Homeschool High Points

     We are finally achieving the homeschool that I had envisioned so long ago: the family learning together, not using workbooks, but using “living books”: books that make the subjects come alive.  Mary, Clare and Leigh (and sometimes even Annie) sit with me on the couch.  We read the Science Encyclopedia and make flash cards on a few facts per day.  The girls have SO MUCH memorized from those flash cards, even though I have never made the girls study them.  We also read the Bible, and the kids are voracious for more stories each day.  In past years, Leigh, Clare and I have done Toddler and Youth Bibles, and now we are using an Illustrated Children’s one for older kids.  They are truly getting a handle on the Bible stories: their content and their sequence.  Then we do History and Geography together.  We are doing ancient history.  The younger girls are understanding how amazing it is that any civilizations have cropped up at all, and what it takes for tribes to develop into a civilization, and what it takes for a civilization to become an empire.  Mary is doing written compositions for each ancient civilization.  She used to cry doing history assignments.  Now she is facile with them, and mastering the material.  We are doing map work with each child coloring their own map, learning where countries are relative to each other.  On a whim I decided we would do countries around the Mediterranean, which means African, Middle Eastern as well as European countries.  This breaks up the typical “one continent at a time” routine, and it feels fresh and interesting.
     We sketch, we do music together (piano, violin, guitar and cello), we read books aloud.  All of this “experience of learning” is balanced with the daily discipline of daily math, spelling, handwriting and phonics.  They also memorize daily: a history time line, a poem, a Bible verse, and Italian vocabulary.  Jake and Mary are studying Latin with Ron.
     Jake is doing some of these subjects with us (memory work, geography, Italian, music), but he is also doing independent work (he just reads World History and literature by himself for fun) and the co-op.
     It is a packed day, and I never stop.  But they are joyfully engaged with the material.
     Most of all, they like being together.  They enjoy their shared day, and Jake and the girls are being knit together in a way that is not otherwise possible.  They take their breaks together, the girls dressing up and playing with dolls, or listening and dancing to the first ever set of pop music I have allowed.  They are growing close in a way I could not have imagined.
     I would not give this semester for anything.  It is exhausting, but it is the highest point our homeschool has ever achieved.  I have worked toward this for years: doing one part of it with Jake, and other part with Clare or Mary.  But never before has it all come together like this.  I am so, so grateful!