Friday, September 09, 2016

A Decade of Homeschooling

The past couple of weeks have been so busy that I've neglected to post anything about the beginning of our school year. Actually, part of the reason the past two weeks have been so busy has been precisely for that reason -- we're schooling again!

I was happy and relieved to kick off our tenth year of homeschooling at the end of August. There were a lot of months last spring, and even some time this summer, when I wasn't entirely sure I was going to have the energy to teach again. But I continue to feel called to do so, and for now it still seems like the right thing for our family to do.

I poured a lot of time into this year's course syllabi for several reasons. The first is that my call to keep homeschooling the sweet girl feels stronger than usual because my energies are so limited. I knew if we were going to do this, and do it well, it was going to take most of my focus and creativity this year. But one of the things I think the Lord is telling me is that it's important that I pour a lot into our dear daughter's life and learning, as much as I can.

Then there is the fact that our daughter is now in 9th grade. As in, you know, HIGH SCHOOL. This just flabbergasts me, because part of me thinks I've still got one foot in the delight of planning kindergarten, but seriously, here we are in year ten of the learning journey. Course designs need to be appropriately challenging.

Thankfully, because I had to spend a lot of the summer still resting and not being out and about or over committed to other things, I had a lot of time to lesson plan in June, July, and August.

Here's what coursework looks like for our high schooler this fall:

English 9: Literature, Writing, and Grammar
Algebra 1
Earth Science
Modern History
Spanish 1
Physical Education

The English course is an original course I spent a ton of time designing and pacing, and so far I am really happy with it. Literature is focused on modern novels, to tie into history studies (we're doing Animal Farm first) and the creative writing focus this semester is on poetry. We're exploring poetry some within academic writing as well. Today we had an awesome time scanning stanzas in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and talking about its rhyme scheme and meter.

Algebra 1 is partly a repeat from last year. Cancer derailed math as it did so many other things in our household, and she never finished the work for the year. The stress of my hospitalization and treatments and sporadic tutoring times all added up to her feeling very stressed about her studies. We've switched to Teaching Textbooks this year (which she can do almost completely independently with their online tutoring/teaching feature) and she is having a great time easing back into the subject and enjoying math again. Since her last curriculum was more advanced and she got midway through the course, she's getting some review this year, but quite honestly, she needs it. Her math skills will be the better for our slow down and course correction here.

Earth Science comes to us courtesy of Novare. I like their materials a lot. The text I chose is one that can be used in middle school, but I've had email exchanges with the author about using it in a high school context, and he wholeheartedly endorsed my use of it in this way. Their stuff tends to be challenging and sets the bar high, and we're making sure to get in the lab work and add in some supplements. It's solid material and she's having to spend quite a bit of time reading and writing in science this year, which is good.

Her dad has designed her modern history course. They intended to do modern history all of last year, but again, my illness slowed things down. They actually soldiered on through it all, but focus just wasn't there for either of them, and they really wanted to give it another semester and more attention. They'd gotten right up to World War I, so that's pretty much where they picked up this term. D has tweaked some of the assignments so S has more reading to do, but terms, timelines, maps, and creative projects continue. I especially love that he has her engaging a popular song, an iconic photograph, and a political cartoon in each decade.

We've switched gears in Spanish. S mostly completed two years in Spanish for Children (everything but the final two or three weeks in year B) and was ready to dive into a more challenging and immersive language program. We're using Breaking the Barrier for a high school level challenge. She's struggling to find the time she needs to get the work done since her four main courses are taking more time and energy than she's used to, but I think she'll get into the swing of things. We're taking it a relatively slow pace so we can also get in a little bit of Latin American geography and cooking. Each main chapter of the Spanish text provides a profile of a different Spanish speaking area of the world.

Physical education is really a combination of her Irish dance and martial arts studies, both continued from last year. She has her same dance teacher this year, which thrilled her (she loves studying with Maveen). Martial arts is not her favorite commitment, but she enjoys the time with her dad, and it provides excellent exercise and discipline. When you put the two together, she's getting pretty good workouts weekly.

And so am I, just of another sort! We'll see how my own stamina holds up. Following introductory stuff for all courses, I've been happy that she mostly needs my attention and teaching in English (where I've crafted the materials) and Science (where we have periodic learning check-ins and discussions) along with overall guidance in helping her learn to pace her days and weeks to find the right balance she needs to get the work done. With D taking on the bulk of history teaching and Spanish and Algebra being more independent, I can usually find the breaks I need during the day to rest. Learning balance and pace is important for me too, especially as I continue on with treatment and other things I need to do in my ongoing healing journey.

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