Evaluating a Homeschool Year: What Didn’t Work This Year

posted in: blogger | 6

Of course I’m already thick into planning out our next homeschool year, but pausing to reflect on the year we’re just wrapping up is an important part of planning for the next year. The only way to know what to add, what to remove, and what to tweak, is to know what went right and what went wrong this previous year.

I’ve already written about what went well this year, so now it’s time to talk about what didn’t work well for us.

Less Quiet Time

This year was the first year we did not have quiet time in the afternoons. We had something every afternoon during the baby’s nap time. So, the baby got a nap, but the rest of us were not only working, we were working with other people in a class setting. After that time was over, then, the baby was up, the younger set were anxious to run around noisily, and neighborhood friends were ready to play. Myself and my two oldest are introverts, and it wasn’t until early spring, when one of these classes ended, that I realized that we were just worn down from having much more social interaction and not having any recovery time afterward.

So in our schedule for next year, I have reserved 3 afternoons a week that are going to be quiet reading and notebooking time. We survived this year, and could make it again if it was required, but we introverts need quiet for energy recovery if we’re going to thrive, so I am going to prioritize making that happen regularly.

It was also the first year that we had a five day school week instead of a four day week. Previously, we took Mondays off as our day for errands, appointments, field trips, and cleaning up the house after weekend entropy. I did not anticipate how much not having that house-recovery time would affect me and my ability to keep up with house routines and errands. Somehow there has to be time set aside for catching up around the house, for going to the grocery store, and for taking care of the incidentals that pop up. Just leaving them to fit into the margins means there really is no margin and the only way to get to house chaos is to take a day off.

I am still not sure how to adjust for that, because I don’t think we can do a 4-day school week anymore. But I am going to take a hard look at that assumption and also make house and life recovery time a block that gets weekly attention one way or another. Assuming these things will just happen “some time,” but not leaving or making time for them, is a sure way to think the day has margin when it is actually full-bleed.

Less Latin

We got through just under half a book each for Hans (finished Primer A, into Primer B) and Jaeger (Primer A), but we only did Latin about half our weeks. So when we were doing Latin, we were making good progress and it was simply my dropping the ball and not difficulty that kept us from Latin. Speech and writing classes took up more independent and one-on-one time than I anticipated in my plan, and on top of that, Latin required the most out of my own brain and energy to keep us going, so I dropped it like a hot potato when I felt like I didn’t have it in me (apparently, this was about half the time).

We aren’t doing speech next year and I still have decisions to make about how to approach writing, but I’m moving Latin up the priority chain. The good news is, both boys usually enjoyed doing it and wanted to do it, so it really was all on me that it didn’t happen. I’m wasting great potential if I continue to postpone their enthusiastic requests for Latin because I’m not in the mood.

Handwriting Fail

So, my oldest nearly 11 and my second son is nearly 9. They can’t do cursive. They start several letters from the bottom. They write a b by starting at the top and looping around from the bottom. I cringe and feel guilty when I watch them write.

They do, at least, hold their pencils correctly.

But, both of them love to draw and have been copying letters ever since they were 5 and 4 – and no 5-10 minute handwriting lesson was going to fix the habits they picked up on their own. I could correct their pencil grip with a hawk’s eye in the midst of life, but couldn’t (or didn’t, anyway) watch their letter formation vigilantly. I am undecided about how much energy to put into teaching them cursive or correcting their incorrect letter formations.

However, I still have 3 children left whom I haven’t yet failed in this regard. So I have vowed to myself that I will at least try with them. That means no skipping handwriting as an easy out for my 6-year-old and 4-year-old. The 6-year-old has only just started copying on her own, doesn’t do it much, and is much more keen on doing things “right.”

Inconsistency

Always, right? Will there ever be a year where I don’t list this as a failing?

Both my older sons have requested for the next school year that we actually do Monday meetings every Monday and that I put up our day’s plans on the white board every day instead of only once or twice a week. They really enjoyed having their own checklist and plan where they could write what was happening that week and what they wanted to accomplish (they each picked a book and listed a goal or project if they had one). We did pretty well with them until Christmas, and just never got into the swing of it again after the new year.

Again, they enjoyed and wanted it, and it was all me dropping the ball.

So, can I make “not dropping balls” a goal for a year? Perhaps it would be better to determine to keep up the important balls dropped this year and drop different balls next year.

The important thing in looking back over the failures of a year gone by is to learn from them without getting stuck in them or stuck in the seeming futility of trying. Review the “successes” list again. And, look for the hidden successes and blessings even in the flops; they’re there if we’re willing to get over ourselves and credit them.

6 Responses

  1. LaToya Edwards
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    This is great! I kinda did away with our afternoon downtime this year as well and boy was that a mistake. :D

  2. Meredith_in_Aus
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    So much of what you talk about is what happened to us a few years ago – older kids, more to do, and more of them. We need to constantly adjust things.

    We are part-way through our year (started in Feb). I have 5 official students and a 5-year-old who is just going to be starting reading instruction this month, plus an almost-3-year-old (and my eldest in Christian school). We have four school days and the 5 (remaining) eldest have an all-day thing on Wednesdays. I try to make our afternoons quieter, but I have to keep going to fit in all that is needed for my older kids and a few bits and pieces for the younger. It is tiring! I know what you mean about fitting house recovery into the gaps – especially when there are none (I could do it on Wednesday, except I use that to run errands – or sometimes teach a class at the all-day thing). It is very difficult, but it is a season (I keep telling myself! I miss naptime!!! :) ).

    Maybe you could make one of the quieter afternoons your catch up day while the kids are quiet. You could listen to something while you work/potter around. Maybe assign the older kids one recovery/pottering kind of job each before quiet reading?

    It interests me to hear you talk about all this stuff since you were homeschooled too. My eldest (daughter (17); the one in school) says she doesn’t want to homeschool. Obviously things in your house didn’t put you off doing it yourself despite the challenges your mum would have faced. What do you do the same/differently to your mum?

    In Him

    Meredith

  3. Tracy
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    Thank you for sharing all of this Mystie! So good to think through what worked and what didn’t this year for myself, too! You know, i think it is good that you are also evaluating why things didn’t work as you had wanted them to. I loved your monday meeting idea- and the impetus behind it as well, reading back through that post. I wonder if you could make it simpler, and do both the follow-up and the planning for the upcoming week in one meeting. Maybe it’s just a monday tea time versus a twice per week commitment. I think I would really like to adopt that this year for my 9 and 7 year olds.

  4. Tisha
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    This is so helpful. I like how you are able to objectively look at what worked and what didn’t for the year.. and the move on. Sometimes I am my own worst critic.. and dwell more on the negatives. We are still discerning homeschooling, and I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts on how you do it! You have some awesome ideas but I like how you keep it all in reality. Thank you!

  5. Paola Collazo
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    Misty, one of the first reasons I started following you is because we both have 5 kids, pretty much the same ages. I just want to say that I hope you are not beating yourself up over dropping the ball. We are all guilty of that. You did just have a baby. God knows all this was going to happen, he knows your heart as a mother and wife. I have not read your post on what did work. But I do hope you including all the ladies you have blessed by sharing your life. I still can’t believe you actually have time to write, that’s an inspiration! Have a good summer…

  6. Gina
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    We haven’t ever had much quiet time, but it is on my priority list for next year. In fact, I’m going to start it next week so we’re in the habit through the summer before we begin anew in the fall!