I just looked at my yearly planning calendar and we only have 2 weeks left of school. WHERE has the time gone? My goodness this year flew by. We’ve had lots of wonderful life-learning this year, and I’m also very pleased with how much the kids have developed.  Having a new baby in the house for much of our school year has given me ample time to consider and reconsider and consider again the methodology and approach I have to our family education. The longer I do this “homeschool thing” the more eclectic the choices I make. I’m trying to keep an open mind to what the children need as they get older. How much am I impressing MY goals on them, and how much are they inspired to do their own learning and discovery? Am I giving them enough to spark interest, or are we getting too bogged down with workbooks to have the energy for other pursuits? Are we continually coming back to the development of godly character as being primary in importance here?

God impressed on my heart the need for the girls to take a little more ownership of their learning as I prepare for the coming year. Though we are still laying a foundation in math, science, and being able to use the English language excellently, there is plenty of time during the day for them to pursue their own interests as they are becoming more independent and don’t need me to constantly be helping them. For the past couple of weeks, we have been discussing the process of setting goals and then using daily free time to meet those goals. I’m a very goal-oriented person, and our children will eventually have to develop self-governance in whatever pursuits they take on in life. Managing time and passions well is a lifelong pursuit and takes much practice. After all, there comes a point in time when Mommy can’t MAKE you practice piano anymore – you either want to become a good musician and will have the self-discipline to achieve that status – or you don’t and won’t. When it comes to what we lay out to learn this year, I have to consider my own very limited time and resources so that we can both lay a solid foundation and begin to build individualized little rooms. I also have to keep looking back at what our original motivation and mission was when we set out to homeschool. While recognizing that there have been and will continue to be circumstances that change HOW we accomplish what we set out to do, the main heart has not changed. The two over-arching goals we have at Hebron Heights Academy is to train our children in the admonition and fear of the LORD, and to endeavor for excellence in whatever we put our hands to. Everything else is icing on the cake.

I’ve spent some one-on-one time with the girls, asking Jaelah and Selah what THEY want to learn this year. Jaelah wants to continue to develop her artistic abilities but she also is very interested in nutrition and menu planning for the family. She is captivated about what makes healthy food healthy and how to get the whole family involved in eating it. Also, she is very passionate about food presentation (which probably stems from her extremely creative nature) and she wants to begin consulting with me whenever I re-arrange furniture. Hah – she could be a budding little interior designer, and considering how often I am moving things around to accommodate our growing family, she has job security for the foreseeable future! Selah has a great love for writing and she wants to continue to pursue that this year (not surprising to me – she has authored six books already to the great delight of the twins) but she would really like to learn how to sew as well so that she can make clothes for her American Girl doll and “save money because they are so expensive on the website, Mommy, like SO many more coins than I have.” Smart girl. I haven’t been very intentional about home economics other than living it in front of the children and requiring them to do chores as part of the “Family Blessing” portions of our day. Apparently, my endless talking about how to poach eggs and make almond-flour bread and sneak pureed kale into foods has sparked some curiosity. I couldn’t be more pleased. Maybe if I make a big deal about how to get the rust-stains out of the tub using natural products, they will get excited about cleaning the bathroom too. Or not. Both girls also expressed a strong desire to study the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln this year. I don’t know what it is about the injustice of slavery that speaks to their hearts, but they just want to know all about it. In Story of the World Volume 2 we recently covered the awful exploitation of West Africans as Spanish explorers realized they would need slaves to build their great cities and empires in the New World. The girls listened with rapt attention as we read some rather sobering stories of the ways Native Americans were treated in the race to claim land and grab gold. This topic can and will take years to cover, and there are obviously many more characters to study in our discovery of the Civil War as well as modern-day slavery, but I’m excited that they want to start. I’ve sort of been dabbling in the subject to see if their emotional maturity is keeping in step with their curiosity. So far, they appear to be ready earlier than I previously predicted. So in addition to our main studies this year, we’ll be adding purposeful cooking and sewing, beefing up art and creative writing, and spending a lot of time reading biographies and stories of slavery and its part of our history as Americans. I will still be holding off on purchasing Sonlight Core D until late 2014, but we’ll be going through SOTW 3 and 4 slowly until that time so we can get both a broad overview of the early modern world and a closer look at the States for the first time in our homeschool journey.

