I haven’t talked much about the details of our homeschool this past year (2015-2016), have I? I didn’t even keep a book list for the boys!
It has been a lazy, relaxing year. Probably our laziest yet. I purposefully stepped back and took a rather significant break.
Lola [4/5, K4]
Lola started Classical Conversations Foundations in the fall (she turned five in October). Her tutor, my good friend Jessye, was wonderful, but Lola was not exactly invested in the experience. She basically attended just to learn the routine, get used to following directions, and all that. She memorized nothing. In fact, she hardly even said the words. She’s not much of a science project, map-tracing, fine arts kid, either. She was in her own little world. A very talkative, wiggly, opinionated world.
She has been learning to read slowly and casually, but has little interest in any other learning. This is a completely different experience compared to her brothers, especially Leif, who entered CC at barely four and could read all the memory work and add double digits (though he, too, could not sit still or be quiet or participate cheerfully). Because there is such a large age difference between the boys and her as well as a lack of interest and ability to listen or cooperate, she rarely joined our group learning time at home. She either did her own thing or interrupted us (mostly interrupted us if she wasn’t on a screen, because she does not play independently). She is an expert at Minecraft, however. I’m being really honest here. This is reality, folks.
Leif [9, 4th Grade]
As a 4th grader, Leif enjoyed his sixth year of Foundations, tutored by my “little sister” Lindsay. She had her hands full, but she also was a fantastic tutor. Leif has always struggled with maintaining control of his body and mouth, and he knows all the things and how they should be done and he must say everything out loud the moment it pops into his head. He also takes up the space of two kids because he has no concept of personal space. He was diagnosed with Tourette’s, impulsivity, and ADHD at the beginning of the school year—all things I already knew, but it was nice to be affirmed in my mother’s intuition and know that he wasn’t trying to be a difficult kid. In fact, he is one of the biggest, most affectionate teddy bears you will ever meet. He is also a very smart kid who looks much older than he is because he’s huge. He has most of the memory work down cold, but I dropped the ball in geography so we’ll have to work a bit over the summer to complete Memory Master at home.
This was his first year in Essentials. Class was a struggle for Leif because he had already expended all his energy on being “well-behaved” for the whole morning and had nothing left in the afternoon. He is a whiz at grammar, but writing is a struggle. We did only a few of the writing assignments together. He has plenty of time (at least 2 more years of Essentials), and he was the youngest kid in class. There were days when I just let him read a book in the back of class.
Leif did very little formal work at home this year, but he reads voraciously and is working above “grade level” with Khan Academy math. He also swims four afternoons a week with the swim team.
Luke [11, 6th Grade]
Luke also completed his sixth year of Foundations, but as a 6th grader. He was tutored by Char, my best friend of 28 years, and it was a joy for me to sit in their class often. She did an excellent job, and I’m glad she and Luke had that time to bond. Luke has matured so much over the past couple years, so morning class was much easier for him. He completed Memory Master for the 3rd time (his 2nd time for cycle 1; he missed cycle 3 last year) without much effort, but he did little else at home for CC.
This was Luke’s third year in Essentials. He was often in his own little world during class, as he’s not all that fond of grammar and certainly not at all fond of writing. We worked on many of the papers together at home. [I don’t know if I could have tutored without him, though, because he was my right-hand man when it came to loading up in the morning, setting up class, tearing down class, cleaning up, and unloading at home.]
Luke did very little formal work at home this year, but he reads voraciously and is working above “grade level” with Khan Academy math. He also swims four afternoons a week with the swim team.
Luke did spend quite a bit of time this year baking. He is my most focused kid when it comes to something he is interested in! And he’s a tremendous help to me when I need assistance in any way.
Levi [13/14, 8th Grade]
After a rough year of CC Challenge A last year and for various other reasons, I decided not to enroll Levi in Challenge B for his 8th grade year this past year. He spent most of our community days home with Russ, working on independent tasks and reading. He spent another day each week working with his friend McKinnon and McKinnon’s mom (my best friend, Char) on Challenge B Latin and Logic. One other day each week, McKinnon, Levi, and I worked together on Challenge B literature discussions and The Lost Tools of Writing. Levi didn’t do much formal independent work in these subjects other than reading the literature selections. [Levi did nothing for Ch. B debate and did no science research other than reading through a few books.]
Levi read several pieces of more challenging literature [To Kill a Mockingbird, The Chosen, The Book Thief, The Silmarillion, The Boys in the Boat, The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged), and others]. [I intended to work through Roman Roads Western Culture Greeks with him this year and I totally fell through on that, but he read quite a bit of The Iliad.] He worked through some of Life of Fred Pre-Algebra and is almost finished with Pre-Algebra on Khan Academy. He spent a bunch of time doing his own story writing and drawing. He loves Skyping with friends and planning projects (mainly fiction writing, Minecraft videos, and such). He also swims five afternoons a week with the swim team. Levi has joined three other boys from CC (they were all in the same class six years ago) and one of the moms (my good friend Heather) for a monthly Bible study.
He grew a bunch and is now a few inches taller than me, and he spent the year in orthodontics. He’s hairy (and he is partial to the mop of hair on his head). He now loves to stay up late and sleep late in the mornings.
Despite all the challenges, Classical Conversations was one of the main threads holding us all together. This was our 6th year in community. I tutored an Essentials class (English grammar, writing, and math games) in the afternoon with Leif and Luke and 13 other students (plus parents). The experience was overwhelmingly positive, and I look forward to tutoring again next year. As always, the friendships within our community are priceless to me. Our community days give structure to our week, and I know that we have learned something and challenged ourselves even if we do little else all week long.
Khan Academy was another huge success this year. I posted about it at length here. In short, it is a brilliant FREE online math program. It is interactive and gives students excellent video instruction, step-by-step help, and instant feedback. It requires students to master concepts. It is rigorous and comprehensive, but attractive and motivating. Math has never been my favorite subject to teach, but it is extremely important to me that my boys have a consistent program to work through. After using Teaching Textbooks for several years and Saxon for one, I’m thrilled that the boys can complete their math education with Khan.
I led a Book Detectives parent-child literary analysis group monthly during the school year, and the boys participated in those discussions.
For my own scholarship, I joined a group of CC moms who met at my house each month to discuss the works of Flannery O’Connor, led by my brilliant friend Mindy. This was an incredible experience for all of us, and we have one or two more meetings ahead. (This was in addition to meeting with a slightly different group of women several times to discuss The Question, a book about Aristotle’s 5 Common Topics for the logic-stage student by Leigh Bortins, as well as meeting monthly with my long-time book club, ChocLit Guild.)
Coming up: Looking Forward
Summer Plans [May-July] and 2016-2017 Plans.