Friday, November 30, 2012

20/20 Hindsight 8th Grade Homeschool Year

I just finished going through homeschool papers for my older son's 8th grade year. I was decluttering files, tidying up records, and filing away what should be kept.

Looking at the year's paperwork with 20/20 hindsight I see things quite differently.

That year we did way too many outside activities with formal learning from three different homeschool co-op's. One I'd waited years to get into and it was a disappointment in reality. Another was a start-up with many close friends that I didn't want to miss out on. Another was a favorite thing with favorite people but some of the classes were fluff (fun but a waste of time academically).

A number of classes my son took were above grade level, now that I look back on it, and really there was no need for that. However being in co-op's they were not comprehensive enough to justify an entire course. Doing them as a class with little homework meant that at home the content was not being learned more in depth.

In 20/20 hindsight, if I remove emotions such as my son wanting to do classes with his friends for socialization, I would say now that we should have stayed home more and worked on two things: improving weak areas and putting enough butt in chair learning time to specific courses to get to mastery levels. However making plans solely based on ideal academic goals is unhealthy: a child is a whole person and various parts of their being need attention, such as socialization and fun extracurriculars and yes, sometimes learning things just for fun, not because they are on some list of essential things an 8th grader must learn in that exact grade.

Some things touched upon not thoroughly enough spilled over into challenges in grade 9 for mastery. I mean to say, that not covering a topic thorougly enough in grade 8 to gain mastery meant part of grade 9 was spent finally seriously studying those topics.

I see writing composition challenges that remain to this day. I wish we'd worked on them thoroughly back then so it would not be the focus in grade 10.

I see paper organization messes as I was letting my son work independently. His papers are all over and intermingled, subjects are mixed together and the nice folders are empty or barely used, while the loose paper stack is huge. He failed to learn how to do simple tasks like file completed work neatly away, to put notes in one notebook or to file loose papers in order in a three ring binder. I wish we worked on that back then. We are still working on that in grade 10 because it has not self-resolved. My an needs standards and rules imposed by me to put papers there and file in chronological order, date the papers and keep,books in an area so they can be found when needed.

There are gaps in the courses he took which remain challenging gaps today.

My son had some deep learning in certain areas that the schools do not always teach in middle school such as chemistry and physics optics. His prealgebra course wound up being weak and left him ill-prepared for Algebra I in fall of grade 9.

My son had some fluff courses such as how to do art like Leonardo da Vinci and he learned about medieval history through movies and about accurate medieval weaponry from a reenactment teacher/mom. No school would care about an 8th grader learning about medieval history by inspecting accurate weaponry and the different types, pros and cons of armor.

My son had deep learning and a fair amount of time at an observatory with an hobbyist astronomer/teacher. The group located a star that was in need of verfication with some astronomy group whose name eludes me at this moment. It was a big deal, trust me. The kids were trusted to use the expensive computers and the telescope themselves. It was amazing.

My son won, with his partners, the gold medal in Science Olympiad for the physics airplane model flying competition (Wright Stuff).

So you can see that my son had overtly strong areas of learning and also official accomplishments while also having too-light learning in some content areas. He also lacked some skills such as weak writing composition, was still struggling with spelling and needed great help in the area of pesonal organization of his school materials. Gaps! Yes, he had gaps! Quelle horreur!

Lest this sound too depressing I will share that his files were full of independently done art sketches and ideas of things that interested him. He made lists of things such as which Yu-Gi-Oh! cards would make an ideal deck and what he wanted for Christmas. He had ideas for a story he wanted to write. There was a rough draft of a fiction short story that was never finished. He made up his own secret code then wrote messages only he could decipher. He dreamed of one day building a Delorean that looked like the time machine in Back to the Future.

He also had a lot of time with close homeschooled friends and build strong relationships that continue to this day, even though we have moved 1800 miles away. He put a lot of time into Boy Scouting and had positive experiences with that Troop and made friends who he still keeps in touch with daily via text messaging. He had a lot of fun that year with friends and with family.

When all is said and done, despite the gaps and weak areas, I can only count that year as a success.


Ahermitt said...

Excellent post. Academic holes ca be recovered. Missed experiences cannot.

Deborah said...

I think you do a great job!