So, we are just about done with our school year (we school year round from January-December). We're keeping a very light "Christmas school" going to give our days some structure, but we've otherwise wrapped most things up. I took some time last week to use this wonderful evaluation tool to look back over our year, and thought I'd share some of the highlights here...
What did I learn about each child?
Michelle is helpful and affectionate. She thrives on one-on-one time. She has a tendency to be dramatic.
James is quiet, but there's a lot of thinking going on in that head of his. He is an introvert and needs regular time to 'recharge', but at the same time he thrives on one-on-one time. He tends to see things in 'black and white', and struggles with anything 'gray'.
Elizabeth is observant, funny, and affectionate. She likes being the baby. She is also impulsive, active, and loud.
What were our 'crowning moments'?
Michelle - Her narration and writing abilities have blossomed. She's starting to make connections.
James - He's starting to read and write, more or less unprompted by me. His verbal ability is improving and he's even made a couple of (very cute) attempts at narration.
Elizabeth - Can now sit through family Bible time quietly. =)
What were our greatest challenges?
Constant change and flexibility needed for everyone. Helping children with transitions is draining for me. For me, it was also a struggle to have a 'divided heart' between my own language learning and home tasks.
What habits and skills have we accomplished?
Both of the two older children are able to help with many household tasks including dishes and folding laundry. Michelle has learned how to handle a knife properly and cut food and so can be very helpful with meal preparation (she can make a whole salad by herself). Michelle generally has an attitude of helpfulness, and her attention and ability to work independently is improving. James is getting better at expressing himself verbally (instead of throwing tantrums). Elizabeth is working on potty-training, and starting to have some success there. She desperately wants to help with the chores too, although that often backfires...
What habits and skills should we work on in the coming year?
Developing and sticking to routines for key transitional parts of the day. Table manners. Picking things up instead of stepping on them. Continuing to learn how to do various household tasks according to their abilities. And certain character traits that are problematic for each child. (While I decline to describe their character faults in detail this space, I assure you that my children are NOT perfect!)
How did our schedule work out?
I feel like I've finally stumbled onto a scheduling system that works well for us and can roll with the punches when we need flexibility. Keeping things simple, keeping rest time for everyone (including mama) in the schedule, and having occasional 'project days' to break up some of the monotony and squeeze in the things that tend to get left out of our regular school days have also worked out really well.
What 'unplanned' learning opportunities did we have?
We've all learned a lot of flexibility this year as Dan and I have had constantly changing schedules, and the kids have spent a lot more time with Dan than usual (and we all know that Papas do things differently than Mamas). We've also had lots of 'traveling' learning experiences living here in France - we've made trips to Grenoble, Lyon, Paris, Annecy, and Avingon as well as exploring our local area. I love the fact that my 6.5 year old liked the art museums in Paris and all of my kids thought the bridge of Avignon was cool.
How did our curriculum choices work out for this year?
Overall fairly well, although we've made some changes as we've gone along and figured out what really works the best for us. (You can see our curriculum choices at the top of the right-hand column). Keeping it simple has been our best rule of thumb. A few changes we made in the course of this year or for next year:
- Switching from Math Mammoth to Math-U-See: Michelle was struggling with Math Mammoth and I was having to tweak and supplement to fit her far too much. Math-U-See has been a much better fit for us overall. We plan to continue with it.
- Dropping All About Spelling: I worked through Level 1 and most of Level 2 with Michelle, and feel like it was a really helpful foundation for her. However, about halfway through Level 2, she started complaining about the words being 'too easy'. As her reading ability has increased, so has her spelling ability. So we decided to drop the program in favor of a more organic, personalized-list approach. (I'll still apply some of the basic principles and teaching method I learned with AAS, though.)
- Deciding to use Ambleside Online rather than Simply Charlotte Mason for our main curriculum framework: For several years, I had planned to use the SCM History Modules. However, when I sat down to actually plan out our year using one, I ended up tweaking so much that I drove myself crazy. I really wanted to be able to use more electronically available books than were listed in the SCM modules, wanted to spend less time on ancient history and more time in the modern era, and felt like the SCM modules were a little too 'light' in some areas. AO pretty much fits all of these criteria: lots of public domain books that I can get on the Kindle, a history rotation that more or less mirrors what I was trying to do (spreading history out evenly over 6 years, rather than 3 years on ancient history and 3 years to rush through everything else), and most definetely rigorous. I'm sure we'll make some tweaks along the way, but overall I think it will prove to be a better framework for us to work from.
What changes will we make for the coming year?
Besides the curriculum changes I mentioned above:
- French langauge learning will be a greater priority.
- We've done fairly well with nature study this year, but it's been hard sometimes living in a city apartment. I'm looking forward to having more focused outdoors time than we've had this past year.
- Continue with memorizing the Westminister Catechism, but focus on longer passages for Scripture memory rather than a 'snippet' proof text for each question.
- Greater consistency with habit training (for me too)!
- Add in a tea time (weekly?) and more consistent family nights.
Overall, a great learning year despite our crazy life here in France. Looking forward to enjoying some time off of "school" during our transition, and picking up our new year in February!