Well,  my family made it through our first ever year of school! My children in 7th, 5th, and 1st grade finished school in early June. We all learned a lot, and believe me, we are all ready for summer. We’ve also decided on our plans for next school year.

As I mentioned in a post earlier in the year, we chose a school with a blended learning environment. The girls went to school two days a week, and they did school at home three days.  Once Covid-19 hit my husband told me that I sure picked a good year to send the kids to school, haha. So then obviously we were schooling at home full time, which I was grateful the kids’ school was already set up for home learning, but what many homeschoolers were saying was true. Covid-schooling and homeschooling were definitely not the same thing.  Even with the strangeness of this year however, our first foray into schooling was largely positive.

I’m really really grateful that the school we chose exists in the first place.  Previously we had encountered some challenges in our homeschooling, but I didn’t see myself ever making the leap from unschooling to traditional, 5-days-a-week, 7-hours-a-day school. Traditional schooling just seemed so opposite of everything we were doing and such a radical lifestyle change for us that I’m not sure we would have ever made that leap. Thankfully though, this blended school is nearby and we could take advantage of open enrollment, which allowed us to try something somewhere between our usual approach and full-time schooling.

We learned surprisingly/not surprisingly that school is a good fit for our middle daughter. She was the one that we made go to school, and she was not happy about it, but she ended up really liking school. Although it makes me eat some humble pie, I see that she is just more motivated to push herself and learn more from a teacher who is not me. The only thing that wasn’t a fit for her was that at this school we still had to do school at home three days a week (and at the end, every day). She told me her ideal would be to go to school four days a week. Unfortunately her ideal four days isn’t possible, but for next year we enrolled her in our parish’s Classical, Catholic school. A number of little things seemed to confirm that this was the school for her, like the fact that all 6th-graders get ukulele lessons, and E already owns a ukulele and has had some lessons (and she’ll be in 6th grade next year). As a Catholic, I love that as part of school she’ll have adoration and mass every week, and Morning Prayer (or matins) every morning. In regards to one of her personality traits, E is also a natural arguer. It’s always been a part of her and I see that she just can’t help herself sometimes. It’s like she got two dominant, super-active logomachy genes. Hyperactive Logomachy Disorder. Is that a thing? Because if so, E has it. Luckily for her, she has a mother who has many fond memories of being on the Speech and Debate Team in high school and college, and so I’ve been counting down the days when she is old enough to be on a debate team, hoping it could help direct and refine that natural arguing streak. So I really love that when she’s in 7th grade at the Catholic school, she’ll begin taking formal logic. Next year’s school seemed to just have a number of things specifically for E, so between the Catholic school and my prayers to Saint Catherine of Alexandria to help me mother this strong-willed, choleric (but oh-so affectionate) child of mine, hopefully she’ll have what she needs to grow into the person she is meant to be.

When it comes to our oldest child, it was confirmed that F is a complete autodidact. F loves to study in-depth the subjects of her choosing and she often pushes herself to learn and grow in more skills. She just naturally sets goals for herself and pushes herself to achieve them. In the past, she’s had goals such as writing a book, designing and programming a video game, and learning the medium of water color and ink. Although being on the Autism Spectrum Disorder comes with its challenges, I think her drive, focus, and creativity are areas where ASD gives her an advantage. She wants to be homeschooled again next year, and so that is what we will do. This child complained a lot that she would learn better on her own and that memorizing things for tests only to quickly forget them and move on to the next thing isn’t education. (We heard this complaint ALL year.) While I agree with her, and she articulated a major reason why we never sent our children to school before this year, at the same time, I think it was good for her to try school and to have that experience. Although ahead in some subjects, she was “behind” in math, and so I’m grateful that we were able to close some of those gaps. Although I don’t believe that all kids have to learn the same things at the same time, if F chooses to go to college I think it will be helpful for her to not have the challenge of trying to catch up in this area. So I’m feeling more positive about where we are with math and that we are in a good place moving forward. Also, I think it was good for her to learn some non-academic things, like making friends and working in groups at school, and also that in life, sometimes there’s just some hoops to jump through to achieve one’s goals. If she chooses to go to Design school to be an interior designer, there will be classes she likes and classes she doesn’t. Likely for any career-path she chooses, she’ll need to do the fun, creative parts of it, and maybe some businessy, red-tape parts of it too. She chose for herself to go to school this last year and she is choosing to be homeschooled next year, and we are supportive.

For my sunny, easy-going youngest daughter, school was fine. There were no major loves or dislikes, but she would prefer to stay home next year, so that’s fine with us. It did get tedious trying to get N to do all her computer work at times, however, and so it’ll be nice to be able to choose work and tasks that makes learning fun for her, rather than having to do the tasks that the school gives us to do. I’m happy there will be more freedom in our homeschool next year with the ability to tailor schoolwork to her.

Also, our son M turns four next month and so, for the first time ever, we are sending a child to 4K. It is in the mornings Monday through Friday, and I think he’ll enjoy it. He’ll basically have story time, play time, and snack time, and learn songs about the weather and days of the week, and then come home,  and he’ll go to the same Catholic school that his older sister E is going to.

For myself, I’m glad that we’ve found a solution that works for our family. A few years ago I never saw myself sending my children to school, but never say never they say (especially when it comes to how one will parent). Today I see education with more fluidity and I’m so grateful that we live in a country and an area where there are lots of education options and that we are able to choose the best option for each child’s personality and needs and also the needs of our family as a whole. So here’s to a relaxing summer and hopefully another positive school year!

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