Posted by : Karen Wednesday, June 15, 2011
So, as schools in South Africa begin to draw to a close at the end of the second term, I am left evaluating where I am with King Arthur, in this my first year of homeschooling; reflecting where I have come from, what I have learnt, and where I intend to go.
Ahem, well, settle back and let's use bullets shall we?
- Strictly speaking I have only covered 15 weeks of my Sonlight curriculum in the 20 odd school weeks that have been this year. I only actually 'do' school four days a week with him as the fifth day is spent at co-op. Hmm...my driven goal-orientated personality doesn't like that so much!
- I have learnt (ahem, am learning) to relax about this fact though, as according the Department of Education's workbooks and learning outcomes for Grade One, Elijah can already check all the boxes. Seriously. Which leaves me stone cold with all the issues this exposes – how low the expectations are of learners; the need for this considering this is for schools across South Africa that may or may not have books, teachers, educational materials etc. It has left me with serious questions about education and the inequalities that exist because of socio-economic reasons – but I digress. More on that another day.
- And this brings me back to my pace. Some days I have panicked. Poor Braveheart. And poor King Arthur – you can tell the days I have a bee in my bonnet, as those are the days I set out to ACHIEVE! To tick as many boxes as we can! But what I've realised? Why I am trying to rush through this curriculum in a year, if he has already achieved the milestones Grade One expects of him? And what is important? Isn't it more important for an almost 7 year old to embrace and enjoy his childhood, rather than achieving academics – for there is certainly going to be time enough for that. Isn't this season more important for making sure I have his heart, that we are in relationship? Because at the end of the day, it's our relationship with our children that really matters – that weighs so much more than academics.
- I have been disappointed in some ways with Sonlight. It's true. Probably if I'm honest, because of my own expectations – I didn't expect Sonlight K/A to be so ...bitty. But in all fairness, it is only an Introduction to World Cultures. I found the pace we were flying through cultures from the beginning of the world to present day just a slight bit unnerving, and found myself deliberately slowing down – but actually upon further intense examination (I'm so type A) of the catalogue, I can see clearly how this spiral sequence of learning pans out from here. This is after all, only the beginning! Breathe Karen, breathe! So I get it now, and again, relaxing!
- I have learnt that less is sometimes so much more. King Arthur LOVES his read-alouds, and initially I read to him as many chapters a day as he wanted, (or as my voice could manage). But now, after delving into Charlotte Mason, I realise that there is a reason behind Sonlight's few chapters a day. It is to allow the child to fully absorb what is being read to them, and to engage in the subject matter more intensely. So now, I refuse to read more of the set book – but have incorporated a few books at a time, so there's always more to be had, but just of different books.
- Short, sharp and sweet - I'm now keeping each subject we do to a 10-20 minute limit, and am strictly enforcing this. I'm loving the change it's had on King Arthur, who in spite of being happy to sit for hours, now takes great pleasure in knowing that for this allotted time he is expected to give 100% of his attention to the subject.
- I don't think there's anything wrong with having high expectations of your children in regard to the effort they make or the attitude they approach something with – and this has been our biggest hurdle to date. Again, this is something so much more valuable than the academics. So now I communicate, that if the handwriting task is not done to the very best of his ability, I will rub it out and we'll start again. And that only took a day! (and for the record, these are minimal handwriting exercises, still think I'm going to hold off on the writing for a few more months)
- Hmmm, what else? My best buy has got to be all the books. Hands down. And the 600 piece world puzzle that King Arthur does over and over again. My worst buy? Hmmm, that would be the Reason for Handwriting Book K. I feel it's a waste as one really could so easily make your own with what is available on the Internet, and King Arthur has got bored with doing a letter at a time etc. In my browsing, again, stumbling across Charlotte Mason's methods for copywork etc, I think I'll adopt that in the future. Within this, I am very glad I bought the Reason for Writing Study guide that goes with it as it covers K through 6th grade, so even though I don't have the other students' books, now that I have the study guide I can deduce what the lessons would look like for the future. And looking ahead, I think it gets better from here on in, in terms of scriptures the kids learn in copywork etc. -in terms of a waste of money.
So to wrap this up?
The only way to figure out what works for you and your family is to get started.
It's the old adage of not being able to steer a boat unless it's moving. It's that simple. You cannot know what is going to work, what is going to need to be tweaked etc unless you start. And that is what this year for me is about. I can see that having bought a complete package first time round has been great as it gives me the confidence to start looking at what I want in terms of a curriculum, and seeing how to make a mix and match one for the future. And I'm looking forward to becoming a more eclectic type of homeschooler!