The Lord is doing a work of liberation in my heart. I’m experiencing the freedom to take an honest look at what we’re doing and get rid of what doesn’t work and embrace things that might be unfamiliar but might work with my learners. For instance, the girls’ handwriting curriculum continues on with about four more books after the one they finished this year. Four more entire workbooks! Now, don’t get me wrong. Having neat handwriting is a lifesaver in the real world, but the girls’ have beautiful cursive and do so much writing practice throughout the day that I just don’t see the need to give them another workbook on top of everything else. Instead of completing several more years of cursive busywork we’re going to start learning how to type this year, which is an extremely necessary asset in our ever-developing technological world. I am setting myself free from any guilt that would tell me I HAVE to make them go through the four more workbooks because I have to check all of my curriculum boxes. A few other changes we’ll be making – chucking the Wordly Wise vocabulary workbooks once and for all. I need to quit trying to make something work that just doesn’t work. We’ll be doing formal Latin study this year for vocabulary as the girls wanted to have more than just memorizing Greek and Latin roots. They were having a difficult time seeing the roots in language and how they make words work together. We’ll keep our English From the Roots Up for highschool or just as a reference material because it really is better for that purpose. Once I let the girls see a video excerpt of Prima Latina, they were hooked, and Chavah will be able to watch them as well. I don’t know how far we’ll take our Latin studies, but I really do think it is a superior method to memorizing lists of words that don’t relate to one another. Another change I’m making this year is the older girls’ reading material. Sonlight provides wonderful readers, but we’ve done all the Core C readers. I want to help the girls really engage with the literature they read and rather than just going through a bunch of good books, I would like to slow way down and spend time going deep with a few great books. We’re not big fans of book reports around here but I am not opposed to some “structured” reading, so we’re going to try Memoria Press literature guides for the first time this year. Each year only covers four books. They are workbook format which isn’t my ideal, but I can easily adjust the exercises for the girls to give narrations. The best part I’ve seen in the MP guides is that they give me a launching pad for deeper discussions. For composition, the girls are now ready to go through IEW’s Student Writing Intensive Level A. I am SO glad I didn’t push them to do it before they were ready. Looking through the materials now, I am relieved to see how far they have come in such a short time. I now have no anxiety about their continued development as writers and I was completely overwhelmed at the beginning of this year. What a difference a few months makes! Apologia’s worldview curriculum has turned into our family’s favorite devotional study tool. Pete leads the kids in this program, and we’re ready to start book two this year. We take a lot more time to go through the material than is required, but I appreciate that the topics we cover are so in-depth. I believe the girls are ready to take on some Bible study of their own this year too. Rather than just reading the Word, I want them to begin to be familiar with what it means to go deep. I recently discovered that Kay Arthur (author of many fantastic resources covering the inductive Bible study method) has written a series just for kids called Discover 4 Yourself. The books cover only small pieces/topics of Scripture at a time. We’ll be slowing down our Bible reading this year so that we can do more study. The Kay Arthur books I got for Jaelah and Selah discuss in-depth God’s Name, covenant in the Bible, and how to pray. Of all the shiny new books we have for the year, I’m probably most excited about these ones.

With all the talk of what I’m going to change, I have to mention the things that we’re going to keep using. Math U See, All About Spelling, and Apologia science for the older girls are tried and true now – three years going strong. I don’t dare change what makes our days run so smoothly! Alfred’s early beginner piano books are also the perfect pace for us and the girls will begin the third book in the series this year. I won’t require the kids to take more than two years of rudimentary piano because music is an excellent discipline. Beyond that, I will let them choose if it’s a passion they want to pursue. After doing about a year and a half so far, the girls don’t show any desire to stop and Chavah actually is constantly bugging me to start her books. I decided to let the girls practice any time they want instead of making them do it at a particular time slot each day because I was coming up against some major ‘tude. As long as they learn the pieces I lay out for them every week or two, I don’t say anything about piano. Since I’ve been quiet about it, they started practicing all the time. Whenever they are bored, they head to the piano.  LOL – they have no idea this was my plan all along and it’s working for now.

We’re moving in April to a home that has much more space. With the nightmare that is moving, I feel like Abba is expanding our tent pegs and it’s a reward not a drudgery. All this energy, passion, and creativity that has been bubbling under the surface is going to be given wide berth to be expressed. I can’t wait to see some of the amazing things God has in store for all His students in our family this year.