Reflections: 2012-2013 Academic Year – Older Children

Our older ones
Our older ones

Whilst this year has been difficult for many reasons, academically it has definitely been our best yet.  We have seen huge growth in the older ones.  They are maturing, and whilst issues crop up regularly, these we can discuss and the children listen, take on board and try to change.  I can see this especially with T11 who is 9 months older than his twin sisters.  I am pleased with how far we’ve come, and where we are going.  We have found our rhythm and it feels good.  Whilst a strict schedule did not suit the little ones, it has absolutely suited the older ones.  They thrive, are (in the main) able to motivate themselves to work independently, and very much enjoy knowing exactly what is expected of them and when.  All three have enjoyed working alone for 1 1/2 hours and two of them have come along in leaps and bounds academically, just by me backing off.  One still needs me, and that is fine.

They are also hitting adolescence which is unchartered water for us as a family, and all three are hitting it at the same time.  Hormones are becoming our new norm, whilst we handle one emotional outburst at a time, and pray we all come out unscathed!   The beauty is that alongside the inevitable confusion that accompanies becoming an adult, there are new understandings, exciting discoveries and stronger relationships being built.   The children are beginning to understand the importance of making wise choices with their mouths and that how they feel inside is often not an accurate barometer of exterior conditions.  I smile when I watch a child fight for mastery over their emotions and remove themselves, often with tears in their eyes, from a situation in order not to say something they might later regret to a loved sibling.  They are learning and it is an honour being part of it.  I just hope and pray we have the wisdom to be able to parent these gorgeous children to their potential.

So what has been a success this year?

  • Chores are working really well this year.  At Christmas we all changed from having individual chores to being in charge of a room or set of chores for a whole day and changing round the next.  This way of doing chores means each child does the laundry once a week, cleans the bath room once a week, is in charge of the pets once a week….and so on, thus building a multitude of skills to take into their adulthood.  It also stops boredom setting in and shows up the hard, diligent workers from the not so hard worker who might need a little more help and direction.
  • Independent study has been a huge hit and is definitely something we will be continuing with.
  • Individual projects.  This worked very well, but we have decided not to do this every week because we miss being with each other and learning together.  However, depending upon what we are learning, it is another tool to pull out on occasion!
  • Quiet time continues to be a hit, as it has been for the past ten years.  It is good for all of us to have down time and peace away from each other.
  • Incr-Edible science is going really well, so I intend to keep that going.  I have a few ideas for development which I will share over the summer.

What hasn’t worked so well?

  • The older ones each have 1/2 an hour with the younger two.  When it was 1-2-1 with just A4 this worked brilliantly, add B2 to the mix and it is not working so well all of the time.  T11 asked if he could have 1-2-1 with B2 sometimes, so that they might build on their relationship.  So I have decided to go back to one older child with one younger child entirely.  This will happen after their independent study.  I will take the opportunity to have one of the younger girls with me to do All About Reading for half an hour, whilst an older one has time with their other little sister, and then we will swap round.  I will work out the finer details nearer the time, but I’m hoping this will cut down on disruptions by my youngest.
  • I need more time just me and the older three than I am currently having.   Gary and I are in discussions about how we might achieve this.
  • Both Gary and I think we all should be outside more.   Gary does horticulture for a living and would love to pass on his skills and knowledge to the children who really do want to learn.  Again we are in discussions!
  • Our normal year runs in terms of five weeks with a fun week planted in between.  This means our school year is pretty full on.  Next year we are trying something slightly different.  We intend to do a revisiting week followed by schooling full on for four weeks and then having a whole week off.  This is for my benefit to prevent the kind of tiredness I have been feeling for the past year or so.
  • I am a little concerned about how slowly we are working our way through Anatomy, only 4 chapters this year.  I absolutely want to finish this next year so I’m looking to up our speed here.

My main goal for next year’s school for my older three children is simple.  I want to gradually hand over some of the control to them and  to be more purposeful with including them in my school planning.  T11 is leaving his elementary years behind this summer and I would like that fact to be reflected in how much autonomy he (in particular) has over his work.  It is our next step in this home school journey.  He is ready, and so am I.