Today is our niece’s very first dance recital, and the rest of the family went to support her. I wanted to go, but there is so much to do before we head out of town on tomorrow. Anyway, as much as I hate to miss her debut (she’s only four years old—too cute!), I am enjoying a rare moment of peace and quiet at home. I can’t enjoy it long, though—there are groceries to buy, packing to complete, and minor cleaning to do before we get on the road. I’ve wanted to write for several days now, so I made a conscious effort to pin my thoughts before I put the skates back on and start my evening shift.
I’ve spent days and weeks reading and reading, and then reading some more. It amazes me how much I agonize over teacher’s guides, reading plans, and schedules, tweaking this and changing that. I know from my blogging buddies that I’m not unique in that way. Yet I also have friends who love scripted materials, and I’ve seen beautifully laid out step-by-step instructions from various publishers. It’s just not me. So, I tear through most teacher’s guides to get suggestions, with little intent of using them as designated. I find myself creativity-challenged, especially for the youngest, and so I need help with ideas. I am, however, gaining confidence in my own abilities over time. Moreover, I’m gaining confidence with the kids’ abilities to create on their own, and to learn without my planning every moment of school day. As just one example, the youngest has written so much over these few months. It hasn’t helped her handwriting , but her understanding of phonics is growing tremendously. She decided to write all of her dance classmates a note before the recital, so she cut several sheets of scratch paper to make little cards. She asked me how to spell a few words for the first card, but then copied what she’d written on each of the other cards. Right before the recital, I checked the cards to see what was written. On the outside of each card was the name of a little girl. On the inside, it looked something like this:
i wish you could come over, but my mom said no.
I wish I had thought to save one of these before I hurriedly threw them away to avoid her actually giving one to someone, and the consequential embarrassment. Laughingly, I thought to myself that even this probably captures the spirit of Charlotte Mason’s intent regarding masterly activity, if not the exact purpose.
So where am I now? Right where I should be—humbled to pray, and committed to spending money on good books. Overlaying each kid’s day with my own schedule was revelatory; I will never get done all that I would want to do in an ideal world, but they will learn plenty, and they’ll own their own learning, which is even more important. I’ve pared down our schedule and worked hard to give the kids ample time to create. I bought a used teacher’s guide for 1st grade reading, not the $100 package that I purchased last year from Bob Jones. I purchased a used Sonlight IG to help our son through Asia and Africa. For the oldest, I’ll use Sparknotes (free literature guides), LessonPlanet.com (free lesson plans) and Learning Through History magazine to get us through the classics. I also found a great Medieval history bundle from LTH (I love these—for $7 a magazine, you get a wonderfully thorough and wonderfully fun unit study). I think we’re set for 10th grade, although it’s still another school year away. Nothing like getting ahead, right? By the way, Invitation to the Classics is a great resource to buy used as well.
Anyway, given that next week is July and we begin our year in early August, my plan is to begin laying this entire schedule into a planner. The stores are behind me in the timing of their back-to-school materials display, so I may have to order the children’s planners online. One work that I’ve crafted to the point of creating my own Picasso is a “syllabus” of sorts for my upcoming high school freshman. I have all of her subjects, the weekly reading plan (at a high level), and her associated wrap-up activities for the books she’ll read. Her “elective,” namely the Ancient Costume and History course, is also detailed in this syllabus. I should probably come up with a better name for it, but really, I just wanted to get down on paper what she would do for the year, how she’d do it, and what tools would be in place to guide her learning. The thoughts and resources that went into what I put together is probably worth a separate post, but I wanted her to grow accustomed to reading through plans and becoming increasingly responsible for her own schedule. As I said earlier, I keep tweaking it, but within the next two weeks I need to wrap up all the loose ends so that we’ll both be ready. It occurs to me why many homeschoolers place their kids in school after middle school. Though it’s not rocket science, there is a certain level of timidity in designing a year that is child- and home-friendly enough for you to feel good about, yet rigorous enough for a college admissions board to feel good about. Again, a post for another window when I have more time. May God bless each of you.