Friday, June 7, 2013

The End of Our School Year

Yesterday was the last day of our school year and today we celebrated! We began by attending Mass for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

Margaret (2), Mary (4-1/2), Joseph (4 months), and John (6-1/2)
who will tell anyone who will listen that he is a "rising first grader!"

On our drive home, we picked up doughnuts to celebrate the end of school (which ended up being superfluous--we ate way too many sweets today!). There was a very long line because it turned out to be National Doughnut Day.

Back at home, we had our second annual End-of-Year Program. Chris and I had created a document, for which each child has a section including photos and lists of their achievements in the last year broken down by subjects, such as Religious Studies, Virtue, Math, Physical Education. I sat down with each child one at a time (including tiny Margaret! and even Joseph had a page!) and told them what they had achieved with their hard work.

Then Daddy-Principal handed each child a certificate, John's saying he had completed Kindergarten.

Margaret clutched her little certificate, so pleased to have her piece of paper just like Big Sister and Big Brother.

I have a list of goals for the summer, listed out for me and for the two older children. Some items are pragmatic, like I want to teach John to launder towels and pass on that chore to him and to teach him how to make a simple lunch for all of us. Some goals have to do with virtues one or another of us needs to improve. Some goals have to do with hobbies, like I want to pick up sewing again. As far as schooling goes, I intend to have us continue with math and reading almost daily.

We added to our children's library some Usborne books for summer fun: one teaching chess and an atlas, both of which will more interest John, and three books on how to draw, which will most intensely interest our "artist in training," which Mary calls herself. We handed these out at the end of our program and the children were so excited.

In the afternoon, we proceeded to the final art class at our parish homeschool co-op, followed by an end-of-year celebration. There were probably 100 children there, from babies to teenagers, and a fabulous time was had by all racing around the gym on scooters, dribbling basketballs, and blowing up and popping balloons. They even dragged out the theatre costumes and put on an impromptu play.

The potluck spread of snacks, cookies, and cake

The cake celebrating another year in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
the entire group prayed the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus before we ate.

John wearing his theatre costume!

I'm all about simplicity these days and I confess that I didn't notice it would be the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus till a couple of days before. I think I'm doing great if I can stay just one step ahead most of the time. I was so busy preparing for our end-of-year program that I didn't think of celebrating the actual feast day. One beautiful fruit of our attending Mass more often than just on Sundays (even though we are far from a daily Mass family) is that the children don't mind it and even like it--so as we studied the Sacred Heart of Jesus earlier in the week, John was the one who asked me if we could attend Mass on the upcoming Friday. Then on Friday afternoon, my husband graciously dashed to the grocery store for me, picked up a pre-made cake (he chose a chocolate chip cookie "cake," which turned out to be perfect since our children don't like standard cake), and I used my handy dandy can of whipped cream, strawberries, and blueberries to make a Sacred Heart of Jesus cake. Five minutes is all it took, but it was so special to the children.

My much simpler version of a Sacred Heart of Jesus cake,
far less "Martha Stewart" than some I've seen online, but just as tasty!

I am feeling so positive about how this school year went! I want to share--not to make myself sound fabulous but to encourage that if I can do it, you can do it! If there is anyone reading this blog who is in even earlier years of parenting than am I, it is you I want to encourage.

I am still in the thick of the Early Years, my eldest being only six years old. This year of Kindergarten for John and preschool for Mary we got through with great success even though I was pregnant (and miserable) for most of it, then juggling a newborn, plus I lost my nanny (previously three afternoons per week) and I lost my house cleaners. If you had talked to me earlier in my life, I never would have thought in a million years that I could have four children six and under, use no other child care and have no local family, keep my own house clean, get meals on the table, and homeschool the children successfully. But if I could learn how to do it, so can you!

I received what I believe was fantastic advice from an experienced homeschool mom when John was two or three years old and I wanted to launch a complex preschool program. She told me to focus on establishing obedience and order first, academics a far second in those earliest of years. If my eldest were to reach Kindergarten or first grade, but my house was falling apart, and my children were disobedient and wild, I would be unable to teach them anything academic. She said something pithy like, "If you can't get your son to pick up his room, you certainly can't teach him to read." I took that to heart and I think Chris and I did establish a lot of beautiful routine and a solid foundation of obedience--a virtue that will always be a work in progress, of course. It served us so well this year!

I have learned to simplify, simplify, simplify, and I will continue to work on that. When I lost the nanny, I didn't increase television-as-babysitter time, instead I cut out more activities from my life and I taught the children to self-occupy more. When I lost the house cleaners, I taught the children to do many more chores, with me and independently. I'm trying so hard to remember that the basics in the home are food and laundry. Do food, laundry, and homeschooling and you are doing so much of God's good work in your vocation.

Having had so many conversations with homeschooling mothers further along the journey than am I, I am well aware that there will be years I do not feel positive about how it is going, in no uncertain terms. But there are phases, seasons, bumps in the road, outright tragedies, and we rely on God during those times and discern His will for how to proceed. In the meanwhile, I am basking today in how good I feel about this wee first year of my firstborn's Kindergarten experience.

Bonus Reading: "Report: Homeschooling Growing Seven Times Faster Than Public School Enrollment" (and how fantastic homeschool students are performing!)


  1. Congratulations on a successful year!

    Are you continuing with RightStart Math next year? We did A&B this year and I'm debating C or switching to Singapore (or a combo). Level C is supposedly weaker than the first two.

  2. Courtney: Yes, I'm also considering the switch to Singapore. I have a friend who uses it (and likes it) who is lending me her first grade workbook tonight so I can peruse it.

    Courtney: what do you use for history?

  3. Let me know what you think! I've looked only briefly at the first grade for Singapore. I've heard that it's not as strong as RS A/B, but also that it's good to have a grasp of the "Singapore method" via the first grade HIGs. Coming from the Rightstart way of doing math, I don't think Singapore would be too big a leap, but we shall see! I'm looking at first grade for #2 who will be five by fall. He's done Singapore Essentials K and listened in on RS, and is almost on the same level as my second grader in terms of place value and mental math. But maybe I'll just have him formally do RS B! Aghhh!!

    I could also write a book about history! I've looked at so much! This year I ended up doing read alouds from here and there on subjects that interested us. We have to ramp it up into something formal for the fall, though. NYS requires US History and at least one year of NYS History.

    I'm trying to decide if I want to do a classical four year history cycle or start with 1-2 years of US/NYS or run both threads at once. I have looked at RC History, Mater Amabilis, CHC, Seton, Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, Story of the World, Elemental History, Trail Guide to Learning, and Winterpromise. Some Catholic, some Protestant, and some secular!

    I've more or less settled on History Odyssey with Classical House of Learning Literature (both are secular and CHOLL is FREE!) for Ancient History, and I am still debating the US part. I think I might focus on some American history/culture around holidays, but I'm not 100% sure. I love US History and we live in a great part of NY for history, but I also don't want students who are too US-centric.

    How's that for no help at all??