As we approach the halfway mark in our homeschool year, I look at what we have accomplished and panic. We are so far behind where I had hoped we would be!
It’s very stressful, this being behind, and years ago I used to pass that stress on to the kids. Let’s work harder, let’s do a bit more every day. We can do it!
When this situation occurred a few years ago, I really stopped to think about it. Obviously my stressed approach had been all wrong, and I wrote about what we should do instead of panicking. One thing that jumps out at me from three years ago is to be thankful for what we have been able to accomplish. So now I’m trying to calmly assess where we are and just continue on, grateful for God’s blessing on our learning so far. For he has blessed it, but I had forgotten that when I got discouraged.
So, with thankfulness and hope, here is what Miss 16 and Miss 14 have accomplished so far this year, (most links are to my reviews):
Bible: The three of us have read the Bible from Daniel to Luke, as well as Revelations, John, Acts, and Romans with my husband. Some Bible reports have been written although not as many as I had planned. Also, we constantly review and learn Bible texts and Psalms and hymns, and the girls study the Heidelberg Catechism at a church class. I had planned to spend the year studying the gospels in depth, but haven’t found a suitable resource for our homeschool Bible study. Instead, during the holidays I saw Growing in the Gospel, a book of practical doctrine that looks promising. It just arrived this week and I hope to decide by next week whether or not it will be suitable for our homeschool. So, actually, except for the Bible book reports, we have accomplished a lot in Bible. That is the most important thing, and I am thankful.
Math: Key to Algebra, level 7 and level 2. We switch between these booklets and Singapore Math’s NEM series but are far, far behind where I had hoped to be. Even so, what the girls learn they do seem to learn solidly, and they have (re)gained confidence in their ability to tackle new concepts.
English Lit: We’ve gone formal this year and are studying the Bob Jones literature guides for grades 9 and 10. They are good (although I skip everything by Poe) and thorough, and our progress is steady although slow. This is more organized than Omnibus or novel studies, both for the girls and for me, and that sort of organization is something we need right now.
English Grammar: We’re following Rod and Staff, except we haven’t gotten very far this year. I keep on reminding myself that many university students (and profs) don’t even know the parts of speech. Still, I wish we were moving along more quickly.
English Composition: We have not done as much writing as I had hoped, and I hadn’t hoped for much. Still, note-taking, reports, and letters are nothing to sneeze at, and Format Writing is a good guide. Formal and informal narration count as well, of course.
Spelling: Some people spell easily, but some need instruction for the rest of their lives. We’re using How to Increase Your Word Power by Reader’s Digest, focusing on lists of frequently misspelled words. This makes it more relevant to the girls, as do the 5 problem words they get to add to the list each week.
French: Progress is slow and somewhat steady, using French is Fun 1. This is review for both girls, but sometimes review is reassuring and one can never review a language too much. They know French is important but cannot find the spark that successful language learning needs. This subject requires more discipline from me in the future—I need to insist on a little bit of work every day no matter what. That is hard when there are health issues but a little bit of review is manageable even on bad days, and it gives a sense of accomplishment rather than failure to the whole enterprise.
Dutch: Miss 16 is doing marvellously well. We’re using Dutch in Three Months, Rosetta Stone, and various read alouds, and in each case we focus on oral work (although we now do have a Dutch spelling list as well). We’ve discovered the power of foreign language narration, and I hope to write about that soon. It’s amazing! As for Miss 14, well, she’s not too interested but seems to understand her sister’s readings anyhow. I’m so thankful that I am able to teach Dutch in such an informal way. It makes it much easier for the girls to learn.
Science: We are still plodding through Apologia’s Biology and Physical Science. They say learning something well takes time. Perhaps, then, we are learning it well. This biology text emphasizes memorization, but we are concentrating on learning the most important sections (the cell, the chemistry of life, genetics, etc.) thoroughly and taking a more relaxed approach to the rest of the book. As for physical science, well, that is not going well at all. Perhaps we are doing too many extra-curricular activities. Perhaps it’s the headaches. Perhaps I just need to be more insistent. Or, and this is the most likely, perhaps both the book (first edition) and I explain things unclearly and I need to figure out a better way of explaining gravity. (I’ve been looking at Physics Classroom.)
Geography: The goal here was to quickly do the first 5 chapters of the BJUP world geography course for a thorough grounding in the topic from a Christian perspective and then to switch to a Canadian geography text. Well, we’re still in the world geography book…. On the other hand, our read aloud focus has been travelling. The Swiss Family Robinson of last summer is full of descriptions of different flora and fauna in different geographical areas. We read a story about New Zealand and its deserted beaches. We started Two Years Before the Mast and finally gave up (as the protagonist wanted to do, too) in the middle of months of preparing hides for shipping. And now we are reading The Northern Magic, a modern story of sailing around the world, while the girls color relevant maps. We also watch geography documentaries including the amazing BBC nature films.
Logic: Miss 14 is doing Building Thinking Skills 2 and Miss 16 is studying the James Madison Critical Thinking Course. In both cases, we do a little bit every day. It’s not hard and requires no memorization, but it just needs to be done, so the little by little principle works beautifully.
Reading: The goal is an hour of reading a day. My older children read so much that I had to drag them away from their books, but once screens enter a home, things change. Books are no longer the activity of choice and reading needs to be assigned, even if there are screen limits. It is so rewarding when the girls pick up a book on their own, or when a book absorbs them so much that they cannot put it down!
Where we shine this year is in extra-curricular activities: Therapeutic riding volunteer work, horseback riding, part time job, and homeschool co-op (debate, drama, finance, sports). Each of those provides an enormous amount of learning and I need to remind myself of that regularly. Public schools in our province even award high school credits for the hands-on learning.
So, that is where we are so far this year. We have not gotten as far as I would want and are not even using the curriculum I would prefer, but we are doing what we can given our circumstances. I am grateful for the opportunity to homeschool, the ability to learn and teach despite health challenges, and the beautiful world God has given us to learn about. Especially, I am grateful that the basis of our homeschool is God’s Word, not humanism, the marketplace, or feminism with its many radical offshoots. We can learn the truth about God and about mankind. We can strive for excellence, truth, beauty, and goodness, not homogeneity, political correctness, or consumerism. For this freedom, I am grateful.
So, onward we go into the second half of the homeschool year, trying to be faithful every day in the little things so that we will be able to equip our children to love the Lord their God with their whole being and their neighbors as themselves. This is a huge calling, but it can often seem so mundane. Both its enormity and its daily-ness are so overwhelming and obviously we cannot do this without God’s blessings.
May God give us all the dedication, creativity, organizational skills, energy, and joy that we need to teach our children. And may he give us what we need to notice and be grateful for his good gifts in this part of our lives too.
Have you had a moment to think about how your homeschool year is going?