It’s that time of year again! Time to start thinking about “bouquets of newly sharpened pencils,” shiny new curriculum, goals and folders, planners and field trips. It is time for a new school year!
Whenever I start a new school year, I like to think back to the previous year and contemplate what worked, what didn’t, and what I’d like to add or change or cut out.
So here are some things that worked well last year: A list of my 10 Favorite Things from the 2013-2014 school year.
1. Fun Times with Time Travel. We won’t do this again this year, since we already did it, but using our imagination and having a theme or a fun little gimmick was memorable for me and we all enjoyed it. So maybe we’ll do something this year- perhaps pretend we are archaeologists?
2. Science Experiments. Some of my favorite times last year was our science lessons and experiments. They were a lot of effort to execute, but oh, so worth it. We used 106 Days of Creation Studies from the Simply Charlotte Mason website and loved it.
3. Nature Walks and our completion of the Outdoor Hour Challenges. I really don’t think I can say enough about the Outdoor Hour Challenge. It has been one of the most important things we’ve done in the past two years. I have seen the most dramatic change or growth or learning in this area because of our participation in the Outdoor Hour Challenge- and not just in the kids. In myself as well. We love our Nature Walks and the Challenges.
4. Pastels. This was a new thing we discovered this last year. Through the Outdoor Hour Challenge Newsletter, I was led to the Hodgepodge website and specifically her many pastels tutorials. We explored this medium some this past year (and this not-incredibly-artistic girl was very grateful for those simple and straightforward and easy-to-follow tutorials!) and we all had so much fun! This is something we all want to continue to do!
5. Pilgrim Day. We took a day out of our normal schooling activities and played Pilgrims. We dressed up, ate pilgrim-inspired food and did pilgrim-like chores and played games similar to games pilgrim children played. It was a really fun day. So much so that when asked what her favorite thing about last year was, Princess K mentioned this day. When asked what she hopes to do in her next school year, she wants to do this again.
6. The Solar System Puzzle. This is science again, but what can I say? I like science. And fun. When we studied the solar system, we took a few hours (during the preschoolers’ naptime, of course!) to put together a 200 piece Ravensburger puzzle. Discovering the fact that my kids are getting old enough to start to do things- like 200 piece puzzles- that are fun for me too was a really exciting moment for me.
7. Backyard Nature Exploration. I love the relaxed pace of homeschooling. I love that part of school can be to go outside (or send the kids outside while I’m making lunch) and explore the backyard. The kids made huge mud puddles (mud swimming pools, really) and found all kinds of interesting bugs and my Princess was SO excited when she saw the first flower of spring in our backyard. It was a magical moment.
8. Little House Books & Activities. We did American History this last year, so in about March, we made it to the place in our History lessons where we started reading The Little House in the Big Woods. This was one of my favorite books as a child and I still had my very book from childhood that I had read so often. It was a true treat to share that with my children. It was also very sweet to make maple sugar candy out of maple syrup kind of like they did in the book (except that we did not have snow, so we used our more modern and less wintery methods).
9. Learning to Draw. We used many different books (because again, I’m not all that artistic or particularly talented in the whole drawing thing) to teach us how to draw (like Drawing with Children, Draw Write Now, How to Draw 101 Animals, and the Usborne how-to-draw books) and we spent some good time drawing pilgrim things and Christmas things and trees and flowers and animals. It was really fun and good for my kids to improve in their drawing. They took satisfaction in their improvement.
10. Graduation. My mother-in-law approached me last year and told me about this sweet little outfit her mother had made for her own Kindergarten graduation. Then her daughter (my husband’s sister of course) wore the same little outfit for her graduation. She really wanted Princess K to wear it for her graduation. So she asked us if we would mind having a little graduation for our kids for the purpose of getting photographs of Princess K in the little graduation outfit. I loved the idea.
I made a little 6 minute slideshow of our year (and my wonderful husband put it to some Graduation-y music!) and printed out some “Diplomas” for my two little (1st Grade and Kindergarten) graduates. My mother-in-law dug out and ironed the heirloom outfit and somehow procured a shiny blue graduation robe for X-man. She also made them graduation caps out of cardstock and a lovely lunch for our guests (including diploma taquitos tied with a green onion ribbon).
We invited all the grandparents to attend and set up the chairs outside where there was a lovely place for a stage. We played some Pomp and Circumstance for them to walk down to and they first led the pledge of allegiance. They sang two hymns they learned this year (Amazing Grace and Crown Him with Many Crowns) and then were interviewed by the Principal, their Daddy, who asked them about their favorite subjects, activities, and books this year. They received their diplomas and then we had lunch. It was a very lovely day.
And we definitely got plenty of photographs for a very happy Grandma!
So those were a few of my favorite things this past year. These are good to remember as I plan for this next year. Taking the time to make this list makes it clear that I really need to make sure I intentionally allow plenty of time for the “fun extras” of education since those are the most memorable and beautiful moments of the year.