We finished our first year of full-time homeschooling last week, just in time for our new third grade graduate to head off to Webelos Scout camp for four days. It certainly wasn’t my intention to still be doing lessons on the first day of August, but life doesn’t always go according to plan. My husband applied for, interviewed for, was offered, and accepted a job in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (we were living in Ontario, Canada), so we put an unexpected amount of time and effort into house-buying, house-selling, moving internationally, and getting settled into our new house, which meant we got behind in homeschooling and had to do three weeks of lessons in July. Fear not, Peter has still been having an awesome summer, complete with swimming lessons, going to parks, jumping on the neighbors’ trampoline, exploring the woods at our new house, playing with the neighbor kids, and reading lots of books. We are taking the month of August off before starting 4th grade in September and I plan to be done by mid-June next year, barring other major unforeseen life changes.
When we first decided to homeschool Peter, the plan was for me to stay home full-time with both boys. Then I had an opportunity to teach part-time and I decided to go for it. It seemed like we could pull it off–I would still be home enough to do lessons with Peter, but it would give me a chance to make some money, keep my foot in the door with the school board, and have a life outside of my home. Originally, Don was watching the boys while I was at work, which definitely helped financially, but with his whole job thing happening, we ended up hiring a babysitter to come to the house every day. Even though I was only gone about three hours a day, it was a challenge to homeschool while working part-time. I had to leave for work around noon, but factoring in time to eat lunch and get dressed before that, and Peter’s slow-pokiness in the mornings, we usually only had about two hours to get lessons done together, and even that time was fraught with interruptions from Simon (diaper changes, snack requests, and just general needs for attention). Peter was supposed to do his independent work while I was gone, which also was a challenge sometimes. After I got home and checked his independent work, it was time to cook dinner and deal with other things, so we rarely did any lessons other than in the mornings. If someone had a doctor or dentist appointment or if we went grocery shopping or to open gym time, it meant sacrificing lessons for a day. Even if we got behind schedule, though, I insisted on taking weekends off so that we had a break. Our scheduling wasn’t ideal, but we pulled it off.
The biggest area of growth over the school year was in Peter’s writing. He’s still not a prolific writer, but it’s no longer like pulling teeth to get him to put words on a page. He made it through level 1 and half of level 2 in All About Spelling, which has made him more comfortable in trying to spell words he doesn’t know (and more accurate, even though he still has a ways to go). Writing a minimum of three sentences on topics of his choice in his daily journal gave him practice writing, again helping him become more comfortable. I struggled with the weekly writing assignments, both making the assignments and getting him to do them with an appropriate amount of care. Some of them came from his grammar book, some ideas I found online, and others I came up with myself. He tended to put them off until Friday and then rush through them. I felt that the amount of work the writing assignments were to come up with and to go over them with him was not worth what he was getting out of them, so I gave up on them for the last couple months when life was busy and stressful with the move.
The biggest disappointment was art. I knew going into it that Peter wasn’t a huge fan of art, so I didn’t have really high expectations, but I figured it would be a fun thing to do once a week. However, I made the mistake of scheduling art on Fridays, thinking it would be a nice way to end the week. When we ended up behind schedule for the week, far too often I decided to just drop art. Even when we did art, usually I just went over the directions with Peter before I left for work and then he did it himself while I was gone. This meant that a) he didn’t put as much effort into his art as he would have if I were there, and b) I didn’t get to do art. Near the end of the year, I made a point to do art with Peter, and it was fun for both of us.
With French language arts, science lessons in French, French workbooks, French library books, and watching tv in French, Peter seems to have gotten enough exposure to the language that his French seems to be holding up. That was one of my main concerns about taking him out of school, as he had been attending a francophone school.
History continues to be a favorite subject for both of us. Going back and forth between US and Canadian history has worked out well. I feel that Peter is getting a solid introduction to the history of both countries, and I have learned things too. Even though we both really enjoy doing read-alouds, I finally dropped them around Christmas time because we kept getting so far behind schedule. Peter is a strong reader and has been able to read most of the read-aloud books himself. I miss sharing the books with him, but this is easier, and he won’t suffer long-term harm from reading the books himself. My parents didn’t read to me when I was in third grade and I turned out okay. :)
All in all, it has been a successful year. I will enjoy having a month off, but I am also looking forward to the adventure of homeschooling for fourth grade.