Thursday, June 17, 2010

School's out! Or is it?

We've finished our first year of homeschooling and we're on summer break. Hurray!

Actually, Rachel was done with most of her first year of schoolwork through Laurel Springs School (distance learning program) about a month ago, back in mid-May. There was a cumulative algebra test to take in early June, but otherwise she was done.

Here's a little summary of our adventures and what we've learned along the way.

The fall was a little nuts when I temporarily worked some rather insane hours. T'was residency-like quantities, and I mean OLD residency (my era), not current residency hours! Fortunately, we all survived. I'm even catching up on the housework. And tackling the weight I regained by not exercising 2 hrs most days each week. And, we learned from the insanity of those months that Rachel does best with some scheduling assistance/time management help.

Her program consisted of 36 weeks of lessons in each subject- English, Math, Science, History, French, and Health/PE. Unlike traditional school where you rarely get to the very end of the textbook, every single bit was covered. There was no escaping. You also answer every question yourself. There's no waiting in a classroom to see if someone else will answer. The "calendar year" for the program is 40 weeks long, so that in the end, you get the equivalent of 4 weeks of vacation. I admit that Rachel got behind in a few classes. There were times when I wondered if she'd finish on time at the 40 week mark. I seriously thought she might need an extention. Funny thing is, she really kicked into gear and, in the end, she finished pretty close to the 36 week mark. Not that we did not take vacation- we went to Disney for a week in Sept and March. She took a lot of time off in December because her friends were all free and some time around Thanksgiving. Not to mention performances in The Nutcracker and The Secret Garden. By the time we came back from Florida in March, we had taken at least 4 full weeks off. In addition, we spent a few days here and there doing things other than schoolwork. She certainly took off more than 4 weeks, but somehow managed to finish as if we never took off anytime at all! (insert Mommy brag here- and with A's!)

I have been impressed not just by her new study skills, but her new insights into learning. It's been an exciting transformation to witness. After a year at home, she now thoroughly understands how she learns best. She likes to tackle a subject a day. She'll spend a few hours working on a history unit, the equivalent of a week's worth of history, and then leave it alone for a week. Sometimes, she might just keep going and do two weeks worth in a day. She recently visited RPS, her old school, and was taken by surprise by the short periods and what she viewed as a relatively small amount of material covered per class period. She says that if she were to go back to a traditional school, she'd be an entirely different student. It was quite clear to her, in each and every class, what the most important point being taught was and how much of the rest of the time was superfluous.

I have to say Rachel has always been an excited, almost rabid, learner. She's the child who could not wait to get to school each day. Yet, there were times she was bored in school. She's rarely bored at home. Except now. School's out for the summer. It's been out for a while. We've had other distractions- the year end performance workshop (aka dance recital), an out of state funeral to attend, a party (our 17th anniversary and mortgage burning party) and a few smaller things. But, that's over now. In less than 2 weeks, Rachel starts her ballet summer intensive (6 days a week of dance, 9-4). Not much time left and we have an activity scheduled for everyday until it starts. Should be enough, right? Well, not for my child. She asked me today if she could please start some schoolwork. She's had enough vacation and is ready to get back to work. No, I didn't faint. I almost saw it coming. Almost. There are only 2 weeks left, not enough time to order anything, so we went off to Barnes and Noble to satisfy her workbook craving. Her plan for the remainder of her free time- a Latin workbook, a review workbook (standardized testing practice), and perhaps a little Japanese 1 throught MIT's OpenCourseWare.

What can I say? I am pleased beyond words (hmm.. maybe not. I've certainly written plenty here!) Our little journey into homeschooling this year has been successful by every measure- her academic success, time management skills, and most important, the impressive renewal of her love of learning. In just one short academic year, I am confident that she has learned the most important goal of schooling- becoming a lifetime learner.

1 comment:

MaryMary86 said...

Our oldest grandson just started a similar program. The work is so much harder and now he's thriving!

Thanks for all your comments! That was a great read - you have a great kid!!

It was also interesting to read about MIT's open source courses. I knew about them but for some reason, thought they really wouldn't work for "real" people with real lives!!