So the other day, we reached the end of our school year.
It was something of an anticlimax, to be honest. I told my boy that we had finished everything and how proud I was of him for doing it all. He gave a distracted ‘Yeah, that’s great,’ and then changed the subject.
Arriving at this point highlights to me how arbitrary the distinctions are between year levels. At the start of the year, we were officially doing kindergarten, but we all grew bored with that pretty quickly. When the assessor turned up, we all agreed that we had really moved on to first grade stuff. Next year, we will officially finish off the tail ends of first grade, and then get through second grade. In practice, though, it doesn’t even look like that.
Some of what we do would be recognised as age appropriate, I guess. I never mark any of it, so I struggle to put a figure on it, but it seems about right. Because of an insatiable desire to know how things work, I feel that his understanding of science is far greater than regular expectations. This pleases me no end. A persons ability to use logic and reasoning always impresses me, and and they can only improve it by adding imagination as well. I suspect his understanding of history is also very good, but since it follows a completely different format to any school system, there is no real way to make direct comparisons.
A great beneficiary of my six year old’s work is his younger brother. He lacks the fine motor skills to write much more than his own name, which he does in a delightfully abstract way. On a computer or iPod, however, he can clearly show he has learned a tremendous amount of literacy and numeracy skills which are not immediately apparent. He has picked up so much just from being around the lessons.
Although I find the whole homeschooling experience far better than I ever imagined it was going to be, it is not always easy or enjoyable. We run the year in four lots of ten week semesters. The first three of these were largely spent trialling different methods until we finally arrived at a point where everyone had a comfortable sense of rhythm. We are all usually pretty much exhausted by the end of a semester.
Outside of working to a curriculum, the Board of Studies also dictates that we need to spend a thousand hours each year doing schoolwork. Certain percentages of that time have to be allotted to different subjects. They also provide lists of competencies which we need to address.
I keep track of it all using a spreadsheet. At the end of each day, I make a brief note of what we did, how long it went for, and what competencies we covered while we were doing it. A lot of people completely freak out about record keeping, but I have never had a problem with it. I actually kind of enjoy it as it helps me keep track of where we are going. Attaching competencies to our various activities is part of the game. A good spreadsheet is a strong appeal to my inner nerd.
The thousand hours is supposed to replicate the amount of educational time kids get at regular school. Given the large volume of ‘dead time’ in classrooms, I can be pretty broad in my interpretation of what constitutes school work. Certainly, a lot of our time is spent playing around with ideas and concepts rather than ‘doing lessons.’
Also subjects wax and wane. Although we generally keep a fairly even spread, we will go through phases of spending lots of time on one subject at the expense of others. As you might notice, the end of the year was spent making up hours in maths and english.
So we have come to the end of the year, but it is not a very clear distinction. Since going on holidays, there has been plenty of reading, the boys set themselves up to do maths lessons on the computer, they have been doing cuneiform writing, and they have made us put together a timeline to study human evolution. It is just the normal way to spend the days now.