Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How Was Your Year: My Point of View

Wow! I just finished my 13th year of homeschooling.  What an amazing journey it has been so far.  I started 13 years ago with a very learning challenged, medically fragile 3rd grader.  We lived in a condo near a military base where my husband was serving in the army.  Our days were filled with reading great literature, exploring the local pond and swimming in the neighborhood pool almost every day.  We joined 4-H and the Boy Scouts ~ the first was much fun and the second was a bad experience for us.  My son's doctor suggested he not attend school where he was exposed to so many germs.  Indeed, our son's health improved as soon as we started homeschooling, so we had a minimum amount of appointments. We were hooked on this lifestyle within weeks!

Fast forward to this year and things are very different.  Our son is now a special needs adult living in our home, and we have three children that are still in the elementary years.  Each one of our children has some kind of special issue ~ whether it be vision, dyslexia, neurological issues, heart condition, developmental delays, blood condition, speech difficulties, severe allergies and food diets, FASD, sensory or emotional problems. Our lives are filled with medical appointments.  A normal week finds us in doctor waiting rooms for 6 hours (that is just the routine stuff).  In addition to that, there are about 8 more hours of doctor appointments a month that are rechecks, evaluations, sick visits, and check ups. Our adult son can't drive and needs to be transported to/from his traumatic brain injury college program (3 days a week), fencing (two times a week), his volunteer job (two times a week), social activities and his own doctor appointments.  Then there is the kids' dance lessons (4 more hours of waiting rooms).  Lastly, there is all the fun field trips and adventures that I like to go on.  I refuse for our homeschool to be completely defined by our special needs. As my husband put it recently ~ we are a mobile homeschool.

On with my perspective of how the year went!

You know, it has been a great year.  We found a nice balance for most of the year.  Some days were really long and hectic, but overall we had pretty smooth sailing (by our standards).  Below is a list of things that really helped with our mobile lifestyle.
  • A laptop that can go with us everywhere.  We use it for educational movies, math, chess, and just plain silliness.
  • Flash cards ~ spelling, math, art, and memory work.
  • Books on CD ~ We listened to some great literature in the car this year.
  • Getting Reading and Language Arts done before leaving the house every day. 
  • Teaching Textbooks for Math ~ I can't say enough good stuff about this program!  My kids love it, actually argue whose turn is next to do it, and it works with the laptop so can be done anywhere.
  • Educational board games ~ With a little planning, a game can easily reinforce a concept in a doctor's waiting room.
  • Remembering that the world is our schoolroom ~ There are opportunities to learn everywhere if you keep your eyes and ears open.  Just last week the kids got an impromptu lesson in elevators from an elevator technician.  He showed them how to change the hydraulic fluid and what it looks like under the elevator (from a safe distance).
  • If it is not benefiting the kids ~ drop it!  For instance, I haven't regretted dropping Goldilocks' speech therapy for a moment.
  • Not every opportunity is a right fit.  This year, we decided not to do homeschool science and art classes that were held out of the home.  That was a good decision.  We very much enjoyed art and science by ourselves at home, the museums, the university, the library, in the woods and a friend's home.
  • Have a few worksheets and coloring pages for other people's children.  Seriously, I can't tell you how many times parents have seen me teaching in the corner and sent their kids over for a "Bit O' Schoolin' "!

I have really struggled in the past with the amount of or lack of seat work that our kids get some days.  Some days they may only get 1.5 hours in a chair.  But, I have come to realize that seat work is a "new" reality in the history of humans.  Through history, people have learned what they needed to know when they needed it (on the job).  Now, I agree that things have changed.  There is a large base of information that kids need these days before going out in the world.  However, I also need to drop my internal guilt trip and remember that doctor after doctor is amazed at how well my kids are functioning, considering their difficulties.  I must be doing something right.  Leave the hours of seat work to the public schools; we are homeschoolers and are out learning in the world, thank you very much.

Things we will keep (besides what I have already mentioned) ~
  • Dance classes ~ We love our dance studio and the opportunities the kids are getting there.  This year they performed in the Nutcracker and in Sleeping Beauty. It amazes me how the kids have no stage fright.  They take it all in stride. 
  • We will do a large-scale research project for public viewing such as the Festival of Knowledge. 
  • Our homemade history program.  I made it up myself based on biographies, picture books, a timeline, movies and YouTube!
  • Five in a Row (FIAR) and Beyond FIAR ~ I love these programs and it fits well into our learning style.
  • Prairie Primer ~ We adapt it like crazy, but it works for us.
  • Teaching Textbooks ~ Love it.
  • Friday field trips ~ These may turn out to happen only once a month next school year if I start a co-op with a friend.
  • The way we do art ~ Charlotte Mason style.  The children have requested more picture study and narration and less art project, which will be a little tweaking from this year. 
  • Attending the library's homeschool program ~ Awesome activities every time.
  • Doing charity work ~ Charity is one of the core things I want to pass on to my children.
  • Field trips ~ We love them!  You never know what you will see next.

What I would like to change ~
  • We are moving from Spectrum spelling to All about Spelling.
  • We are moving into English for the Thoughtful Child and The Grammar Ace.
  • I am still thinking about what geography program to use for next year.
  • I would like for the children to start taking a musical instrument, but I'm not sure how this is financially possible.
  • Per the children's request ~ We will do chemistry and dissect at least one animal or at least owl pellets next year.  This is the downfall of them seeing a teen do high school (a few years ago).  They think they should be doing all of this right now, too.  LOL
  • My friend and I are seriously considering a Friday afternoon co-op.  She would teach science and I would teach history through American Girl dolls and boy centered biographies.  We would still do our own history and some science, but this would be a great collaboration of our respective skills.
  • Writing everyday!!  I want my kids to enjoy writing.
  • I know all of my kids would like to be at the theater more ~ Aerial arts and acting classes beckon.  However, unless we have a major reduction in health appointments, I don't see this happening.  I will keep their desires in my thoughts and look for other creative ways for them to learn some of these skills.

Well, that is enough thoughts for today.  I am looking forward to a somewhat lighter schedule for the next two months.  HA HA!  Will it really be lighter with swimming, library programs, day camp (one week for each child) and free movies at the air-conditioned theater?  Who am I kidding?

Blessings, Dawn


  1. Hee Hee you better keep Boomer out of that new pool, his claws will put a hurting on it. Javie put holes in numerous hard plastic pools over the years, no way I would have tried a air one, good luck.

  2. It truly inspires me to read your thoughts about the year and plans for the next. Makes me want to get busy with school stuff today instead of looking for a house. mabye I can do both.......

  3. It sounds like a great year... and a great plan for next year! I'll be starting year #7 next year... after taking this year off while my daughter tried out a private school. We are eager to return to HOME!