Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Second Grade - Somehow

We did it! It's over! Finished! Completed! Amen!

On April 30, Josiah did his last assignment for second grade (and I'm just now getting around to blogging about it - oh, well, that's life sometimes - sigh), and then we shut the door on that year of schooling. But first we celebrated, honoring Josiah for all that he has accomplished (particularly his ability to meet the goal he set in early February to finish everything by the end of April), honoring David for the way he's jumped way ahead in his self-initiated learning-to-read progress, and (I was secretly) honoring me for surviving the year!! :)

Of course, our celebration included lots of pictures. In this one, Josiah is doing what I jokingly called his final exam. A big part of our (self-designed) curriculum this year revolved around the 50 states; and the good news is that I finally learned where they all are! Yep, ask me where Nebraska is, and I'll nail it. Rhode Island? No problem. Delaware? Illinois? Wyoming? Piece of cake! Oh, and Josiah knows them all, too. ;)


We took time to take our traditional pictures on the front porch. Looking back at this post from our first day of school this past year makes me realize anew how much my boys are growing up! David was the photographer for this one...
...and then my parents, who were eating lunch and could see us from their kitchen, came up the hill and my dad offered to take a picture of me and my students. :)

All the boys have changed since school began, but Shav! Well, he is so different!
Something about a camera pointed in their direction makes my oldest two boys (especially David - are we surprised? no!) want to make all kinds of goofy faces and poses.
So I let them.
I want to write more about this topic sometime, but this...
...this sibling togetherness...is one of the three main reasons we chose to homeschool.

Time for individual pictures: Josiah, the rising 3rd grader...



David, the rising kindergartener...




Tobin, the rising...uh...something...toddler? preschooler? I'm not sure...

Shav, the adorable baby...his expression in this picture reminds me exactly of the funny look he has in the last picture in this post from August of last year... :)

After all the school work was done and the pictures were taken and the boys were settled for naps/quiet time, the real celebration began.
I ate this Klondike bar. ;)

I think it's accurate to say that this was the hardest year of homeschooling for me. The funny thing, in retrospect, is that for almost the entire year, I had the distinct feeling of "I really need to get going with homeschooling...we're moving at such a snail's pace...I'm not sticking to the schedule like I should...I just really need to get in gear...oh, well, I'll just do what I can for today since I'm still trying to survive this mother-of-four thing...but one of these days, I'm really going to have to get serious about this!" I thought that in September, and October, and November, and every month until April, it seemed. Then I realized that we were almost done. Somehow, sometime, somewhere along the line, we actually were doing all the work and accomplishing things just fine, but I surely didn't realize it until I stood near the finish line and looked back!

The hardest part of this year, besides the fact that I was still adjusting after having had Shav and was sleep-deprived and extra-emotional(!), was Tobin. I love that boy to pieces, and he must love me to pieces back because he would always come and get right in the way when I was trying to focus on Josiah and David. :) I thought I was going to go to pieces! If I could do things over again, I would be more focused on training him on appropriate behavior during homeschooling. I know there are scads of ideas out there for how to constructively occupy a toddler while his older siblings are being educated; but I was seriously operating in survival mode for so long that I didn't feel like I could devote one iota of brain power, time, or preparation to being creative in that area. And so, as a result, we dealt with numerous interruptions from Tobin who apparently thought it was great fun to use Josiah, David, and I as jungle gyms while we were sitting on the couch trying to talk about what pronouns are and where Lewis and Clark went on their expedition and how a wolverine demonstrates the character trait of perseverance. Mildly distracting, to say the least.

The easiest part of this year - or, in other words, the part of this year that was the biggest help - was Josiah's incredible reading ability. He learned to read in kindergarten, made great strides in it during first grade, but this year he was reading EVERYTHING; and so, on days when I felt completely unable to spend the amount of time teaching him that I would have liked, he could read the material and absorb it himself. When mornings got crazy, he would finish his work during afternoon quiet time; and I was grateful for the fact that I didn't have to sit with him and tell him how to do his math work or read his history chapter to him. His ability to read and learn independently was a HUGE blessing this year.

The most surprising part of this year, by far, was David's desire to read, his persistent requests to be taught, and the solid progress he made in that area. With him being a rather active, hands-on boy, I fully expected reading to be a difficult skill for him to pick up; and I thought I might have to try new ways of teaching that would appeal to his learning style and would help it click for him. But when I tentatively tried our old stand-by Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, I was blown away by how quickly he picked up the concept of sounding out words. I knew he knew the letter sounds; I think he knew them since he was 2 (literally). But the idea of combining them to form words? Well, I wasn't so confident that he was ready for that. He proved me wrong however, and I was delighted. What's more, he even showed me quickly that he actually did a better job than Josiah did when he was first learning to read. Josiah would get so impatient with himself and despised the slow process of sounding things out; he has such a good memory that he would want me to just tell him what the word was so he could memorize it. He might see the word "sand" and would immediately guess, "sat? saddle? sassafras? shoehorn? spectacular? symmetrical? supercalifragilisticexpialadocious?" OK, I'm kidding a little - but only a little. As frustrated as he got about sounding things out, I got equally frustrated at his refusal to sound them out! But now look at him; he's a tremendous reader, so I guess in the long run, it didn't matter that he couldn't sound out "sand." :) But back to David, he did (and does) sound out words beautifully; and it's so much fun to watch him find words that he can read in various places: on cereal boxes, road signs, books that Josiah is reading, etc. I'm so proud of him! We got through 2/3 of the Teach Your Child to Read book, and he's also read a couple of other books - books that he gets to write in his reading record and be paid a dime by Grandpa. A little bit of pocket change can be a powerful incentive. :) When I remember that I wasn't even going to start trying to teach David to read until this coming fall, I'm amazed...and very, very grateful for the unexpected blessing of his love of reading.

