I plan the bulk of our home schooling curriculum once a year in July, but each January it is time for our mid-year review. The intent of our mid-year review is to look at the following with regards to our home school:
What has been working well?
What needs to be improved?
What needs to be removed from our curriculum?
Is there anything new to focus on?
What specific needs does each child have over the next few months?
I write out my own reflections on the previous semester, and then think about each child's current interests and ways that I can direct our schooling to make the most of those interests. Then I meet up with each child for individual mentoring conversations to discuss their goals and desires, needs and wants. Through the process of mentoring conversations, I am able to give my children the opportunity to take part in the direction of their educations.
2015-16 Midyear Review: Things that Are Working Especially Well
This little book has been a great addition to our math curriculum for the year. Each page includes some fun facts and then three math problems (ranging from easy to difficult) that give my children a chance to put math concepts into practice. My children absolutely LOVE Bedtime Math, and they are always begging for one more page.
We always let my youngest try to solve the first problem, if it is appropriate for his skill level, then my daughter typically solves the second problem, and I solve the last one. To increase the learning that occurs while I am reading Bedtime Math, I like to use a lap-size dry erase board to write down the answers to the problems and show different ways to solve the problems. My children often choose to write down their own answers and show their work, as well.
Having penpals has led to a large increase in the amount of writing my children choose to do. They write letters to grandparents, aunts, and, more recently, to some homeschooling peers whom they've never met in-person.
Typically, my children will dictate their letters to me, which I type on the computer using Print-Clearly font in a pale color. They choose coloring pictures to add to their letters, and then I print them out. My children then trace over the letters; they love to work on their letters while I am reading aloud. All of this writing practice with tracing has made them much more confident in writing on their own, too.
Once the heat of summer faded last semester, my children and I started regularly going for hikes with my mother. Hiking has been a great way for my children to learn to persevere even when things feel too hard, to have exposure to the many beautiful landscapes nearby, and to bond with their grandmother. It has been amazing to see how much hiking can be a self-confidence booster for both of my kids, in being able to accomplish something that seems difficult and enjoy the "view from the top" after their strenuous efforts. I intend to continue making hiking a regular part of our homeschool curriculum during the cooler months of the year here.
"Child of the Week"
Each week, one of my children is the "child of the week" who chooses which curriculum resources we will use for the week. My children relish this opportunity. The "child of the week" gets to choose:
which math games we will play,
which history and math books we will read,
whether we will do a science experiment, nature study, or microscope exploration,
whether we will go for bike rides or walks, and where to,
which composer we will listen to during music appreciation time, and
2015-16 Midyear Review: New Curriculum for the Coming Semester
Snap Circuits is a new addition to our curriculum for the coming semester. This year, our science studies are focusing on physics and machines. Snap Circuits will be a great compliment to these areas since it is a set of 100 experiments in electrical circuits, designed for elementary-aged children. We have already started diving into this fantastic resource, and my kids are loving it.
2015-16 Midyear Review: Notes from Mentoring Conversations
Both of my children had some good insights and surprises for me during our mentoring conversations.
8 & 1/2 year old daughter Alina
Alina's interest in animals and all-things-equine has been growing lately, and she envisions herself someday having a job working with animals. She wants help in learning more about taking care of pets, as she would like to buy herself a pet fish and perhaps a bird eventually. She also decided that she wants to start saving more money (from her egg business) to someday buy a horse.
Alina also tearfully told me that she feels like my rule of keeping only two unfinished projects during our monthly cleaning day is too difficult. (With her personality type, she loves starting new projects but often does not finish them, so I have tried to find ways to manage the clutter over the last couple years.) We came to a compromise, where Alina may keep two unfinished projects on our craft table on cleaning day, just as before, but that she may also put unfinished projects in a small drawer of her collections organizer.
Nearly-6-year-old son Ian
Ian's current interests include machines of all kinds, and especially transportation machines. He expressed that he wants to be able to use the steam mop and vacuum more often (I'm not making this up!), so we agreed that his morning chores could include those activities instead of just scrubbing sinks and toilets.
Ian also expressed that he wants help in making sure he does not have "atrocious table manners," specifically stuffing his mouth and talking with his mouth full. (This was a surprise to me, but I think it was inspired by an audio we listened to last year about a brilliant composer who happened to have atrocious table manners.) Ian also wants to teach our new dog how to play fetch, and asked for my assistance with that task.
Not Just for Home Schoolers
Our mid-year review gives us a renewed sense of vision for the coming months of home schooling. However, mid-year reviews are not just for home schoolers. Any parents who are fostering a love of learning could benefit from periodic planning and mentoring sessions. These are wonderful tools for focusing our efforts on the things that our children need and desire in order to find their own personal missions.
Do you have a mid-year educational review? Do you like the idea of being a mentor to children rather than a teacher?
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