The end of 2016 has prompted me to take a look back at the year that was. In many ways it was a frustrating year for me as I was plagued by a variety of vestibular symptoms that at times severely limited what I could do. However, there were lots of achievements and other positives as well and sometimes it is good to remind myself of them.
Homeschooling ran smoothly and easily this year - mostly hits but a few misses along the way. By far the most popular of Miss 16's classes was ornithology. The subject matter meant it was always going to be a favourite but I think the structure really helped. I had gathered together a whole heap of resources and ideas and effectively presented it to Miss 16 as a buffet. She could pick what she wanted from what was on offer and I had no preconceived ideas as to what or how much she would do. Some of the highlights were the many lessons we used from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds without Borders, some lessons from HHMI BioInteractive, a MOOC on animal behaviour, citizen science bill marking, plenty of field work and observations- including the albatross cam. We utilized textbooks, living books, DVDs, live speakers and lesson plans from middle school to college level. We even attended a one day conference on braided rivers which had a big bird focus. The other most popular course was Applied Ecology and Conservation, where she attended lectures at a local university. My fears that it would be too much were thankfully unfounded and it only cemented her interest in this area. Algebra 2 was solid but uninspiring. It was never going to be loved and while it wasn't hated I know Miss 16 was delighted to finish the final level of maths we require. I had high hopes for her composition course but the first online class she took via Fortuigence focused more on process and technical competence when I was wanting her style and voice developed more. The course was fine, just not what we needed. The second one proved to be too costly. Instead she worked through Brave Writer's Help for High School and ended up taking from it what she wanted when she wanted. She claims she can't write someone else's way - a point I think I instinctively know. It's probably why we've used a variety of different writing programmes over the years - in the hope that all my kids would be exposed to a variety of ideas and be enabled to take what worked for them. In addition to this specific writing instruction Miss 16 wrote a variety of papers for "school" plus several short articles for real-world publications. I think my expectations and standards may be too high when it comes to writing - Mr 19 earned A+s on his university essays when I would not have graded them that highly. While Miss 16's writing is always competent the stand-out stuff only happens some of the time - when inspiration strikes. While I'd love exceptional all the time I need to remember that's not really realistic. Miss 16's final course - Child Labour - was initially a bit unfocused and we had a hard time finding the type of resource we wanted for Victorian Britain. However, we salvaged it by adding a comparative element looking a child labour issues in Progressive era America and in third world countries today.
Birding is a big part of Miss 16's life outside of an official ornithology class. She continued to edit the local newsletter, wrote a regular column for the national birding magazine, and contributed articles to a magazine for children, published by a Young Birders Network that she is involved with. She attended most of our group's field trips, assisted on several organized bird counts and otherwise got into the field as often as she could. A highlight was attending a camp for teen birders. Overall she saw more than 120 different bird species this year, including some Australian ones. Her favourite was the Black-tailed godwit, spotted at the teen camp.
The other key thing in Miss 16's life is trampolining. 2016 was probably her best ever year. At the start of the year she attended an introductory level judge's course and has been working on completing the required number of hours before taking the next course. She really enjoys judging and can see herself continuing even after she retires from competition. Her club held a training camp in Australia (which she was able to fund herself as a result of her part-time job as a trampoline coach) and the facilities and different coaching input really helped her master a new skill that she'd been struggling with. Since then she's progressed in leaps and bounds, adding several other new skills to her repertoire. Competition wise she's had a great year going undefeated in individual trampoline and winning two national titles - one in individual and one in synchronized - her first ever national titles.
Passing the first stage of her drivers licence was another high point for Miss 16. She's getting behind the wheel every chance she gets and is looking forward to passing the second stage in six months time, which will allow her to drive without supervision.
Despite my limitations,which I've chafed against some times, 2016 has not been all bad for me. I knew this was not the year for big plans but I was still determined to do some awesome adulting by carving out time to do some things I enjoy. I enjoy birding as much as Miss 16 and despite not getting out as often as her, still managed to see 95 different species this year (respectable by New Zealand standards), including my first ever Pacific golden plover which I have unsuccessfully sought for the past three years. I love to read and luckily have been able to continue with this, on all except a handful of days. All told I read 152 books. I also met my self-imposed challenge of trying at least 50 new recipes, thus justifying somewhat my slight addiction to recipe books. I took up yoga and despite a few illness imposed breaks along the way, feel like it's a practise I'll stick with. I toyed a couple of times with becoming a more serious blogger, but in the end decided it wasn't for me. I'm glad I didn't pursue my plan of writing reviews. I originally started this blog to document and share our experiences of homeschooling teens since several groups I was involved with were bemoaning the lack of such blogs. I feel most comfortable doing that in a weekly "this is what we did and used" format. I don't wish to encourage anyone to homeschool our way or hold our approach up as an ideal, especially since our way keeps evolving and has looked very different for each of our four kids! Rather I'd just like to be one of many different examples of what homeschooling can look like in the high school years. And since that's what I feel most comfortable with that is what I'll continue to do. It makes a good record to look back on if nothing else!
For all my homeschool graduates 2016 has been a significant year. Mr 24 finally completed his PhD and is now busily searching for a job in his chosen field, while continuing to develop his programming skills which he taught himself during his thesis work. Miss 22 officially graduated with her degree in psychology, and then departed for a working holiday in Europe. She was meant to be away for six months, but had such a good time that she extended her trip. Mr 19 successfully completed his first year of university and was officially presented with the highest award in Scouting by the Governor-General.
I hope 2016 was a good year for all of you and your families. Wishing you all the very best for 2017.