Spring has sprung, and with approximately 9-10 weeks of school left, I am beginning that annual season of planning, and the official beginning of my season of homeschooling one.
When you have homeschooled a minute, picking out “nuggets,” as I like to call them, amongst all the conferences, magazines, and blogs you have read can be difficult. On the other hand, when something strikes you, it really stays with you a long time. I can remember hearing at one point that you as the primary educator have to pick your goals and your focal point, and that focal point may be one kid as opposed to all of your children. When our children were younger, that idea sounded ludicrous to me. It made me feel as if one kid might be favored over the others. Not in my house. I had not realized that focusing on one didn’t mean leaving the others to totally fend for themselves. As the kids grew, I began to see the logic of this concept, even if I was not in total agreement.
Somewhere in the midst of our youngest’s elementary years, our school transitioned from the days of discovery and (as much as my linear thinking would allow) delight-directed learning, and we sank deep into academia. With the oldest then in high school, the cooking lessons, the co-op/ park fun days, and the let’s-go-with-the-flow-and-see-what-happens days were replaced with making sure that we knew what was needed in order to make the transition to college. I, like many homeschoolers, grew quite anxious about the whole homeschool-to-college process, and by default, our oldest became my guinea pig focal point each year, as if her progress into higher academics was our sole measure of success. (I don’t mind admitting that given the doubts from those close to us, her entrance into college probably was the sole measure of success to some, and a source of pressure for me). It seems unfair, in hindsight, to the youngest, but that was our season, and I don’t regret that decision.
Fast-forwarding a few academic years, I only have one focal point as of this fall. We will get back the missed years of cooking, nature walks, etc., especially on next year when the schedule will look the same, minus Logic. We completed The Fallacy Detective, and I made the decision to postpone Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book until 9th grade. We will also not cover Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves. Translation? We can cover all the 8th grade material in 4 days versus 5, leaving a day to discover.
One discovery of my own over these years is that, with a focus on knowledge retention, learning critical intangibles tends to happen by chance. By “critical intangibles,” I mean those items that lend themselves to lifelong learning, like how to study, or how to take notes, or how to apply knowledge such that thinking becomes a way of life. In an age when both young and old pride themselves on using phone apps to think for them, I don’t take for granted that the youngest will just “pick up” how to complete certain tasks, especially since she is very articulate in saying that she loves learning, but doesn’t love school. Besides, in working with her, I have learned a thing or two about the nature of kinesthetic learners.
What does our day of discovery look like right now? Well, she wants to take an extra dance class during the day, and/or perhaps involve herself in tumbling. We will take more field trips, and (attempt to) spend more time out of doors. But during those four days, we will busy ourselves differently, using opportunities to learn the intangibles.
We have already begun this year with inductive Bible study. My reasons for studying the Bible in this way had nothing to do with learning to take notes, etc. With just the two of us at the table each day (our son was away at the local community college as a dual-credit student), I wanted us both to dig into the Word in a powerful way. For me, the insights as I read more in-depth, especially once I began to journal, were life-changing. I am sure that for the youngest, her experience is not as awesome as mine. Yet, I believe God that His Word is being planted in good soil, and though she may currently see her actions as no more than another school subject, He is doing a mighty work. Watching her complete her studies was also another clue that moving further into study skills, etc., was the right way to go. I see her learning to process her reading in the same way that written narrations allow her to do, but to also categorize the information and gain a “flow” of how events and people fit together. What we will do next year seems like the next logical step.
We will, of course, continue our work in science, math, history, grammar, etc., as our core studies. I will make minor updates to my page as we finalize where we are going. Most of all, however, we will continue to lay a solid foundation to allow her to soar during her high school years. Here is more great reading on middle schoolers and reinforcing and teaching intangible skills.
Middle School Basics
Teaching Note Taking Skills