Sunday, June 27, 2010

the school year

We are officially on our summer break. Have been for a few weeks now. We all are enjoying the different (not necessarily slower) pace which allows us to do more of what we want and less of the to-do's on our check list.

This blog is a family scrapbook. We only write about and post things that we think we will care to read in the future. With that in mind, I think we will want to remember some of what our school days were like. I had better document it a little bit before I forget it all entirely.

This year we waited to start our school schedule until October. It was all because of this guy.

I wanted Justus to be on a somewhat predictable schedule and allowing me to get full nights of sleep before we started into the thick of it. It worked out splendidly and as a result of no teacher workdays, snow-days, and very few random holidays we were able to put in a full year and still end by June!

Once we began, Aidan enjoyed a terrific third grade year. I think "The Year of Independence" would be a good label for it. This year, I could count on him to follow his checklist and accomplish many tasks without me. He would see what subjects were required for that day, work on them, check them off and leave the work on the counter for me to go over when I had time. This independence was such a wonderful thing to see because in the past three years Aidan has needed much from me in order to move on to the next thing without loosing a bunch of time, focus, papers, pencils, books and oomph! Maturity and personality go hand in hand to bring about this change.

Aidan has been moving along nicely in math never having trouble with the concepts. The only speed bumps he encountered has to do with diligence and attention to details. For instance, long division would get tedious and he would begin to make errors. A problem both Mike and I empathized with and were able to steer him successfully away from.

Aidan cruised through cursive, beginning Latin, logic (mind-benders), literature, spelling, Spanish, typing and Bible/memory work without a hitch. Our grammar and writing book did not work for us and that is one ball that I dropped; I know what the problem is/was and I have a plan to remedy that for next year. Aidan says his favorite subject this past year was reading (I had him read books that I picked out during this time rather than the usual fare that he reads on his own.)

For history, science and read alouds Aidan, Luke and I would work together. This is for sure my favorite part of homeschooling. I started four years ago with creation and we have worked our way chronologically through the pilgrims (we will pick up with them in the fall). We worked on maps and geography, a few projects and enjoyed many books (historical fiction and non-fiction) written about our current time period. In science we focused on astronomy this year and enjoyed all that we read. I intended for us to do a lot of observing but this is something that we just never got around to. Thankfully our school is not closing and my students are not moving on to another teacher so that we can look forward to more in the future.

These two subjects were made even more fun because we did them together. Luke, Aidan and I were all equally learning together and we would take turns "teaching" Mike and the other kids at the dinner table. Good times.

(Aidan, Luke and friends with Ken Ham)
Luke's year of first grade required a lot of intense one on one instruction from me and thankfully Ava and Ethan made this possible by playing so nicely together on their own or doing one of the many activities I made available for them (think: really, really big mess). I would reserve these times to happen during Justus' naps and as a result Luke accomplished a wonderful year of reading practice (reading out loud to me books of increasing difficulty), phonics, grammar, spelling, and math. On his own he worked on handwriting, Spanish and Bible/memory and I have to mention that his handwriting is already much neater than that of his family members!

It has been fun to grow to understand the way Luke learns best. Luke is much more particular about details and really cares about getting things right (I have no idea where he gets that). He and I learned a lot this year about how to accomplish all of our goals with each subject we tackled. I am really pleased with the progress Luke made and the confidence he has gained in his abilities.

I completely loved observing Luke hold his own in subjects that we did together with Aidan. He did well learning side by side with a brother two years older. Luke seems to have a special affinity for science and he says his favorite subject was sometimes math, sometimes spelling and sometimes reading.

The nature of our homeschool requires a bit of patience from the students. If Justus needed a diaper change or woke early from a nap, if Ava and Ethan needed some help or discipline, etc., etc., and etc, Aidan and Luke would be put on hold, asked to do something else for a few minutes or were required to keep on working despite interruption. They are used to this. They don't know it any other way. But this year I am especially thankful for how flexible Luke was in this regard. Near the end of the year, Luke often would read to me standing near the sink while I did the breakfast dishes so that I did not get too far behind on my work but could still look over his shoulder and help him with difficult words. He would receive spelling tests while I was making lunch and would have to remind me over and over that he was ready for the next word. And he would often receive his grammar/math/phonics lesson from me while I was nursing Justus who would be happily kicking him as he sat beside me. I am thankful for Luke's adaptability this year and I look forward to seeing how the Lord uses the strength this "grew" in him in the future.

