Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer 2015 Update, Part III: Homeschool, Part 1

Our Seven Light Academy is entering it's tenth year!  We started off with S in sixth grade, thinking we might just do this for one year and gradually, all the younger kids joined us and one year has become a decade.  Crazy.

We started off with gusto and expensive curricula.  We didn't really know what we were doing, so it was easiest to follow a script that first year or two.  Gradually, we grew in confidence and realized we could handle a more tossed salad approach.  We used some official curriculum sets, but we found a lot of free and cheap stuff online or used.  We also found that we didn't need to go step-by-step from start to finish through any curriculum, we could skip around and do the parts we wanted to do.

A few more years like this and we started creating some of our own curriculum.  Started, being the operative word.  I am full of ideas and plans for how to organize a lesson, but finishing things is not my strong suit.  Rest assured, we all learned plenty those years, but we didn't finish the concept we started.

Then I got fed up.  I got irritated that kids were complaining about whatever I assigned.  I got annoyed that we'd spend classtime arguing and dealing with tantrums, so we decided to take an unschooling approach.  This worked really well for a couple of the kids and just okay for the others.  Overall, most of our kids need me to make assignments and a schedule and it took a year and a half of unschooling for them to realize it themselves.

So this summer I have spent a lot of time putting together a plan.  We have a lot of materials and books.  We have discovered the places online that are beneficial educationally.  We have learned about the kids' different learning styles.  I am combining all this experience to put together a plan -- not a curriculum -- for the four kids who are still in school.

H is going into 10th grade.  He is a strong reader.  So naturally, I am loading his schedule with abundant reading assignments and then requiring him to evaluate and respond to this reading in different ways.  We will also be working heavily on math and writing this year, which are difficult subject areas for him.  All the other subjects will make their way in to his schedule as well, but those are the top three.  There will be weekly expectations, but at his level, I will expect him to organize each week's assignments per day.  I will be helping him stay on track.  There will also be some long-term assignments that he'll need to tackle a bit at a time.

Z is going into 8th grade.  He, more than any of them, require a rigid and regular schedule to excel.  Too much free time is a recipe for chaos for him.  Additionally, he will mostly be working independently because we have found that where he and H have usually been taught together over the years, the competition becomes too distracting and frustrating.  So Z and H will have totally different assignments.  I will also be allowing him to schedule out many subject areas in his week, while keeping him on pace with the younger two kids as far as where they are in each day (school time, chore time, break time, etc.).  This is a bridge year for him as he will be heading into high school next year.

Z is a very hands-on learner and has recently taken a real interest in construction.  I have been reading about some of the STEM education (or STEAM) and I like the principles of combining math and science with art and engineering.  So in addition to book work, strengthening his reading, writing and math, we will be assigning him several STEM projects (thank you, Pinterest) over the course of the year.  We'll see where he goes with it.

J is going into 6th grade and O is going into 5th grade.  They continue to do well most of the time when they work on schoolwork together.  J is a much more advanced reader and a gifted thinker and does better with less structure, so while I will be helping her fit into the framework I am setting up (because she could benefit from learning to be more organized), I will give her the freedom to participate in some of Z's STEM projects and/or whatever else she decides to incorporate into her education this year.

O needs a lot of help maintaining focus due to his ADHD and benefits from structure, time and my personal attention.  We have really been focused on his reading skills all summer and the time everyone is putting in on a regular basis is paying off.  He is building the confidence and skills necessary for finding success in this school year.

J and O will be focused on United States geography and history primarily this year.  Their reading, writing and art projects will all stem from their United States lessons.  Math and Science will be separate subjects, but we will continue to build on those fundamental subject areas as well.

All of them will have a strong Bible and Faith Focus built into every day, per usual.  Most of what H and Z will do in this area will be on their own and include reading and journaling.  I will be working with J and O to read through the book of Matthew this year, journaling each section as we go.  Also, we will incorporate the Jesus Calling (for Kids) devotional into the start of each school day and discuss it.

The State of Texas requires we teach Citizenship in our home school.  There are no real parameters around what this means, so we have the freedom to decide.  As for H, we will have him focus on Global Citizenship and what it means to be part of the human race -- how he can impact the world for the better.  H will also have a portion of the year to learn about the United States Constitution since we did not really focus on that the year I intended to teach that to him previously (one of those unfinished bits of business).  Z's Citizenship lessons will include the structure of the United States government, with a particular focus on the Justice System -- for two reasons: 1) he seems interested in it and 2) I found a good used book on the topic.  As for J and O, we will be doing an overview of the United States government and what it means to be a United States citizen along with all their other United States education this school year.

Texas definitely has the most relaxed homeschooling laws of anywhere we have lived.  However, I try not to take advantage of this aspect and though we aren't required to do state testing or evaluations each year, I am accountable to the future of our kids and to Principal Daddy, so I want to train them up as best I can.

I feel excited to get started on this next school year.  We usually begin just after Labor Day.  However, I'm starting to wonder what we are waiting for.  It's too hot to be outside this time of year ... so when I feel ready, I may suggest we go ahead and get started.  This might afford us a longer breaks in the autumn and spring when it is nicer outdoors.  I'm sure I'll be met with disagreement ... but if I wait just long enough for the kids to start feeling bored of summer, maybe they'll welcome the structure.  We'll see.


  1. A plan is always good ...sounds like a iOS time to get started while it is soon hot!

    1. Yes! I talked to the kids and we will be starting August 3rd.