As I look ahead to the fall, I immediately think of three things that I want to change to make this coming year more successful and, to put it bluntly, easier. :)

1. As I mentioned previously, I need to find a way to get Tobin occupied with enjoyable, edifying activities while I'm focusing on the older boys. I do not want to wrestle with him every day, just to move him out of the way so my eyes can see the page I'm trying to read! And it's not fair to Josiah and David to have him disrupt their attempted learning. So, I'm planning to actually focus on him when we begin school in the fall. If I get activities set up for him and if I teach him what is and is not OK during school time, I think I'll be able to train him at the beginning of the year and reap the benefits throughout the rest of the year. I know Barbara Curtis has some great ideas in a book she wrote, Small Beginnings (I love that book!); I need to get that out and brush up on those ideas before we start up again.

2. I want to get up earlier - at least, a few minutes before the boys. :) If I could spend some time with God, get dressed, and be alert and ready for the day, I think it would help things go much more smoothly in the morning; and this will, of course, necessitate me going to bed earlier at night. This past year, it was not at all uncommon for us to not get going with school stuff until after I put Shav in bed for his morning nap (usually around 10:00AM). If I could get up earlier, not only would my attitude be more cheerful and less sleepy, but it would also give us more time in the morning to finish more of our work...which leads me to #3.

3. If at all possible, I would like for Josiah to be able to finish his schoolwork in the morning so that his afternoon quiet times could be used for whatever he desires, rather than catch-up on school. During the past few weeks since we finished school, I've observed that the free time in the afternoon has been refreshing for him. Even though he never complained about having to do math (or history or science or whatever) in the afternoons, I could tell that it definitely made life less fun for him, so I really want to make an effort to restore those afternoon hours that he could use for anything he wants. Knowing him, he'll most likely read for a good chunk of the time; but I want him to be able to choose a book just for fun, or Legos to build with, or a game, or other toys, or whatever his sweet little heart wants.

There's more I want to say, but I'll stop now and make myself go to bed. :)

Oh, just one more thing... Even though I have some regrets about this past year that lead me to some different choices I want to make for the future, I give myself loads of grace for how things went. Sometimes survival mode is all you can do. Sometimes good enough really is good enough. Sometimes the guilt about not being better is the very worst thing. So, bottom line: even with a newborn, even with a toddler, even with a preschooler, we still managed to get through second grade. And really? It was so much more than just getting through.

Second grade was fantastic!

10 comments:

Tim and Michelle said...

I appreciated this post...I too felt like much of this homeschool year was "survival" and yet Kathryn did learn!...sometimes we can be too hard on ourselves, can't we (I know I often set too high of expectations for myself)!

Sally said...

Thanks for taking the time to write this post. I still don't know how you do it all! I admire all that you do, and particularly your homeschooling. I just HOPE I can get the learning done, both by me and our children, when the time comes. (Hey, are you starting up a school any time soon?)

Morning said...

YOu've done so well Davene -- I can't even imagine raising four little boys and homeschooling and remaining sane! Congratulations to all of you!

Misty said...

Congrats Davene! Good enough is definitely good enough. Julie and I were just talking about this today! You are an encouragement. We also finished and I'm glad we survived our first year of homeschooling! I always look forward to your homeschooling posts!

Sally said...

And, just why did you post that picture of the Klondike bar? It makes me think I NEED one every time I see it!

Davene said...

Sally, you make me laugh. I know: I'm torturing myself with that picture, too. We have no Klondike bars in the house, so I can't even indulge that little craving! ;)

Stacey said...

You have completely summed up my own feelings about this homeschooling this school year. I don't even have a baby to have had to adjust things for, and I only have 2 kids ages 10 and 12 but I completely relate to this post. Suddenly we only have a week of School left and every one is on track, I have had to compromise a few things but I am learning that "good enough is good enough". AND my kids did learn and that is what is important! Thanks for sharing!

Elizabeth said...

Yes it was fantastic! And you did an AMAZING job! Your posts are somber gold nuggets and I eat up everything you share! The good, the bad and all the love!

I loved the pictures :) The boys are so so cute and you look so beautiful Davene!

Much much love.....

Margie said...

I am really impressed with you for doing this, Davene. I don't know how you do it; some days, I think, "And Davene is homeschooling and has 4 boys!" It's quite an accomplishment.

By the way, I'm still mulling over homeschooling, but probably not for a year or two. We're moving forward to get E in the Kindergarten down the street. Still praying for guidance. (And this was where I believe prayer led.)

Margie said...

By the way, I really love your haircut!