As many of us wind down to begin a homeschool year that coincides with the traditional school calendar, I cannot help but notice the scores of visitors that frequent my Curriculum Choice and Daily Schedule page. Since this week is the first of the 4-week iHomeschool Network Blog Hop, I thought it might be the perfect opportunity to talk more about what we do. Let me begin, however, by saying that I won’t try to keep up with each week’s Blog Hop themes. Too much is going on professionally and personally for me to commit to a weekly post right now, and I’m done beating up on Belinda for not posting as regularly as I’d like.
By the way, her actual planner for any given week might look more like this:
I imagine that by now, with our final(?) daily schedule in blog ink, the obvious question for any would-be visitor is,
What on earth is “Discovery Day?!?!?!?!”
I’m glad you asked! (wink)
I have been contemplating for much of this past year how to “manage” our school day—how to have fun but not feel responsible for constant laughs, how to accommodate a kinesthetic learning style while still expecting discipline in accomplishment, etc. One of the decisions we made together was to consider a 4-day school week. It’s that moment when everything old becomes new again…
(If you have ever watched the TV series “The Golden Girls,” this would be when Sophia says, “Picture it! 2004!!”)
There once was a mom fairly new to homeschooling who sat in a conference and heard the speaker literally yell at the audience, “And I HOPE you are NOT HOMESCHOOLING for 5 DAYS PER WEEK!” Though her presentation style was a bit over-the-top for me, I recognized her intention: she wanted to emphasize to us then-novices that homeschooling was freedom; we didn’t have to conform to what had been our vision for all of our educational lives.
We tried a 4-day school week when the older two were younger. One of those days was listed in my planner as “Discovery Day.” It allowed us to step away from the table and do non-academic things that still allowed us to learn. We cooked, we crafted, we co-oped—we were about as unschooled as this linear-thinking, engineer-by-trade could get—for one day. That season lasted about two years; the days of traditional school simply became too long.
Fast-forwarding a few years, at our youngest’s request (as indicated by her enthusiasm when I suggested 4 days of school rather than 5), I began to revisit the inception of the discovery day. It came to me in reading Sally Clarkson’s Educating the Whole-Hearted Child. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have seen me reference this book often; it really is a home education bible for me, and for the fruit I want to cultivate in our homeschool. Without sharing too much of her intellectual property (simply put, buy the book if you want more) Clarkson’s “Home Centered Learning Model” includes five study areas:
- Discipleship studies—the foundational study within the home, Bible study
- Disciplined studies—what are commonly called the three R’s
- Discussion studies—humanities and arts
- Discovery studies—(more on that in a second)
- Discretionary studies—the study of living
Mrs. Clarkson describes discovery studies as “the study of learning.” Its purpose, in her words, is ‘to s[t]imulate in your children a love for learning by creating opportunities for curiosity, creativity, and discovery.’ (Clarkson, page 67) Though science and nature are listed as “discovery studies,” I also see it as a respite from the notebooks, textbooks, etc., and an opportunity for the kids to pursue their passions. Or, as we often say to them, “What do you do when no one is asking you to do anything??” Too often during the summer, the real answer to that question would be to text on the new appendage phone, or to sit in front of the computer or the television. So, as a friend of mine said (in a more recent conference, ironically), I’ve had to ‘remove some things’—at least during the week.
This morning, our first discovery day took us to a nearby park on the lake, where she ran, but mostly walked, and enjoyed the gentle grace that comes with early morning.
That’s perfectly okay. Exercise is a passion of hers, as is health and nutrition. She recently made a decision to become a vegan, although we are still in negotiations about all those new dietary changes. The happy compromise thus far has been vegetarianism—a life change that her older brother gently ushered into our lives. Who knows? She might follow in his footsteps and try to convert that into a life’s vocation, and in the process, she might just add a few quality years to her mother’s life as well.
So, that’s what “Discovery Day” is all about. What are you doing to create opportunities for curiosity, creativity, and discovery?