Patchfire’s post about honest reporting (about your children and yourself) reminded me that one of the requirements for homeschooling in Georgia is that I must write an annual summary or report on what we covered this year and on Captain S’s progress. They can’t require that I give them these reports, but I have to write them and then hang on to them for three years. Record-keeping isn’t my area of supreme excellence, of course, but that’s where the blog will come in handy. All I have to do is refer back to my weeks and weeks of Weekly Reviewins and voila! I shall have all the information I could possible require!
All the information on Captain Science that I could possibly require, that is.
Captain Science isn’t the only one who started homeschooling this year. This year, as my blog subtitle indicates, has also been an educational process for me. No one requires any sort of report on what I’ve learned, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take the time to assess it. So, what has Smrt Mama McLernins learned about homeschooling (and herself) this year? What did I learn about being a secular classical homeschooler?
1. Color-coded schedules: what works and what doesn’t. Our color-coded schedule was a great idea in theory, but didn’t work out so well in execution. Too tightly scheduled, not enough time for transitions, and not enough flexibility for Captain Science. He needs more control over his order of activities. Next year’s schedule will still be time-blocked, because that really does help us get through our day in a timely manner, but it will be color coded into “core subjects,” “electives,” etc. and Captain Science will be able to choose the order in which he does his work, and more transitional time will be provided. For example, on Mondays we’d have three one-hour blocks for “school work,” separated by 15 minute breaks, followed by a half-hour lunch, another one hour block of work, then piano. Tank’s schedule would be broken up more and be in shorter blocks, with synced lunches.
2. We had an unacceptable dearth of hands-on stuff. We did so little of this and I really regret that. Projects, crafts, etc. need to be pre-planned and scheduled into our week. Other than writing samples, we have very little to physically show for our school year. No fridge art, no dioramas or whatever to display. This simply will not fly, especially next year, when my artsy little Tank is homeschooling with us. We need specifically blocked-out times for arts and crafts and we need to integrate a physical component into our history lessons. I don’t think we need to make sugar cube pyramids or anything like that, but we do need to find some more hands-on methods of doing lessons.
3. Captain Science owns his work, not me. I am one damn impatient woman. Impatient for Captain Science to get through his work quickly, impatient for him to do it the right way the first time, impatient for him to put in maximum effort rather than half-assing it. On Dawdlin’ Days, it’s all I can do to not just scream “OH MY GOD, just finish your dang WORK already!” at him, whilst running around and tearing at my hair and possibly taking up chain smoking. Ultimately, I’m not the one who controls how quickly he finishes the work. I’m not the one who controls how well he finishes the work. I can set time limits and repercussions for violating those limits. I can set standards for the work and have him redo it when he doesn’t meet those standards. At the end of the day, though, I can’t make him do something in a timely manner or with a high level of quality…or at all. Deep breath. Release. Provide guidance. Provide boundaries. Provide repercussions. Trust him.
4. Broad but shallow or narrow but deep? Did we spend too little time on each of too many subjects at a time? Did we spend too much time on too few subjects? Officer Daddyman and I have discussed this and in looking back over the past year, I see that we had periods of both. We started out with too much focus on history. It dominated our day, our life, our house! While classical homeschooling is typically history-centric, we were sacrificing other subjects just to drag out history. We also had a point where we were trying to cover 6+ subjects in a day, which meant that we couldn’t put any quality time into each subject. One way we dealt with this was by streamlining the subjects. For example, instead of three or four small language arts segments covering different things (grammar, vocabulary, writing), we switched to Michael Clay Thompson’s language arts curriculum, which integrated or coordinated those areas.
5. What’s popular isn’t always right, but it sometimes is. I probably won’t be buying into Sonlight or Math U See any time soon, no matter how many people sing their praises, but I wish I’d listened to the other parents on the advanced learner/gifted forum sooner. I know that I initially scoffed at how everyone was jumping on board the MCT train…oh, aren’t they trendy? Then I saw a video of Mr. Thompson talking about giftedness and why/how it should be nurtured, and I realized that his curriculum wasn’t popular because it was trendy, but because he had really clued in to some essential elements of giftedness. What other curricula have I dismissed due to its popularity that, in retrospect, I might discover could be a great fit for us. I won’t let a curriculum’s popularity/trendiness keep me from checking it out.
6. Friends in unlikely places. I thought that I’d find my home in the secular homeschooling community. As my many posts about feeling alienated or out of place would indicate, this wasn’t the case. I did, to my surprise, find some wonderful friends in the Christian homeschooling community. Despite vast differences in our personal lives, our specific academic materials, and our spiritual/philosophical beliefs, the many things we do share has given me a true sense of community. I also thought that it would be in the academic homeschooling community that I’d make my friends, but I could several unschoolers among the ranks of my Sisters in Homeschooling. I can’t even list all the wonderful (mostly) women (and a few men) I have encountered in the homeschool community…from all walks of life. In the end, it’s hasn’t been about secular or Christian, classical or unschooling, but about commonality of humor, respect for each other and our children, and a belief that we each want to do what is best for our children. If we don’t have humor as parents and homeschoolers, what do we have?
7. It’s ok to quit the stuff that isn’t working (before you hit crisis/loathing stage). A curriculum isn’t a marriage, right? I’ve had to learn and relearn this one. In October, I wrote about how much we loved Writing Strands and by January, I was writing about how much I disliked it. How many months of that time in between did I force us to keep on with an increasingly incompatible curriculum? I don’t know for sure, but next year, I will give myself permission to quite before I have to write a big dramatic post about how much I hate said curriculum. I promise. This time, I really will.
8. I don’t totally suck at this. Captain Science learned a lot this year. I learned a lot this year. We still like each other. Daddyman and I still like each other. The world hasn’t collapsed, the house hasn’t burned down, and I haven’t had a nervous breakdown. We not only can do this, we ARE doing this! We’re really, truly homeschoolers…and we’re doing just fine.