Friday, June 13, 2008

Rethinking Homeschooling

One of the great dilemmas with homeschooling is how much do you conform to the traditional idea of school? Do you use textbooks, unit studies, or life opportunities? Have a set time of day for lessons? Subscribe to a more structured idea of education or a less structured idea of education? Do you follow a nine month school year or wing it?

I've been in the process or rethinking the nine month model. I really didn't subscribe to it before we moved to Indiana, though Chris and I did start "schooling" on the traditional first day of the school year, Tuesday after Labor Day, by reading stories in our hammock in our backyard, and drawing snails that were in our flower bed. Here it seemed more important than in California, because at least at first, Chris's main friends who lived near the church went to school, and it was wierd having them knock on the door for Chris to play, and he was still doing Math.

I've gone to more of a "when you are done with the book, you are done with the subject" on things like Math, copywork, and such. But I've really been looking at what our cycle of life is like, and realizing that there really is no point in trying to fight it.

We have never been able to start lessons before October 1st since we've lived here. This is the first year Chris hasn't participated in 4-H, and I've considered what he learns in those to be just as important as anything he can learn with a textbook. After all, showing and breeding rabbits has covered science(reproduction), economics, animal husbandry, competitoin, and so many other things. Other topics that he has done, whether he has shown or not have been important as well.

Also, in September so many other things are happening. My parents have a summer place in Michigan, and they are getting ready to leave and it is the last opportunity to enjoy the lake up there. My inlaws often come out to visit then as well. Scouts, choir, and confirmation have all started up and so that is all quite an adjustment even without lessons starting up as well. There is also another side-benefit to starting is easier to get curriculum when you need it. I know tons of people who are trying to get their curriculum in August and September who have to wait six weeks to get it. I usually don't.

After Thanksgiving, we usually get so focused on doing stuff for the Cookie Walk and Advent that we end up taking a week off and don't get back to it through all of December and then have a renewed emphasis in January. But February is a waste. Everyone feels a lag in February here, no matter what they do, and there is no point in fighting it. It is really hard. So we start planning our gardens, taking a break, and looking for signs of Spring that won't come for another two months.

March is okay again and usually so is April. May is so nice that it is impossible to not go out. Baseball practice is starting, choir is ending, and so many other things are happening that our efforts are outside. And these things are just as important as books. Time in nature, working the soil and planting things, sports, etc. are terribly important...they are what brings joy to life, really. Tell me that is not important. And besides, I remember school in May. You can say "this many classroom hours are needed in order to get things done" but any teacher worth their salt (and I am related to several) will tell you that getting things done in May is an exercise in frustration.

So I am thinking that focusing on these things in May and June is good (as well as VBS, 4-H with Maggie, and swimming , fishing, camping, and such). Then, in July and August, when many days are just miserably hot, then we can return to the books and finish up and return to taking September off again.

In reality, I am just giving myself permission to do what we already do, and we do get things done and the kids end up being where they should be, or ahead in most things. And the things they struggle with, well, time off is a good thing.

No comments: