The last day of school.
That phrase brings back floods of memories. Those giddy last days of my own childhood, summer looming before me as an endless stretch of time to read and play kickball with my friends in the neighborhood. Last days when my older children were young and attending public school...days that they got off the school bus and shouted at the top of their lungs because summer had arrived. The last days of our early homeschool years, when the shouting tradition continued, even though the three of us would spend summers together as we had spent the school year together. Last days with my younger two who never understood the shouting tradition, but still looked forward to the more unstructured time that summer afforded.
Today is another last day of school.
We are happy to have completed our formal studies for the year, and we've already made a list of projects and activities that we'd like to do, a mix of work and leisure.
But for me - Mom, homeschool teacher of 23 years - the feeling is no longer giddy. Instead, I have a quiet sense of time passing. My youngest student has only five years left. Five more years. So little time.
As I do every year, I reflect on the year that has passed, evaluating strengths and weaknesses, and considering whether I have met my goals. Have I followed the Lord's leading and guided my student toward His plan for him/her? Have we made the days count?
Last summer, as I prayed and planned for the upcoming year, I felt as if the Lord was directing me to broaden Bekah's horizons. As an older mother, I can be quite content to be at home. All day, every day. And because Bekah has never had any other mother, she, too, is content to be at home much of the time. So as I felt the nudge to get out more, I planned a few regular school-related activities. We would:
- join a monthly book club to which we were invited
- sign up for PE classes
- take a monthly nature walk away from home
- go on one family field trip related to something we were learning
The book club has been delightful!
It is a genre book club, meaning that a genre is assigned (mystery, classic, biography, etc.) and the student chooses her own book to read. On meeting day, the girls gather at the home of the leader/mom. She opens with an ice breaker or some kind of activity related to the theme. Then the girls (and moms) move to the dining room and have tea (oh joy!) and theme-related snacks as Mrs. L. guides discussion about their chosen books. It is such a relaxing and encouraging environment.
Bekah has been encouraged to broaden her reading choices and has read some great books. She has learned to talk extemporaneously. She has made some new friends. All wins!
PE class was also a success. Bekah enjoyed participating in the classes, learned more about fitness, and she added some new skills that she is practicing at home.
The monthly nature outings...well, they weren't exactly monthly. We got off to a great start. And then life happened. If you've read my blog for very long, you know that we had a very challenging autumn/holiday season, followed by the longest, coldest winter I can remember, including weeks of Kati being sick. All told, we had outings in September and October, and in April and May.
We'll try again next year.
Our family field trip was fabulous!
We had given Bekah many suggestions of places that we could go. Living in Maryland, there are oodles of opportunities within a few hours drive. After a lot of hemming and hawing (because decision-making is not one of her strengths), she chose a trip to Washington, D.C., including a visit to the National Gallery of Art (I was thrilled!) and the Museum of American History (Ron was thrilled!).
I cannot tell you how excited she was to be seeing real life art!
We had visited the NGA website before the trip, jotting down the locations of the works that we wanted to see, so that we could be sure to visit the galleries of the artists we knew. We did not know beforehand, but there was a special exhibit of the art of Andrew Wyeth, an artist about whom we had studied in our co-op a few years ago, so that was a thrill for us. But when we got to our first gallery of Impressionist artists, we girls just stopped, mouths agape. My own heart actually beat faster, seeing in real life the paintings of Monet and Renoir that we had seen in books. For Bekah, it was the first time. (Kati and I had visited the National Gallery of Art about 10 years ago.) We meandered through the galleries, rather awe struck, as we saw Watson and the Shark and Peaceable Kingdom and Little Girl in a Blue Armchair and Girl With a Watering Can. We noticed Van Gogh's bold brushstrokes, thick with paint, the detail in Hicks' colonial scenes, the grand size of Stuart's The Skater.
|This is the door of the National Gallery of Art. (No photographs are permitted inside.)|
Then it was on to the history museum, full of "relations" as we are finishing our second year of studying American history. Highlights were the dollhouse, Julia Child's kitchen, Dorothy's ruby slippers, and the First Ladies exhibit. Bekah was entranced by the First Ladies' gowns (most of them inaugural gowns), and slowly made her way from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama, taking in every detail. (I had a similar fascination with the White House china on display.)
As an aside...as we left the First Ladies and were headed to the gallery dedicated to the Presidents, Bekah said, "Their clothes won't be as interesting." No, they weren't, although we don't usually judge a President by his sense of fashion. :)
Of course, in addition to our away-from-home activities, there was plenty to do in-house.
Together, we studied Bible, American history (1805 to the present), astronomy, art appreciation, and music appreciation, and poetry.
Independently, Bekah did Daily Grams, English From the Roots Up, piano lessons, reading and literature, geography, and pre-algebra.
She also did lots of cooking and baking, crafts, piano playing for church and family gatherings, drawing, and photography. There were also life skills, like painting, child care, party planning, decorating, designing a program, and gardening.
And so, we end our year, Bekah's 7th grade, with a sense of satisfaction. It was a year of accomplishment. A year of listening to His voice. A year of growth. A year of new things.
It was a year, not without struggle, not without hard realities, but one in which we have continued to find Him more than enough. He has met us with grace, covered our mistakes, forgiven our failings, inspired us to move on.
It has been a good year.
Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Deuteronomy 11:18, 19