Those are the nuts and bolts. The notes that I feel like making after a few weeks break. There were many days that I felt it was impossible (true with many jobs/teachers/students), many days that did not run smoothly, and many days that were almost euphoric as I saw my students grow in their understanding. Taken as a whole, I am so glad we do it this way.

Homeschooling may not be the easiest way to pour information into my kid's heads but it is the easiest way to know exactly what facts and whose worldview they are getting. We feel it is the best way to ensure that their character is being molded in truth and righteousness one day at a time, one hour at a time. I am so thankful to have so many hours to spend with these kids learning with them, about them, and teaching them exactly what Mike and I want them to be taught. The academics are not the end goal of our choice to homeschool but I sure am delighted to see that (so far) we have been able to be really successful in this area!

Now if I could just stop shaking in my boots as I consider the challenges of adding Kindergarten with Ethan (aka the wild one) to our year of second and fourth grade! I will be praying for a lot of wisdom!


KAMILLE said...

Amy--I have much respect for you as you take on this challenge of homeschooling while doing everything else a mama & wife does.

This post was great to see what goes on and after reading I was going, "Phew--that's a lot of work."

Your family is a beautiful family. I think, "I would love to be a fly on the wall."

And a perfect close to the post--made me laugh (picture & knowing of the stories of Ethan). At least he gets to be taught by you, rather than being in a classroom with 30 other kids in at a desk for WAY TOO LONG.

Leslie said...

Wow! What a year and what a challenge! I'm so grateful to have Abbey and Gabe 17 months apart and the only subject they don't share in common is math, although they work together on that at times also. Great work Hollisters - keep it up!

amy said...

Thanks Leslie!

Kamille, thank you for the kinds words. I hope I didn't make it seem like too much work. It is a full work load but it gets added one at a time. Just like when you only have one baby and your hands are full, then you have a second child and your hands are full and then a third... homeschooling is the same way. You start with preschool and add a little bit at a time. It helps that I have never had it any other way.

It really is doable and in many ways easy! And fun.

Stacy said...

I loved this "Year in Review" post, Ame...

-I'd love to know what you did for Latin... I'm just-now researching that and keep meaning to ask you!

I so enjoyed the paragraph about how Luke had to do many of his lessons beside you and whatever you were doing with Justus! That is *so* my life, too- and just the reality of homeschooling with a lot of children, and little ones in the mix. But how fun it is! And I have often thought that about my older two- that somehow those moments are building characteristics in them of patience and honoring another above themselves, and that's good fruit of this life!

I love love LOVE the photo of all five on the stairs! I want a copy! :)

Love you guys...

Stacy said...


You do this thing *well*, friend! [Mothering, homeschooling, taking care of your home...] I'm proud of you!

amy said...

Stacy, this is what Aidan did with Latin this year:
It is something he did completely on his own and I think did a good job laying a foundation. No frills though, just work through one lesson at a time.

We also did this around the lunch table together with everyone:
And that was a lot of fun. Also good to begin with.

Thank you for your encouraging words. I know you understand the juggling like no one else. And likewise you understand that there is no other way to have it (in our opinion!).

Jodi said...

I loved this post! It's inspiring to get a peek at how you do things. Great job to your whole family!

P.S. What do you use for Spanish?

Carolynn said...

What a Fabulous post Amy! I love the year in review, It really shows that you got a lot accomplished. Sometimes I feel as though we did nothing except training and correction. When you look back on it, it makes it all worthwhile.

Mike said...

Carolynn, that is exactly how it is! Feels good to take a step back and see the bigger picture.

Thanks Jodi! For Spanish we are using Rosetta Stone:


Anonymous said...

You've been doing a wonderful job with this. You have some very bright kids! You have a lot to be proud of. Nice work!