Friday, July 13, 2012

School Year in Review

This post has been a long time coming.  Really, it would have been best written back in May before summer came along.  Having all my kiddos back home with me, if only for a time, makes everything seem okay and the troubles of the past school year long gone.  Spring is the time when I'm fretting and deciding.  Now, in July, I'm left with trying to remember the passion of the problems.  Ah well, better late than never, right?

Timothy - age 16
Tim attended Valley Christian for his 3rd year, this year, completing 10th grade. (Which brings us to: 1.5 years at a church-based Christian school, 1.5 years at a public elementary school, 3 years at a small Montessori school, 2 years at home school, and 3 years at a larger Christian school.)  Each year that he's attended VCS, I've felt like the next year has got to be better: he'll be older, more mature, and be used to the routine.  And so three years pass, and he is still having a hard time connecting with teachers, maintaining enough motivation to complete a semester, and preventing himself from procrastinating to the point where his work doesn't get turned in.  He has two years of high school left, is not planning on jumping into a 4-year college, is yearning to start working, and is dreading two years wasted by sitting around in classes that don't teach him anything.*  He's now accumulated a full credit of English that needs to be made up, and has discovered that the expensive, online summer course that the school offered was no better at getting him through the material.

And so, Chris and I decided to approach him with the possibility of completing his schooling at home, while working part time for Chris at Traffic Management.  You should have seen the relief on his face. He knew it was an option, and had been thinking about it for the last year, but something about having his parents' blessing made it all really fall into place.  (Funny how that works.)  He hasn't even taken a summer break.  He got out of school and began working.  He did a wonderful job working last summer, and was eager to join the accounting team once again.  In the fall he'll be using Teaching Textbooks Algebra 2, Notgrass Exploring Government, Graphic Arts, Japanese (not sure which program yet) and English (put together by your truly**).  He's excited; let's hope it lasts. :)  Am I nervous about home-schooling a high schooler?  Yes and no.  It's a great responsibility, but I'm excited to have him home, am looking forward to exploring literature with him, and have the great benefit of tons of curriculum choices to help me out.  Love that.

Andrew - age 13
Andrew ventured into the lands of the larger school classroom this year, completing 7th grade at Valley Christian Middle School.  He attended Tahoe Montessori from Pre-K to 3rd, and home-schooled from 3rd-6th.  He loved home school.  He liked that he could get his work done quickly, and liked how much he could learn - this is a guy who loves information.  However, we thought that it was important that he experience school for a couple of reasons: 1) the opportunity to learn from different teachers, and 2) the opportunity to be involved in many more activities that are difficult to offer at home.

Andrew is notorious for disliking change.  He had quite a while to get used to the idea of attending school, but we were still nervous that he'd have a hard time adapting.  He, however, did a fabulous job. He made friends easily, always had his homework done and got good grades, enjoyed having something to occupy a good part of his day, and loved his teachers and his classes.***  He became the champion of more than one kid being picked on when he discovered that he had no problem standing up for what he believes is right.  He did have one major complaint, though, and that was the lack of material they went through in class.  He did not like having to wait for everyone else to understand things before moving on.  In his opinion, home school is if you want to learn, public/private school is if you want to enjoy friends.

He put serious consideration into whether he wanted to remain at VCS next year, because he really does miss learning at the level he can at home, but he has decided to stay.  I think he'll do well - he's already anticipating being able to do Honors classes in high school.

Melinda - age 11
After attending Pre-K to 2nd grade at Tahoe Montessori, and then home schooling 3rd-5th grade, Melinda was begging to be allowed to attend school so that she could spend her days socializing instead of learning.****  Fulling believing that it would be difficult for her, we nevertheless decided to let her try her experiment.

It ended up being the hardest thing she's ever done.  Not because of the academics, she was just fine as far as that was concerned, but a gaggle of 6th grade girls is tough crowd - especially considering that many of them had known each other for a long time and considered Melinda an outsider.  I saw my spunky daughter's confidence start to shake as she constantly dealt with playground shenanigans.  It's amazing how mean kids can be; even "Christian" kids.  I came [thisclose] to pulling her out of the school about 2/3 through the year when she was in the office sobbing (for the 3rd time that year) because of mean students or lack of information and communication from the staff.  Sure, at some point we all have to realize that there are terrible people in the world, but it doesn't have to be at such a tender, uncertain age.

Nevertheless, Melinda wants to try again.  She made a couple of good friends, and is willing to see if everyone else has grown up a bit by the time summer is over.  I admit that she has more hope in that area than I do.  She's an incredible girl with strong gifts of authority and leadership, things I find incredible and worth protecting.  We will stay in prayer, and take it as it comes.

Audrey - age 8
I'm incredibly blessed to still have Audrey at home with me.  What a treat she is!  She adores math and science, and is therefore a bit advanced in those areas.  She made a huge jump in reading this year, and is now easily reading chapter books to herself.  She's definitely active, and gets bored if each day feels like the same old material, but I'm getting pretty good at mixing it up, skipping ahead, or setting things aside if she's getting antsy.  She absolutely goes through a ton more material that way than if we were just plodding on.

She completed Math Mammoth 2 this year - a program that has proven (in my experience with other programs and schools) to be advanced.  She's jumping into multiplication with gusto.  As a science lover, she's worked on multiple programs this year, beginning with what was included in Moving Beyond the Page (what we used for social studies and science at the beginning of the year, but finished early.  We flew through it since we found the content repetitive and rather light. Moving on to Something Else next year!)  We also began (and will be continuing with) a Sonlight Science program (I can't keep track of which level since they switched from numbers to letters) and completed an experiment kit from the Academy of Science for Kids.  We also started an Equine program from WinterPromise that we'll be doing [slowly] on riding lesson days.

So for 3rd grade: we'll be using Story of the World Volume 1 (excited about this! I love how it teaches history, combining activities and projects).  For math we'll be using Teaching Textbooks 3 (since we already have it, and she's already started it, and she's up for a change etc etc) in conjunction with Math-U-See Gamma.  Science will be a continuation of SL, WP, and a bunch of experiment oriented things we have.  English will be a mix also: continuing with All About Spelling (LOVE this program) and Queen's Language Lessons, and adding in a writing workbook as well.  Should be fun! This girl still loves to learn, has been asking to do word problems and wants me to read her something like science or history even though it's summer.  She's ready to hit 3rd grade for sure.

* Note that this is his perspective, and could easily be rephrased thus: "is dreading two years wasted by sitting around in classes that he refuses to learn from." It's a matter of perspective, sure, but the ending result is the same.  He isn't learning, and therefore vital years of youthful energy are being wasted.

** Despite what you might think, this is a fun, exciting prospect.

*** Except for Photography, where absences from illness and a lack of understanding about what was going on made for a frustrating experience.

**** This is my idea of a joke, people.


  1. Fun reading your synopsis of the school year. I didn't see the ****'s until the end then had to go back to see what you were commenting on. Funny. I love how you love your kids!

  2. Aww, Mel, reading about Melinda's year brought back a lot of my own memories... I am sorry it has not been so easy... I can completely sympathize with what she has been going through... it must be torture for you to watch not sure what to do, wanting to snatch a few kids bald headed (an expression of my mothers... she has been in your place)... I am glad that she is built of stronger stuff... I will pray that this next year will bring some breakthrough... I love you!