Four years down…

On June 3, the Hall family passed another milestone.  (Actually, since that was our wedding anniversary, I guess we passed two milestones that day!)  That was our last day of our fourth year of homeschool!  I can’t believe it’s already been four years.  It still seems like we are still trying to figure so much out.  Every year has presented a new challenge.  Getting started in year one, having a baby and moving in year two, adding a second child in school and moving and being pregnant and having mono in year three, and beginning year four one month after having baby five!  Next year will present a new challenge:  adding child three to the school roster!  But I absolutely love homeschool.  During all the chaos our life has presented over the past four years–and it seems like there is chaos around every corner!–homeschool has been our constant, the routine that kept us sane, the steady part of life that we could always count on being there for us.  People ask us all the time, “Are you going to homeschool them the whole way through?”  My answer:  “If I have a choice, ABSOLUTELY!!!”  We love homeschool.

Year four ended well, although it did have some hairy moments along the way.  Second grade presented some new challenges for a child who until now had been used to all schoolwork coming easily and requiring almost no effort.  Suddenly, she didn’t already know all the answers, and that took some adjustment.  Grades started to slip a little bit, and during two of the four nine-week quarters, she had a B–once in reading and once in math.  But she managed to pull an A average for the year in all six classes that were graded, and while I know we have some work to do as she moves on, I was proud of my second grader.  She loved beginning her Latin study, and her daddy really enjoyed working with her as well.  They both love languages, so I look forward to watching them continue to learn Latin together.  She will begin a new Latin curriculum this fall, and they’ll begin to cover grammar and conjugation in addition to the vocabulary that she began this past year.  We completed our first year using the Veritas Press History and Bible cards, and this is an excellent curriculum.  It took me a while to get a feel for how to incorporate all the extra books that go along with the cards, but by the end of the year I think I had it figured out.  I definitely should have put more time into getting organized ahead of time, but you live and learn, and I’ll know better for next year.  It really is a great program, and I look forward to the next however-many years of going through the cycle as she and the rest of the children go through it.  I actually learned a lot myself, and I love that about doing school with my kids.  We continued on with Shurley Grammar and Saxon Math, both of which I continue to give gold stars.  She read thirteen books for school, completing the Veritas Press comprehension guides for all that were available, with a couple of Logos Press comprehension guides thrown in as well.  The one element in reading that I felt was missing from the Veritas materials was a final test for each book, but after much searching online for a quiz program comparable to Accelerated Reader–which irritatingly is not available to homeschoolers–I found a website run by Sylvan that fit the bill:  www.bookadventure.com.  There are quizzes for thousands of books and kids can earn points for each quiz they take.  So we used these quizzes as her tests for each book that she read.  We also continued with the spelling program that we purchased through Veritas but is published by Logos and it was cake for her.  So she finished strong and we’re super excited for her to blaze a trail through third grade this fall!

Catherine celebrated her kindergarten graduation last night, and like her sister, she encountered some struggles along the way but finished the year strong.  Reading came a little harder for her than for Abigail, and there were many moments when she got frustrated and wanted to give up.  Whether it was reading letters or numbers, she had to work hard to get past what at times seemed like a genuine mental block.  But the Hall family motto is “Persevere,” and persevere she did.  Now she reads like a pro, and rarely ever even mixes up her numbers anymore.  She loved all the hands-on components of her math lessons, and would rather stack linking cubes all day long and just skip the worksheets!  But she also found a measure of pride in completing all her worksheets in both math and phonics.  She loves to cut and glue, and honestly could take or leave coloring.  I’m looking forward to next year because there will be lots of cutting and crafting in her reading curriculum.  She is taking a slightly different course than Abigail did–Abigail did the 1st grade reading program in kindergarten but we didn’t feel like Catherine was ready for that so we held off a year.  So she’ll do 1st grade reading in 1st grade, but she has progressed so much that we may transition on into 2nd grade reading at Christmas.  That’s the beauty of homeschool–we can contantly adjust to each child’s individual needs.

So, four years down, who knows how many years to go.  Lots, that’s for sure.  But I am so looking forward to each new turn in the homeschool road.  I cannot say enough how much I love homeschooling and I can’t imagine any other way of life for our family.   I am already penciling out tentative school day schedules for next year, and all our crisp new books in the school closet are beckoning to me so strongly I’m not sure I’m going to be able to resist much longer the temptation to dive into lesson planning.  Next year holds not only the challenge of schooling three children at once, but also adding new subjects:  science for Abigail as well as a deeper approach to Latin and math, grammar and spelling and reading for Catherine, current events and art and music for all of them.  So our schedule will have to become even more structured, but structure and routine are the conditions under which I thrive as a mom, so I’m hopeful that this will be our best year yet.  Stay tuned in another month or so for our Homeschool 2011-12 post!

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