This is the time of year I love. We relax the schedule and look back on the year to evaluate our progress. We look forward to next school year to see where we want to go. And, we finish out our current year with lots of fun hands-on learning. This year we will wrap up our year 1 studies with the Americas and botany. We will visit local Native American sites and (hopefully!) grow things if my black thumb doesn't get in our way. I am also working on planning some fun field trips for next year related to our year 2 studies-geology, astronomy, and the middle ages.
I think my favorite part, though, is to look back at what we have accomplished this past year. I stop and evaluate where each of my little students is at currently, how far we have come, and where we hope to go, and I make a list of goals to focus on during our relaxed time over the summer.
For us this summer, we will be working on reading fluency with 2 kiddos, and early reading with a 3rd. My current 3rd grader (almost 4th grader!) was just diagnosed dyslexic. His summer goals involve improving his reading and spelling skills with some new materials which will hopefully appeal to his awesome dyslexic brain. We will be using some of the materials provided by the Scottish Rite, along with Apples and Pears. My 5th (soon to be 6th grader) hopes to spend lots of time reading this summer. We don't school all summer, but we do try to keep our activities sensory-rich and learning-rich. School isn't separate from our life, rather it is our lifestyle and we tend to be all in when we are studying a particular topic.
My oldest (soon to be 11th grader) is actually beginning his junior year early this year. He will be in France in January as an exchange student, so we are starting schoolwork in June. He will be taking a dual enrollment class, as well as starting his history and lit, math, and thesis work for the year over the summer.
When I look back at what we have accomplished, and set new goals for the summer and future school year, I try to be careful to look not just at academic goals, but also at character issues and study skill related issues in each child. I want my children to be self-motivated and independent learners. We use tools through the year to try to encourage them along that path. For example, beginning in 6th grade, my kids set their own schedule using a planner. They decide which work they will accomplish which day and week. They set their own goals and schedule. I come behind them to make sure they are accomplishing the work at a pace they need to meet, but they are responsible for deciding how to break the work down by day and week.
Even for my younger children, I try to give them time management skills and independence by using work plans beginning in 1st grade. All the work they need to accomplish in a week is written onto their work plan, and it is their decision how and when to accomplish each task over the week.
Other issues we look for and encourage include note-taking, study skills, and listening skills. Oftentimes, if you are self-teaching mostly by reading, you lose the opportunity to develop your listening and oral note-taking skills. To attempt to teach these skills to my children, we watch videos and documentaries, use Khan academy and Coursera lectures, and take advantage of open courses available free online, such as those offered by Yale and MIT. We also require oral presentations from the kids over the year in a variety of environments, as well as their regular written work such as research projects beginning in middle school, and shorter projects in the elementary grades.
I love watching them grow and learn each year. In the midst of the daily grind of the school year, it is easy to miss the progress. Taking time to look back and reflect allows me a chance to see how far they have come. And laying out specific goals allows us to stay focused on where we are headed. And always I try to stay focused on the fact that they don't have to learn everything in one year, or even when they are young. They will repeat so much of the same information in high school. If we are struggling in an area, we work on that area over the summer more intensely, but always recognizing that those character issues and study skills issues are the most important in the younger grades to prepare them for high school.