Friday, August 25, 2023

Reflecting on Third and Fifth Grade

 As usual, I'm late to mentally recapping our school year, and also pleasantly surprised as I sit here looking back on the past academic year -- as I first observed several years ago, "We didn't do everything, but we didn't do nothing!" My first inclination tends toward a sense of failure at the "check marks" we didn't attain to, and it's a constant battle within myself to step away from judging myself too harshly in this regard. 

Our book club with other homeschoolers continued to be a highlight of the year-- this year, featuring Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge, and Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. We paddled small boats around a pond, made paper windmills, went to a zoo, and as always, ate plenty of thematic yummy foods. 

Another highlight of the year was continuing our weekly hikes with friends. We live in a beautiful place, and it's always good to walk out the door and go exploring. 

Nell finished fifth grade. We read lots of good books, many together and some she read on her own. She looked at great art, particularly enjoying Van Gogh and John Singer Sargent. She made a deep connection with the historical figures of both Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. We read part of Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels and absolutely loved it. She started keeping a Book of Centuries. She participated in a wonderful Shakespeare club, reading A Midsummer Night's Dream and performing a scene from it, and then reading Henry V, and memorizing the Crispin's Day monologue. She loves calligraphy and hand-lettering. We read some wonderful science books, including a collection of general science and nature stories and a more specific book on anatomy. A friend from church led a group of girls in weekly quilting sessions, and Nell made both a small wall hanging size quilt and a quilted pillowcase. She continued her violin practice, and although I'm never as consistent with her as I want to be, she's currently working on the Bach "double," the Concerto for two violins, and I know it'll be such a deep pleasure to be playing it with her before long. She's also been practicing the piano, with the occasional impromptu lesson from me, and has continued singing in our church choir, as well (she sang the solo for Once in Royal David's City for the second time this year at our church's Lessons and Carols, and also sang a small solo in Wash Me Throughly by Samuel Wesley). She still loves ballet, and was in her ballet school's performance of The Nutcracker this past December as a cherub and a lamb.

Here's Nell, age 11, with books representing our school year as well as just a few favorites she read for fun. (Thursday's Child!)

Somehow I can't not include a picture of this sweet little acorn fellow Nell made for me for Christmas. His violin is made of pinecone scales. He's been perched on a low shelf near my kitchen sink since Christmas, and he brings a smile to my face every time I see him!

Marie finished third grade. She loves being read to and listening to audio books, and just this summer she has finally been discovering the joy of reading to herself, too. (Harry Potter seems to have worked his magic in turning Ree into a certifiable bookworm at last!) She loved a biography of Marie Curie we read together, joined Nell in her obsession with Helen Keller for a while, and developed a passion for the Victorian era and all of the finer things. She's kept up her violin playing as well, making her way through Suzuki Volume 2 at the moment. She has a remarkable ability to sing harmonies she makes up herself, and it so often brightens my day to hear my girls singing folk songs or other bits of music in harmony with one another as I go about my day. Marie also takes ballet, and was a mouse in last winter's Nutcracker

Marie, age 9, with books representing our school year, and some favorite fun ones, too. 

Molly turned six in March. She'll start school officially this fall, but she listened in a lot over the past year, as we read books about birds, stories from the Bible, Dr. Dolittle, some Dallas Lore Sharp nature stories, and more. And surprise of all surprises to this mama, this girl can READ! (Having a child practically teach herself to read at age five is very new to me, since my two older girls definitely learned later and were slower to reach a point of really enjoying it.) She's a full-fledged reader these days, powering through Ramona books, All-of-a-Kind Family books, and even biographies (she joined the Helen Keller obsession around here) and Life of Fred math books for fun.

And Molly! Age six, and "clever as clever," as the A.A. Milne poem goes.

* * *

All in all, it was a good school year. The best part of the year was also the part that threw school (as such) into a bit of turmoil and contributed to our ending the year a bit "behind" some of my aspirations -- sweet Cecily joined our family! So, along with reading good books and encountering interesting things of all sorts, four big sisters have had lots of opportunities to practice their baby-care skills.

Aside from adding a fifth daughter to our family, if there was a theme to the year from my perspective, I'd say it was trying to level up in our organization, specifically with regards to the girls' chores. I began the past academic year with newly updated chore charts for everyone individually, as well as a family chart with bigger daily chores that rotated every couple of weeks. Remembering, reminding, and supervising these daily efforts of theirs required a lot of effort of mine, not surprisingly, and I adopted for myself as motivation Proverbs 14:4: "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox." And while our 'manger' was rarely truly clean, there were some pretty substantial glimpses over the past year of the abundant crops my little oxen are bringing to fruition.

If you're still reading, here are a few more glimpses of our year, demonstrating school as "a life" around here, in ways both overtly academic and not so much! 

This post barely touches on the full year we've had, but it's nice to look back and see that we really did accomplish something, I think. And now, back to my efforts of planning our next school year, which begins in just over a week...! Building on our highlights of the year I mentioned above, we're leaning into all the good that friendship and community have to offer, and together with a number of like-minded mothers implementing a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education in their homeschools, we are starting a two-day-a-week school. It's a lot to wrap our heads around, and we're going to have to get a little better at getting up early in the morning, but we are really excited about the possibilities it will offer. Here's hoping it's a beautiful and rich experience for the ten families and their 35 children, collectively. 

1 comment:

  1. I am late to reading and commenting, but just wanted to say I still enjoy your blog! As a fellow mother of young ones, I know how hard it is to keep up the blogging - obviously, there are more important priorities!
    What a beautiful life with five (!l beautiful ladies you are leading.