With our 2009–2010 school year drawing to a close I find myself taking a look back on the last year. Taking a scrutinizing look at all the things that worked for us, and all the things that did not.
After a rough start in the fall getting into a consistent routine, we eventually managed to get quite a bit accomplished this year. Though we’d done preschool and kindergarten at home, this was our first “Official” year homeschooling; our first year accountable for what Winter’s learning.
Taking into consideration Winter’s learning style and his unique needs as a child on the Autism spectrum, I had already learned that strict adherence to a structured routine helped him to function throughout the day. For our first year of serious schooling I simply adjusted the routine we already had established. The problem I had with that was Winter’s stubborn resistance to change, and to formal schooling. It took us until well into January before Winter and I had really broken in the new regimen; consequently our school-year ran late–it is now the end of June and our last day of 1st Grade is schedule for Saturday, July 3rd.
Winter is not a self-motivated child, and so the practice of unschooling that is becoming so popular among many homeschoolers–does not work for us. Personally I like the principle behind the ideal, but I have no doubt that left to his own devices Winter would simply park himself in front of the nearest computer and play video-games all day, every day. Also, I feel that a certain amount of formal schooling is beneficial so long as the individual’s learning style and personal needs are considered. And so, following a story-time period we congregate at the kitchen table for lessons five days a week.
This year I mainly focused on the 3-Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Handwriting is a major struggle for Winter, but he’s made great strides with it this year, through copy-work and journalling. His reading ability exploded in the fall–we suspect he was reading some on his own when we started the school-year, and after persistent demands for a period of oral reading during our formal school time, Winter’s abilities were revealed. He is currently reading at a 3rd to 5th grade reading level, and still sometimes insists that he’s “not a good reader”.
We’ve covered most of the same maths that first-graders in the system would have learned: addition, telling-time, patterning, skip-counting, measuring inches and centimeters. I also introduced greater-than and less-than, place-value, and money. I would have been well-satisfied if he had memorized all of the addition math-facts, but I think he had a good firm foundation, and I intend to increase attention to math in the new school-year.
Alright–science isn’t one of the 3-Rs–hell, it’s not even an ‘R’, but this is a scientific homeschool, and so science education played a headlining role in our curriculum. My husband and I strive to provide a scientific foundation with our very lifestyle, so the inquiry and process habits were already there. I simply provided direction with the Earth-Studies Units, which look at science through the history of our planet Earth. We studied the Big Bang theory, the Hadean Eon, volcanoes and plate tectonics, the Archaean Eon and evolution. We looked at the Proterozoic Eon through a unit study regarding microscopic life, where I introduced the microscope to not only my children, but also my nephews. And we looked at the start of the Paleozoic Era with the Cambrian Explosion and vertebrates vs. invertebrates.
I tried to provide a science education that was both factual and hands-on. So we utilized reference books, as well as performing hands-on experiments and multi-sensory activities such as games, videos and documentaries, and data-keeping through lapbooking.
Overall I think our first year of serious schooling was a success. Winter made good progress and we’ve all learned a lot about what works for our family, and what does not. We’ll be celebrating our accomplishments this Sunday with a bar-b-que, as requested by Winter, and he will receive his awards and a new TinTin book as a prize for all his hard work. Then I’m looking forward to a few weeks off to regroup before we start again. Hooray for summer vacation!