Sunday, August 4, 2013

Looking back...

Coming back to the blog after so long of a hiatus feels a bit like slinking into school after a week of playing hooky. I hope you will forgive my tardiness and indulge me as I look back over our school year.

Year 0.5 was a delight with Tempest. I was worried that kindergarten would be a repeat of our disastrous attempt at sit-down preschool. *Insert tantrums, stubborness, and ugly faces—from the four year old AND from Mom—here.* Actually, we both had fun, and she seemed to thrive on the increased structure. Her reading is taking off. After the struggle of pushing Teacup to read when she wasn't ready, teaching Tempest has been... well... fun! She thinks her little BOB books are terribly funny, and she loves the math pages from her Singapore Kindergarten book. Handwriting was less happily received, but she still made good progress and (more important to me) kept a relatively cheerful attitude about it. If you know Tempest, you know that a relatively cheerful attitude over an unloved task is a huge accomplishment. As we head into the formal school years, I'm pretty impressed by the growth I see in my little storm cloud. She is especially excited to claim the Year 1 books for her own this fall. Or possibly in January. Yeah, I still haven't decided when to start her... just keepin' it real here.

For Teacup, Year 2 clicked right along. She is reading more on her own. This year she took over Understood Betsy, Burgess Animal Book, The Wind in the Willows, parts of Tree in the Trail and nearly all the free reads. The rest of Ambleside's Year 2 booklist we read together.  She could have read more on her own, but I wanted to enjoy this time together before I have to give her more independence and give more attention to the younger students. I also was not ready to give up reading her history aloud together. The narrative style of Ambleside's history recommendations make them as interesting as a novel. I find myself learning at least as much as the kids! Teacup's handwriting lessons were even less happily received, but she kept at it. She grumbles and whines, but she presses on because she is eager to learn cursive. The switch to Singapore math was a huge success. While Math-U-See is an excellent program, she got bored doing pages of addition for months on end. Seeing new material every few weeks has kept her excited and engaged. I love to see the girls making up little math games for each other through the day. I even have to hold them back from trying to teach the Toddler to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. "She's only three, guys; give her a break" is a fairly regular mantra at our house! Despite my protests, they have managed to teach her to count (pretty much) to twenty and add and subtract by one. Yeah, I'm a proud Mama and teacher, but it's more for their excitement than for the Toddler's academic achievements.

For the most part, a combination of better planning on my part last year and the excellent AmblesideOnline curriculum kept our studies rolling right along through the rest of the winter weather—which finally hit with a vengeance around the end of April and held on into June—and through the short and chilly springtime. Despite the fickle summer weather, we decided to set our schoolbooks aside and soak up all the sunshine we could. Last summer we dropped math and handwriting, but kept a light load of Ambleside readings. Apparently we needed of more of a break this year. We haven't touched our school work more than a couple of times in the last 10 weeks. Instead, this has been our motto for the summer:

Hiking, swimming, exploring the river, and all manner of outside playtime have been our biggest priorities this summer. I am slowly discovering that our year is not going to look the same from start to finish. Not only is that okay, it's actually pretty great! We have the privilege of structuring our year around the rhythms of the seasons, and I am grateful for it. Our garden is filling up with produce, and canning season is revving up. Jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam are sparkling on my counter, and Colorado Western Slope peaches are starting to arrive at the farmer's markets. As much as we love summer, I am also excited that fall is coming. I'm already dreaming of pumpkin butter, the kids have asked for Argentine stew in a pumpkin shell, and they are already planning their Halloween costumes. I know when the weather turns chilly, we will be ready to hunker down with our books and pictures and music. Every season brings something new to get excited about. This summer, however, has been a wonderful time of rest, rejuvenation, and—best of all—catching up with friends.

Looking back over our school year, I am pretty pleased. My biggest goal was to firmly establish our arts studies - hymn, composer, picture, and folk song studies. We weren't perfect. The last month or two, we lost steam, and our art 'study' was reduced to mom commenting "Hey you girls, I put up a new picture on the school cupboard" as I served lunch. *blush* Composer and hymn studies were dropped altogether, which I regret. If I had taken the time to put together a YouTube playlist, I could at least have played the music in the background during meals. Overall, however, I feel like we got into a good habit, and the kids enjoyed it so very much. Teacup regularly hums classic hymns to herself, while Tempest wanders around the house belting out The Anvil Chorus at the top of her lungs—bum bum buuuum ba bum ba bum ba bum ba bum BUMP! All three of them adored Renoir's paintings, and they seem to have developed a soft spot for the Impressionists as a whole. (There may or may not have been cheering when I told them that we were going to study Manet next year.) I had hoped to finish Term 2 over the summer, but we still have about four weeks to go. Still, I feel like we have had a lot of success. We have plenty of time to finish Year 2 by the end of the year, and we might even be able to take all of December off. Woo hoo!

This year, my main goals are to establish Nature Study—including weekly entries into our nature notebooks—and map work. Because so much of Charlotte Mason's program of study is different from what I grew up with as school work, I find that focusing on building good habits in one or two subjects at a time works much better than trying to jump in with both feet and quickly getting burned out. Since the prep work last year served me so well, I am working even harder to get ready for this year. Full-sized art prints for the whole year are finished and printed. Expect to see those posted soon. I finished the YouTube playlist for our folk songs, and links to those videos are also coming soon. I still need to put together the art cards for our Books of Masterpieces, and our YouTube playlists for composer and hymn studies. It is wonderful to have so many free online resources to gather music and art from.

With the summer nearly over, how are you feeling about the upcoming year? Are you ready to jump in, or still hesitating on the edge of the water?!

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