We had a good week of learning, though we did not do school every day. This year is so different than last in the way that I’ve lost all track of days off like Columbus Day, and teacher conferences that the public school does. Last year I had already written in my calender all of the public school days of note because we were initially planning on sending Silje. When we decided to homeschool, the notes on the calender stayed because I thought it would be a helpful reference. When the public school had a day off and we continued on, I’d give myself a little pat on the back for going above and beyond. When we spent a day running errands instead of doing school, I mentally counted it as using up one of the “day offs” I had stored up by good behavior.
Well, this year has been completely liberating in the fact that I have no idea which days the public school is in or out. We do school when we’re home to do it, and I don’t worry if we have to be somewhere. That’s basically been my system. A few days we were at home and had a bunch of home stuff to do and didn’t get to our “curriculum” part of the school, but I still feel those days were full of life learning.
Last summer got so long last year as Silje missed school, and the whole structure of our days was turned upside down. This year I have no intention of doing that to ourselves. If all we have time for that day is to be in the garden, then that’s what we’ll do. If the kids are acting bored and moping about the house, I’ll pull out “school.” I’m throwing out the idea this summer of taking 3 months off because I’ve decided that’s too much work. It’s too much work to figure out what to do with these kids without using the resources that I use all the other 9 months of the year.
The funny thing is, is that I was really worried we were falling behind with this system of doing school when we’re home but not stressing if we’re out and about. I was thinking we’d need all summer to catch up. However, last weekend, I looked ahead, as I did about 2 months ago. This time, I realized Silje only has 3 readers left. We only have 2 read alouds left. She finishes her 2nd grade math program next week.
I did not buy a formal curriculum for David this year, but set out some goals for the years with the hopes that by the end of May he’d have met those goals. I wanted to make sure he knew how to write all his letters, and to get him reading 3 letter words. Well, he can write, although not terribly well. He needs practice, but I think he’s on par with what Silje did at that age. As far as reading, I just pulled out our level 3 Hooked on Phonics this week, and my goal for the year was to finish level 1. I wanted to get through kindergarten math this year, but we realized that was too frustratingly slow for him and we’ve been working on 1st grade math ever since.
The year isn’t over for him and our goals are already surpassed.
We’ve been dabbling with a few other phonics programs as well, and a few other reading programs that I have on hand. We’re also pulling a lot of his readers from the library, and he enjoys picking some of them out himself.
For science, I keep looking ahead at our botany course and thinking “O, we should do this project this summer!” “This would be so much easier this summer!” So in the mean time, I’ve been checking out books on plants from the library. For good measure, I checked out a lot of animal books as well. Silje’s been devouring books on dolphins, horses, and this enormous book from the adult section that lists every breed of dog and different attributes and notes/pictures about each breed. None of them based off of our purchased curriculum, but she’s spending every “non-school” hour of free time with her nose in those books. She really wants to be a vet, so spends a lot of her free time studying animal anatomy and behaviors. Whether or not she ends up being a vet doesn’t matter to me. I like that it’s propelling her to learn!
When I started homeschooling, many moms who have been down this road told me it would take a few years to “de-school” my brain and look for practical ways to facilitate education without feeling like I had to make a mock-classroom in our home. I really didn’t understand what they were saying, but I do now.
I think there are some great methods to learn from the educational system, but I feel so free not to constantly be comparing notes with them as if we were in some sort of race to see who was ahead and who was behind. It’s not that I’m way better than public school people, because that’s not true. It’s just that school methods were developed with a large classroom in mind, and some of those methods just don’t work in a home setting.
Most notably, I feel good not counting days anymore. I’m glad I don’t live in a state that requires me to do so. I’m not sure which days I would count as “school” and which ones I would count as “home” because we just learn everywhere. This summer we will spend a lot of time in the garden learning about plants and what they need, and how to preserve the bounty. Is that school?
Silje spent hours this week reading biology books. She did it of her own volition, I merely placed them in the house. Is that school? We sat down at the table and did math worksheets and had to walk around the house looking for various examples of parallel and perpendicular lines. Is that school?
David spent a lot of time with the math manipulative of the scale and weighed several objects to find out what was equal. Then through his own discovery, he found out that the math scale can also be used as a catapult. (smile.) Then we got to do some history review from earlier this year when we learned about knights and castles. Is education the part of the day when we are working on a purchased curriculum or the part when we vary from it?
Not only that, but when the summer months come, must we stop reading classic books at night from our reading list before bed simply because public school is not in session? The kids would be heartbroken. The dangling bait of getting to stay up later than the little kids totally works for getting them to sit and listen to books they wouldn’t normally sit and listen to. They absolutely love it.
What we talk a lot about in the homeschool mom support group I go to is that we need to focus on our children’s education, and not beat ourselves up about “school” and what that looks like. I love working from our curriculum, and I love taking our detours. I feel less and less stressed out about our detours because I’m starting to see the importance and value of them. They don’t feel like frosting to the education anymore, they feel like part of the foundation.
I keep thinking about a speaker we heard a few months back who said in their house they only studied 3 subjects:
They filled their days with those 3 subjects. As I look ahead to this summer, I hope our days will continue to have those 3 subjects. I’m finding that we’re actually not falling behind on my goals for the year at all with those being the structure to our day.
I don’t mean to say we’ve gone all “unschooling” because I’m not all on board with that philosophy. We sit and learn with structure. We cuddle on the couch with books a lot from our Sonlight curriculum, with sprinklings from other books from a classical model of education. We work on handwriting, we work on spelling. We work on grammar and math. However, not all days have all things. We just keep moving. We just keep working and learning.
I wish I could say that I’m “done with the guilt” but I know that that’s an area in my life where it grows up like weeds in a garden and I need to stay on the lookout for it. I can say that I feel like as I’m nearing the end of our second year, I’m starting to feel the hang of it. Well, at least for now.
As I look back on this post, I see how many references I’ve made to a garden, and weeds. It must be Spring.