whale watching.  This turned out to be the most amazing study we’ve ever done.  I don’t know how I’ll ever top it!  Noah is now itching to do a broader Biology study.

Co-op was amazing this year!  Now sometimes co-op can feel like quite the endeavor.  Keeping that ship sailing straight can take a lot of physical and emotional energy out of this momma.  But over all it is tremendously worth it.  We saw our community really blossom this year.  We were blessed with moms who stepped up to create and teach some FANTASTIC classes.  The field trips were out of this world.  The whole thing really keeps us hopping.  We ended the year with a Student Showcase.

CSH_7081The kiddos had the opportunity to create table displays or do little performances that reflected what they have learned or what they loved.  Grandparents and family members were invited to enjoy everyone’s hard work.  It was an amazing night.  Everyone is talking about next year already!

Homeschooling can really be a blessing.  We have the opportunity to take life at our pace and stop and smell the roses as they say.  Every time I take my crew out on another adventure I marvel at how blessed we are.  Instead of being stuck inside and tied to a desk we are outside experiencing life and the real world.  The absolute best moments are when our learning comes together in a surprising way.

20150525_160358Recently we spent that day at a local living museum Mystic Seaport.  It ended up being an impromptu day with friends as well.  We climbed on ships (and pretended we were sailing the Dawn Treader again).  We hoisted sails, we learned all kinds of history.  And yet the highlight of the day was when we stopped by the waters edge and dug for muscles.  The kids could have stayed in that one spot all day.  It was encouraging to listen to my boys talk about all of the things they had learned about sea creatures during our studies. We aren’t a family that does much in the way of testing, it isn’t needed, life shows us they really are learning and retaining.

There were days this year when I let the exhaustion of this crazy life and the long dark cold winter get to me.  I lost sight of the good, no great things, that were really happening.  So this spring as I look back I rejoice.  I couldn’t imagine a better life.

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