Saturday, July 25, 2009

School's Out: Home School Wrap Up

You can home school in the rain,
Or on a bus or in a train.
Sichuan, Guangzhou, Beijing, too,
There is no place that will not do.

Last week, we finished all but a few loose ends in our journey through Seton Home School. And while it seems as if we ventured into late summer, we didn't mind at all, given the tradeoffs. The freedom to take advantage of so many opportunities to travel and immerse ourselves in a culture with infinite offerings was well worth the challenges of a rigorous, albeit compact schedule.

Yet not only did the trips make a difference for us, but also the day-to-day living. The ability to spend two hours eating hot pot for lunch, or to meet Steve at the Summer Palace at noon for a pop-in visit to the longest corridor in China, allowed us to experience Beijing's countless offerings.

Were there struggles? Sure. The freedom to choose your own schedule can be a mixed blessing...Especially if you just want a few more minutes in your bed. Or if a sudden desire comes over you to head to antique market or...You get the picture. Thankfully, our drive to complete the program and give ourselves some wiggle room to "relax" during our last few weeks in China assisted us in our efforts through this type of independent study.

We all learned so much. Not only subject matter (which was very intense, especially algebra and history for Julie, English and math for Z, and religion for all of us), but a lot about ourselves. For Julie, I think the independent study, while lacking the class discussions she enjoys so much, allowed her to see what she can do when she puts her mind to it. For all intents and purposes, she taught herself, in the step-by-step method provided by Saxon Math, algebra. While there were certainly times when we would have liked to have flown Mrs. Gill over for a few days, Julie's true understanding of the concepts presented has really prepared her for the next level.

For Z, that mental math and those participles provided an overarching theme. Because of the design of the program, Z and I had tons of one-on-one time, which allowed both of us to work together to conquer these concepts. As a result, we know a lot more about the topics that Z will experience again next year, but more importantly, we know a lot more about each other. There is no substitute for the time we spent together.

Perhaps the most important lesson I personally learned from Seton Home School is that I'm not nearly as Catholic as I want to or ought to be. What I realized is that while always thinking that we were doing a fine job with our faith by attending weekly Mass and sending Julie and Z to Catholic school (no doubt a great start!), there are Catholic families who incorporate God into all aspects of their lives. They continue to study the tenets and history of the church, as well as to build prayer into their everyday lives. For us, we began each day with prayer, by reading about the life of a saint, and by sharing the daily Mass readings. In addition, we studied the Baltimore Catechism, which is an intense guide to the fundamentals of Catholic teaching and practice. Realizing the availability of these materials, as well as the fact that there are other families out there who have kicked it up a notch, I have been inspired to try and incorporate my faith into my daily life, and that of my family, in a more holistic way. While I may have even more questions (and answers!) than I ever knew I had before all this began, I believe that active thought will help me to put my faith into action in a way that will last long after home school is over.

In all, home school was a very positive experience for all of us. The time we were able to spend together was truly beautiful...The lessons learned, priceless. I know we'll always look back on this experience fondly, and while there is no doubt that returning to our traditional classrooms is not without huge benefit, the home school advantages are pretty substantial too. (And not just because you can have class in your pajamas!)



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